Thursday, November 30, 2023

Light on the Path : The Dance of Shiva

Rudolf Steiner:

We absorb the light. Normally we do not know that the light unites with breathing when it penetrates the eye – warmth is between them – the breathing of air combines with the light [middle part of the list]: the representation [mental picture] of the perception arises. We live in light in that we form thoughts, just as toward the lower kingdoms we live in the air, in breathing. We hold thoughts back from the light. We don't realize that thoughts can only live in us if they are illumined by the light, if breathing is illumined by the light.
For those who have advanced to Imagination, thinking is a hushed breath illumined by ingested light, made vibrant by it.
Here are the gentle waves of breath. [Waving lines are drawn on the blackboard.] They are illumined by light. [Yellow marks.] For in spiritual science everything which works through the senses is designated as light. Not only what works through the eyes, also what works through sound, is light, also what is sensed as touch, is light. All perception through the senses is light. But when we become aware that thinking, this having thoughts, is refined breathing waving, weaving upon the light – it is as when one sees the surface of the sea upon whose waves the sun's light shines. Also, as though one were inside and could feel the surging of the waves and the light shining on them. It is all perception when one experiences it from within.

Source: March 21, 1924. First Class Lesson 6

Frank Thomas Smith, Southern Cross Review

The Mission of Anger: to teach independence and selflessness. Transmuted anger is love in action. Prometheus


Frederick Douglass

Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 21, 1909:

When we penetrate more deeply into the human soul and consider its nature from the point of view here intended, we are repeatedly reminded of the ancient saying by the Greek sage Heraclitus: “Never will you find the boundaries of the soul, by whatever paths you search; so all-embracing is the soul's being.” We shall be speaking here of the soul and its life not from the standpoint of contemporary psychology but from that of Spiritual Science. Spiritual Science stands firmly for the real existence of a spiritual world behind all that is revealed to the senses and through them to the mind. It regards this spiritual world as the source and foundation of external existence and holds that the investigation of it lies within the reach of man.
In lectures given here, the difference between Spiritual Science and the many other standpoints of the present day has often been brought out, and need be mentioned only briefly now. In ordinary life and in ordinary science it is habitually assumed that human knowledge has certain boundaries and that the human mind cannot know anything beyond them. Spiritual Science holds that these boundaries are no more than temporary. They can be extended; faculties hidden in the soul can be called forth, and then, just as a man born blind who gains his sight through an operation emerges from darkness into a world of light and color, so it is with a person whose hidden faculties awake. He will break through into a spiritual world which is always around us but cannot be directly known until the appropriate spiritual organs for perceiving it have been developed. Spiritual Science asks: How are we to transform ourselves in order to penetrate into this world and to gain a comprehensive experience of it? And Spiritual Science must ever and again point to the great event which enables a man to become a spiritual investigator and so to direct his gaze into the spiritual worlds, even as a physicist sees into the physical world through his microscope. Goethe's words are certainly valid in their bearing on the spiritual world:

Secretly, in the light of day,
Nature's veil may not be lifted.
What'er to your inquiring spirit
She will not freely reveal,
You cannot forcibly extract it,
Not with levers, not with screws.

Of course, the investigator in the sense of Spiritual Science has no such instrumental aids. He has to transform his soul into an instrument; then he experiences that great moment when his soul is awakened and the spiritual world around him reveals itself to his perception. Again, it has often been emphasized here that not everyone needs to be a spiritual investigator in order to appreciate what the awakened man has to impart. When knowledge resulting from spiritual research is communicated, no  more is required of the listener than ordinary logic and an unbiased sense of truth. Investigation calls for the opened eye of the clairvoyant; recognition of what is communicated calls for a healthy sense of truth; natural feeling unclouded by prejudice; natural good sense. The point is that teachings and observations concerning the soul should be understood in the light of this spiritual research when in later lectures we come to speak of some of the humanly interesting characteristics of the soul. Just as anyone who wants to study hydrogen or oxygen or any other chemical substance has to acquire certain capabilities, so is observation of the life of the soul possible only for someone whose spiritual eye has been opened. The investigator of the soul must be in a position to make observations in soul-substance, so to speak. We must certainly not think of the soul as something vague and nebulous in which feelings, thoughts, and volitions are whirling about. Let us rather remind ourselves of what has been said on this subject in previous lectures.
Man, as he stands before us, is a far more complicated being than he is held to be by exoteric science. For Spiritual Science, the knowledge drawn from external physical observation covers only a part of man — the external physical body which he has in common with all his mineral surroundings. Here, the same laws apply as in the external physical-mineral world, and the same substances function. As a result of observation, however, and not on the strength merely of logical inference, Spiritual Science recognizes, beyond the physical body, a second member of man's being: we call it the etheric body or life-body. Only a brief reference can here be made to the etheric body — our task today is quite different — but knowledge of the underlying members of the human organism is the foundation on which we have to build. Man has an etheric body in common with everything that lives. As I said, only the spiritual investigator, who has transformed his soul into an instrument for seeing into the spiritual world, can directly observe the etheric body. But its existence can be acknowledged by a healthy sense of truth, unclouded by contemporary prejudices. Take the physical body: it harbors the same physical and chemical laws that prevail in the external physical-mineral world. When are these physical laws revealed to us? When we have before us a lifeless human being. When a human being has passed through the gate of death, we see what the laws that govern the physical body really are. They are the laws that lead to the decomposition of the physical body; their effect on it is now quite different from their action during life. They are always present in the physical body; the reason why the living body does not obey them is that during life an antagonist of dissolution, the etheric or life-body, is also present and active there.
A third member of the human organism can now be distinguished: the vehicle of pleasure and pain, of urges, desires, and passions — of everything we associate with the emotional activities of the soul. Man has this vehicle in common with all beings who possess a certain form of consciousness: with the animals. Astral body, or body of consciousness, is the name we give to this third member of the human organism.
This completes what we may call the bodily nature of man, with its three components: physical body, etheric body or life-body, astral or consciousness-body.
Within these three members we recognize something else, something unique to man, through which he has risen to the summit of creation. It has often been remarked that our language has one little word which guides us directly to man's inner being, whereby he ranks as the crown of earthly creation. These flowers here, the desk, the clock — anyone can name these objects; but there is one word we can never hear spoken by another with reference to ourselves; it must spring from our own inner being. This is the little name ‘I’. If you are to call yourself ‘I’, this ‘I’ must sound forth from within yourself and must designate your inmost being. Hence the great religions and philosophies have always regarded this name as the ‘unspeakable name’ of that which cannot be designated from outside. Indeed, with this designation ‘I’, we stand before that innermost being of man which can be called the divine element in him. We do not thereby make man a god. If we say that a drop of water from the sea is of like substance with the ocean, we are not making the drop into a sea. Similarly, we are not making the ‘I’ a god when we say it is of like substance with the divine being that permeates and pulses through the world.
Through his inner essence, man is subject to a certain phenomenon which Spiritual Science treats as real and serious in the full sense of the words. Its very name fascinates people today, but in its application to man it is given full rank and worth only by Spiritual Science. It is the fact of existence that we call ‘evolution’. How fascinating is the effect of this word on modern man, who can point to lower forms of life which evolve gradually into higher stages; how enchanting when it can be said that man himself has evolved from those lower forms to his present height! Spiritual Science takes evolution seriously in relation, above all, to man. It calls attention to the fact that man, since he is a self-conscious being with an inner activity springing from the center of his being, should not limit his idea of evolution to a mere observation of the imperfect developing toward the more nearly perfect. As an active being he must himself take hold of his own evolution. He must raise himself to higher stages than the stage he has already reached; he must develop ever-new forces, so that he may approach continually toward perfection. Spiritual Science takes a sentence, first formulated not very long ago, and now recognized as valid in another realm, and applies it on a higher level to human evolution. Most people today are not aware that as late as the beginning of the 17th century the learned as well as the laity believed that the lower animals were born simply out of river-mud. This belief arose from imprecise observation, and it was the great natural scientist Francesco Redi who in the 17th century first championed the statement: Life can arise only from the living. Naturally, this statement is quoted here in the modern sense, with all necessary qualifications. No one, of course, now believes that any lower animal — say, an earthworm — can grow out of river-mud. For an earthworm to come into existence, the germ of an earthworm must first be there. And yet, in the 17th century, Francesco Redi narrowly escaped the fate of Giordano Bruno, for his statement had made him a terrible heretic.
This sort of treatment is not usually inflicted on heretics today, at least not in all parts of the world, but there is a modern substitute for it. If anyone upholds something which contradicts the belief of those who, in their arrogance, suppose they have reached the summit of earthly wisdom, he is looked on as a visionary, a dreamer, if nothing worse. That is the contemporary form of inquisition in our parts of the world. Be it so. Nevertheless, what Spiritual Science says concerning phenomena on higher levels will come to be accepted equally with Francesco Redi's statement regarding the lower levels. Even as he asserted that “life can issue only from the living”, so does Spiritual Science state that “soul and spirit can issue only from soul and spirit”. And the law of reincarnation, so often ridiculed today as the outcome of crazy fantasy, is in fact a consequence of this statement. Nowadays, when people see, from the first day of a child's birth, the soul and spirit developing out of the bodily element, when they see increasingly definite facial traits emerging from an undifferentiated physiognomy, movements becoming more and more individual, talents and abilities showing forth — many people still believe that all this springs from the physical existence of father, mother, grandparents; in short, from physical ancestry.
This belief derives from inexact observation, just as did the belief that earthworms originate from mud. Present-day sense-observation is incapable of tracing back to its soul-spiritual origin the soul and spirit that are manifest before our eyes today. Hence the laws of physical heredity are made to account for phenomena which apparently emerge from the obscure depths of the physical. Spiritual Science looks back to previous lives on Earth, when the talents and characteristics that are evident in the present life were foreshadowed. And we regard the present life as the source of new formative influences that will bear fruit in future earthly lives.
Francesco Redi's statement has now become an obvious truth, and the time is not far distant when the corresponding statement by Spiritual Science will be regarded as equally self-evident — with the difference that Francesco Redi's statement is of restricted interest, while the statement by Spiritual Science concerns everyone: “Soul and spirit develop from soul and spirit; man does not live once only but passes through repeated lives on Earth; every life is the result of earlier lives and the starting point of numerous subsequent lives.” All confidence in life, all certainty in our work, the solution of all the riddles facing us — it all depends on this knowledge. From this knowledge man will draw ever-increasing strength for his existence, together with confidence and hope when he looks toward the future.
Now, what is it that originates in earlier lives, works on from life to life, and maintains itself through all its sojourns on Earth? It is the ego, the ‘I’, designated by the name which a person can bestow on no one but himself. The human ego goes from life to life, and in so doing fulfills its evolution.
But how is this evolution brought about? By the ego working on the three lower members of the human being. We have first the astral body, the vehicle of pleasure and pain, of joy and sorrow, of instinct, desire, and passion. Let us look at a person on a low level, whose ego has done little, as yet, to cleanse his astral body and so is still its slave. In a person who stands higher we find that his ego has worked upon his astral body in such a way that his lower instincts, desires, and passions have been transmuted into moral ideals, ethical judgments. From this contrast we can gain a first impression of how the ego works upon the astral body.
In every human being it is possible to distinguish the part of the astral body on which the ego has not yet worked from the part which the ego has consciously transformed. The transmuted part is called Spirit-Self, or Manas. The ego may grow stronger and stronger and will then transmute the etheric body or life-body. Life-spirit [or Buddhi] is the name we give to the transformed etheric body. Finally, when the ego acquires such strength that it is able to extend its transforming power into the physical body, we call the transmuted part Atman, or the real Spirit-Man.
So far we have been speaking of conscious work by the ego. In the far-distant past, long before the ego was capable of this conscious work, it worked unconsciously — or rather subconsciously — on the three bodies or sheaths of man. The astral body was the first to be worked on in this way, and its transmuted part we call the Sentient Soul, the first of man's soul-members. So it was that the ego, working from the inner being of man, created the Sentient Soul at a time when man lacked the requisite degree of consciousness for transmuting his instincts, desires, and so forth. In the etheric body the ego created unconsciously the Mind-Soul or Intellectual Soul. Again, working unconsciously on the physical body, the ego created the inner soul-organ that we call the Consciousness Soul. For Spiritual Science, the human soul is not a vague, nebulous something, but an essential part of man's being, consisting of three distinct soul-members — Sentient Soul, Mind Soul, Consciousness Soul — within which the ego is actively engaged.
Let us try to form an idea of these three soul-members. The spiritual investigator knows them by direct observation, but we can approach them also by means of rational thinking. For example, suppose we have a rose before us. We perceive it, and as long as we perceive it we are receiving an impression from outside. We call this a perception of the rose. If we turn our eyes away, an inner image of the rose remains with us. We must carefully distinguish these two moments: the moment when we are looking at the rose, and the moment when we are able to retain an image of it as an inner  possession, although we are no longer perceiving it.
This point must be emphasized because of the incredible notions brought forward in this connection by 19th century philosophy. We need think only of Schopenhauer, whose philosophy begins with the words: The world is my idea. Hence we must be clear as to the difference between percepts and concepts, or mental images. Every sane man knows the difference between the concept of white-hot steel, which cannot burn him, and white-hot steel itself, which can. Perceptions bring us into communication with the external world; concepts are a possession of the soul. The boundary between inner experience and the outer world can be precisely drawn. Directly we begin to experience something inwardly, we owe it to the Sentient Soul — as distinct from the sentient body, which brings us our percepts and enables us to perceive, for example, the rose and its color. Thus our concepts are formed in the Sentient Soul, and the Sentient Soul is the bearer also of our sympathies and antipathies, of the feelings that things arouse in us. When we call the rose beautiful, this inward experience is a property of the Sentient Soul.
Anyone who is unwilling to distinguish percepts from concepts should remember the white-hot steel that burns and the concept of it, which does not. Once, when I had said this, someone objected that a man might be able to suggest to himself the thought of lemonade so vividly that he would experience its taste on his tongue. I replied: Certainly this might be possible, but whether the imaginary lemonade would quench his thirst is another question. The boundary between external reality and inner experience can indeed always be determined. Directly inner experience begins, the Sentient Soul, as distinct from the sentient body, comes into play.
A higher principle is brought into being by the work of the ego on the etheric body: we call it the Mind-Soul, or Intellectual Soul. We shall have more to say about it in the lecture on the Mission of Truth; today we are concerned especially with the Sentient Soul. Through the Intellectual Soul man is enabled to do more than carry about with him the experiences aroused in him by his perceptions of the outer world. He takes these experiences a stage further. Instead of merely keeping his perceptions alive as images in the Sentient Soul, he reflects on them and devotes himself to them; they form themselves into thoughts and judgments, into the whole content of his mind. This continued cultivation of impressions received from the outer world is the work of what we call the Intellectual Soul or Mind Soul.
A third principle is brought into being when the ego has created in the physical body the organs whereby it is enabled to go out from itself and to connect its judgments, ideas, and feelings with the external world. This principle we call the Consciousness Soul, because the ego is then able to transform its inner experiences into conscious knowledge of the outer world. When we give form to the feelings we experience, so that they enlighten us concerning the outer world, our thoughts, judgments, and feelings become knowledge of the outer world. Through the Consciousness Soul we explore the secrets of the outer world as human beings endowed with knowledge and cognition.
So does the ego work continually in the Sentient Soul, in the Intellectual or Mind Soul, and in the Consciousness Soul, releasing the forces inwardly bound up there and enabling man to advance in his evolution by enriching his capacities. The ego is the actor, the active being through whose agency man himself takes control of his evolution and progresses from life to life, remedying the defects of former lives and widening the faculties of his soul. Such is human evolution from life to life; it consists first of all in the ego's work on the soul in its threefold aspect.
We must, however, recognize clearly that in its work the ego has the character of a “two-edged sword”. Yes, this human ego is, on the one hand, the element in man's being through which alone he can be truly man. If we lacked this central point, we should be merged passively with the outer world. Our concepts and ideas have to be taken hold of in this center; more and more of them must be experienced; and our inner life must be increasingly enriched by impressions from the outer world. Man is truly man to the degree in which his ego becomes richer and more comprehensive. Hence the ego must seek to enrich itself in the course of succeeding lives; it must become a center whereby man is not simply part of the outer world but acts as a stimulating force upon it. The richer the fund of his impulses, the more he has absorbed and the more he radiates from the center of his individual self, the nearer he approaches to being truly man.
That is one aspect of the ego; and we are in duty bound to endeavor to make the ego as rich and as many-sided as we can. But the reverse side of this progress is manifest in what we call selfishness or egoism. If these words were taken as catchwords and it were said that human beings must become selfless, that of course would be bad, as any use of catchwords always is. It is indeed man's task to enrich himself inwardly, but this does not imply a selfish hardening of the ego and a shutting off of itself with its riches from the world. In that event a man would indeed become richer and richer, but he would lose his connection with the world. His enrichment would signify that the world had no more to give him, nor he the world. In the course of time he would perish, for while striving to enrich his ego he would keep it all for himself and would become isolated from the world. This caricature of development would impoverish a man's ego to an increasing extent, for selfishness lays a man inwardly to waste. So is it that the ego, as it works in the three members of the soul, acts as a two-edged sword. On the one hand it must work to become always richer, a powerful center from which much can stream forth; but on the other hand it must bring everything it absorbs back into harmony with the outer world. To the same degree that it develops its own resources, it must go out from itself and relate itself to the whole of existence. It must become simultaneously an independent being and a selfless one. Only when the ego works in these two apparently contradictory directions — when on one side it enriches itself increasingly and on the other side becomes selfless — can human evolution go forward so as to be satisfying for man and health-giving for the whole of existence. The ego has to work on each of its three soul-members in such a way that both sides of human development are kept in balance.
Now, the work of the ego in the soul leads to its own gradual awakening. Development occurs in all forms of life, and we find that the three members of the human soul are today at very different stages of evolution. The Sentient Soul, the bearer of our emotions and impulses and of all the feelings that are aroused by direct stimuli from the outer world, is the most strongly developed of the three. But at certain lower stages of evolution the content of the Sentient Soul is experienced in a dull, dim way, for the ego is not yet fully awake. When a man works inwardly on himself and his soul-life progresses, the ego becomes more and more clearly conscious of itself. But as far as the Sentient Soul is awake, the ego is hardly more than a brooding presence within it. The ego gains in clarity when man advances to a richer life in the Intellectual Soul, and achieves full clarity in the Consciousness Soul. Man then comes to be aware of himself as an individual who stands apart from his environment and is active in gaining objective knowledge of it. This is possible only when the ego is awake in the Consciousness Soul.
Thus we have the ego only dimly awake in the Sentient Soul. It is swept along by waves of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, and can scarcely be perceived as an entity. In the Intellectual Soul, when clearly defined ideas and judgments are developed, the ego first gains clarity, and achieves full clarity in the Consciousness Soul.
Hence we can say: Man has a duty to educate himself through his ego and so to further his own inner progress. But at the time of its awakening the ego is still given over to the waves of emotion that surge through the Sentient Soul. Is there anything in the Sentient Soul which can contribute to the education of the ego at a time when the ego is still incapable of educating itself?
We shall see how in the Intellectual Soul there is something which enables the ego to take its own  education in hand. In the Sentient Soul this is not yet possible; the ego must be guided by something which arises independently within the Sentient Soul. We will single out this one element in the Sentient Soul and consider its two-sided mission for educating the ego. This element is one to which the strongest objection may perhaps be taken: the emotion we call anger. Anger arises in the Sentient Soul when the ego is still dormant there. Or can it be said that we stand in a self-conscious relation to anyone if their behavior causes us to flare up in anger?
Let us picture the difference between two persons — two teachers, let us say. One of them has achieved the clarity which makes for enlightened inner judgments. He sees what his pupil is doing wrong but is not perturbed by it, because his Intellectual Soul is mature. With his Consciousness Soul, also, he is calmly aware of the child's error, and if necessary he can prescribe an appropriate penalty, not impelled by any emotional reaction but in accordance with ethical and pedagogical judgment. It will be otherwise with a teacher whose ego has not reached the stage that would enable him to remain calm and discerning. Not knowing what to do, he flares up in anger at the child's misdemeanor.
Is such anger always inappropriate to the event that calls it forth? No, not always. And this is something we must keep in mind. Before we are capable of judging an event in the light of the Intellectual Soul or the Consciousness Soul, the wisdom of evolution has provided for us to be overcome by emotion because of that event. Something in our Sentient Soul is activated by an event in the outer world. We are not yet capable of making the right response as an act of judgment, but we can react from the emotional center of the Sentient Soul. Of all things that the Sentient Soul experiences, let us therefore consider anger.
It points to what will come about in the future. To begin with, anger expresses a judgment of some event in the outer world; then, having learnt unconsciously through anger to react to something wrong, we advance gradually to enlightened judgments in our higher soul. So in certain respects anger is an educator. It arises in us as an inner experience before we are mature enough to form an enlightened judgment of right and wrong. This is how we should look on the anger which can flare up in a young man, before he is capable of a considered judgment, at the sight of injustice or folly which violates his ideals; and then we can properly speak of a righteous anger. No one does better at acquiring an inner capacity for sound judgment than a man who has started from a state of soul in which he could be moved to righteous anger by anything ignoble, immoral, or crazy. That is how anger has the mission of raising the ego to higher levels. On the other hand, since man is to become a free being, everything human can degenerate. Anger can degenerate into rage and serve to gratify the worst kind of egoism. This must be so, if man is to advance toward freedom. But we must not fail to realize that the very thing which can lapse into evil may, when it manifests in its true significance, have the mission of furthering the progress of man. It is because man can change good into evil that good qualities, when they are developed in the right way, can become a possession of the ego. So is anger to be understood as the harbinger of that which can raise man to calm self-possession.
But although anger is on the one hand an educator of the ego, it also serves, strangely enough, to engender selflessness. What is the ego's response when anger overcomes it at the sight of injustice or folly? Something within us speaks out against the spectacle confronting us. Our anger illustrates the fact that we are up against something in the outer world. The ego then makes its presence felt and seeks to safeguard itself against this outer event. The whole content of the ego is involved. If the sight of injustice or folly were not to kindle a noble anger in us, the events in the outer world would carry us along with them as an easy-going spectator; we would not feel the sting of the ego and we would have no concern for its development. Anger enriches the ego and summons it to confront the outer world, yet at the same time it induces selflessness. For if anger is such that it can be called noble and does not lapse into blind rage, its effect is to damp down ego-feeling and to produce something like powerlessness in the soul. If the soul is suffused with anger, its own activity becomes increasingly suppressed.
This experience of anger is wonderfully well brought out in the vernacular use of sich giften, to poison oneself, as a phrase meaning “to get angry”. This is an example of how popular imagination arrives at a truth which may often elude the learned.
Anger which eats into the soul is a poison; it damps down the ego's self-awareness and so promotes selflessness. Thus we see how anger serves to teach both independence and selflessness; that is its dual mission as an educator of humanity, before the ego is ripe to undertake its own education. If we were not enabled by anger to take an independent stand in cases where the outer world offends our inner feeling, we would not be selfless, but dependent and ego-less in the worst sense.
For the spiritual scientist, anger is also the harbinger of something quite different. Life shows us that a person who is unable to flare up with anger at injustice or folly will never develop true kindness and love. Equally, a person who educates himself through noble anger will have a heart abounding in love, and through love he will do good. Love and kindness are the obverse of noble anger. Anger that is overcome and purified will be transformed into the love that is its counterpart. A loving hand is seldom one that has never been clenched in response to injustice or folly. Anger and love are complementary.
A superficial Theosophy might say: Yes, a man must overcome his passions; he must cleanse and purify them. But overcoming something does not mean shirking or shunning it. It is a strange sort of sacrifice that is made by someone who proposes to cast off his passionate self by evading it. We cannot sacrifice something unless we have first possessed it. Anger can be overcome only by someone who has experienced it first within himself. Instead of trying to evade such emotions, we must transmute them in ourselves. By transmuting anger, we rise from the Sentient Soul, where noble  anger can flame out, to the Intellectual Soul and the Consciousness Soul, where love and the power to give blessing are born.
Transmuted anger is love in action. That is what we learn from reality. Anger in moderation has the mission of leading human beings to love; we can call it the teacher of love. And not in vain do we call the undefined power that flows from the wisdom of the world and shows itself in the righting of wrongs the “wrath of God”, in contrast to God's love. But we know that these two things belong together; without the other, neither can exist. In life they require and determine each other.
Now let us see how in art and poetry, when they are great, the primal wisdom of the world is revealed.
When we come to speak of the mission of truth, we shall see how Goethe's thoughts on this subject are clearly expressed in his Pandora, one of his finest poems, though small in scale. And in a powerful poem of universal significance, the Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, we are brought to see, though perhaps less clearly, the role of anger as a phenomenon in world history.
Probably you know the legend on which Aeschylus based his drama. Prometheus is a descendant of the ancient race of Titans, who had succeeded the first generation of gods in the evolution of the Earth and of humanity. Ouranus and Gaia belong to the first generation of gods. Ouranus is succeeded by Kronos (Saturn). Then the Titans are overthrown by the third generation of gods, led by Zeus. Prometheus, though a descendant of the Titans, was on the side of Zeus in the battle against the Titans and so could be called a friend of Zeus, but he was only half a friend. When Zeus took over the rulership of the Earth — so the legend continues — humanity had advanced far enough to enter on a new phase, while the old faculties possessed by men in ancient times were dying out. Zeus wanted to exterminate mankind and install a new race on Earth, but Prometheus resolved to give men the means of further progress. He brought them speech and writing, knowledge of the outer world, and, finally, fire, in order that by learning to master these tools humanity might raise itself from the low level to which it had sunk.
If we look more deeply into the story, we find that everything bestowed by Prometheus on mankind is connected with the human ego, while Zeus is portrayed as a divine power which inspires and ensouls men in whom the ego has not yet come to full expression. If we look back over the evolution of the Earth, we find in the far past a humanity in which the  ego was no more than an obscurely brooding presence. It had to acquire certain definite faculties with which to educate itself. The gifts that Zeus could bestow were not adapted to furthering the progress of mankind. In respect of the astral body, and of everything in man apart from his ego, Zeus is the giver. Because Zeus was not capable of promoting the development of the ego, he resolved to wipe out mankind. All the gifts brought by Prometheus, on the other hand, enabled the ego to educate itself. Such is the deeper meaning of the legend.
Prometheus, accordingly, is the one who enables the ego to set to work on enriching and enlarging itself; and that is exactly how the gifts bestowed by Prometheus were understood in ancient  Greece.
Now, we have seen that if the ego concentrates on this single aim, it finally impoverishes itself, for it will be shutting itself off from the outer world. Enriching itself is one side only of the ego's task. It has to go out and bring its inner wealth into harmony with the world around it, if it is not to be impoverished in the long run. Prometheus could bestow on men only the gifts whereby the ego could enrich itself. Thus, inevitably, he challenged the powers which act from out of the entire cosmos to subdue the ego in the right way, so that it may become selfless and thus develop its other aspect. The independence of the ego, achieved under the sting of anger on the one hand, and on the other the damping down of the ego when a man consumes his anger, as it were, and his ego is deadened — this whole process is presented in the historic pictures of the conflict between Prometheus and Zeus.
Prometheus endows the ego with faculties which enable it to become richer and richer. What Zeus has to do is to produce the same effect that anger has in the individual. Thus the wrath of Zeus falls on Prometheus and extinguishes the power of the ego in him. The legend tells us how Prometheus is punished by Zeus for the untimely stimulus he had given to the advancement of the human ego. He is chained to a rock.
The suffering thus endured by the human ego and its inner rebellion are magnificently expressed by Aeschylus in this poetic drama.
So we see the representative of the human ego subdued by the wrath of Zeus. Just as the individual human ego is checked and driven back on itself when it has to swallow its anger, so is Prometheus chained by the wrath of Zeus, meaning that his activity is reduced to its proper level. When a flood of anger sweeps through the soul of an individual, his ego, striving for self-expression, finds itself enchained; so was the Promethean ego chained to a rock.
That is the peculiar merit of this legend: it presents in powerful pictures far-reaching truths which are valid both for individuals and for humanity at large. People could see in these pictures what had to be experienced in the individual soul. Thus in Prometheus chained to the Caucasian rock we can see a representative of the human ego at a time when the ego, striving to advance from its brooding somnolence in the Sentient Soul, is restrained by its fetters from indulging in wild extravagance.
We are then told how Prometheus knows that the wrath of Zeus will be silenced when he is overthrown by the son of a mortal. He will be succeeded in his rulership by someone born of mortal man. The ego is released by the mission of anger on a lower plane, and the immortal ego, the immortal human soul, will be born from mortal man on a higher plane. Prometheus looks forward to the time when Zeus will be succeeded by Christ Jesus, and the individual ego will itself be transformed into the loving  ego when the noble anger that fettered it is transformed into love. We behold the birth from the ego enchained by anger of that other ego, whose action in the outer world will be that of love and blessing. So, too, we behold the birth of a God of love who tends and cherishes the ego; the very ego that in earlier times was fettered by the anger of Zeus, so that it should not transgress its proper bounds.
Hence we see in the continuation of this legend an external picture of human evolution. We must ourselves take hold of this myth in such a way that it gives us a living picture, universally relevant, of how the individual experiences the transformation of the ego, educated by the mission of anger, into the liberated ego imbued with love. Then we understand what the legend does and what Aeschylus made of his material. We feel the soul's life-blood pulsing through us; we feel it in the continuation of  the legend and in the dramatic form given to it by Aeschylus. So we find in this Greek drama something like a practical application of processes we can experience in our own souls. This is true of all great poems and other works of art: they spring from typical great experiences of the human soul.
We have seen today how the ego is educated through the purification of a passion. In the next lecture we shall see how the ego becomes ripe to educate itself in the Intellectual Soul by learning to grasp the mission of truth on a higher plane. We have seen also how in our considerations today the saying of Heraclitus is borne out: “You will never find the boundaries of the soul, by whatever paths you search for them, so wide and deep is the being of the soul.”
Yes, it is true that the soul's being is so far-reaching that we cannot directly sound its depths. But Spiritual Science, with the opened eye of the seer, leads into the substance of the soul, and we can progress further and further into fathoming the mysterious being that the human soul is when we contemplate it through the eyes of the spiritual scientist. On the one hand we can truly say: The soul has unfathomable depths. But if we take this saying in full earnest we can add: The boundaries of the soul are indeed so wide that we have to search for them by all possible paths, but we can hope that by extending these boundaries ourselves, we shall progress further and further in our knowledge of the soul.
This ray of hope will illumine our search for knowledge if we accept the true words of Heraclitus not with resignation but with confidence: The boundaries of the soul are so wide that you may search along every path and not reach them, so comprehensive is the being of the soul.
Let us try to grasp this comprehensive being; it will lead us on further and further toward a solution of the riddles of existence.

Related post: The Mission of Truth


Cloud-Cuckooland versus Cambodia


Rudolf Steiner: 

It is not a question of knowing things in an abstract sense but above all of calling for a changing of ways, for an effort to be made; the old easy ways must go, and a spiritual approach must be seen to be the right way. And the effort must be made to find energies through spiritual science, not the kind of mere satisfaction where people say: 'Wasn't that nice! I feel really good!’ — and float around in Cloud-Cuckooland where they gradually go to sleep in their satisfaction at the harmony which exists in the world and the love of humanity which is so widespread. This was very much to the fore in the society endeavor headed by Mrs Besant. Many of you will remember the many protests I made against the precious sweetness and light that was particularly to be found in the Theosophical Society. High ideals were dished up liberally and internationally in the sweetest tones. All you heard was ‘general brotherhood’, ‘love of humanity’. I could not go along with this. We were seeking real, concrete knowledge about what went on in the world. You will remember the analogy I have often used, that this sweetness and general love seemed to me like someone who keeps on encouraging the stove which is supposed to heat the room: ‘Dear stove, it is your general stove duty to get the room warm; so please make it warm.’ All the male and female aunts, it seemed to me, were presenting the sum total of theosophy in those days in sweet words of love for humanity. My answer at the time was: ‘You have to put coal in the stove, and put in wood and light the fire.’ And if you are involved in a spiritual movement you must bring in real, concrete ideas; otherwise you will go on year after year with sweet nothings about general love of humanity. This ‘general love of humanity’ has really shown itself in a very pretty light in Mrs Besant, the leading figure in the theosophical movement.
It is, of course, more of an effort to deal with reality than to waffle in general terms about world harmony, about the individual soul being in harmony with the world, about harmony in the general love of humanity. Anthroposophy does not exist to send people off to sleep, but to make them really wide awake. We are living at a time when it is necessary for people to wake up.

Anthony Bourdain:  "Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands."


The more I learn about nazis the less I like them

Related posts:

The Mission of Anger

Source: October 13, 1917  GA 177

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Cosmogony: Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse


Reading the Pictures of the Apocalypse:
An Esoteric Cosmology

Lecture 18 of 18

Rudolf Steiner, Paris, June 14, 1906

In the course of these lectures we have said repeatedly that Christianity constitutes the decisive midpoint of human evolution. All religions have their right to exist — they were partial revelations of the Logos — but none has changed the face of the world as much as Christianity. One can feel this influence in the words of John's Gospel, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) The words, “those who have not seen,” refer to those people who had no knowledge of the mystery religions. An essential part of the ancient mysteries is made public through Christianity, for example, the most important commandments concerning morality, and the teaching concerning the immortality of the soul through resurrection or rebirth.

Before Christianity, one could see super-sensible truth in the revelations, rites, and dramatic presentations of the mysteries. Now, however, one can believe in the super-sensible thanks to the divine person of Christ. There had always been a difference between the esoteric truth known to initiates, and its exoteric form — appropriate for the great masses — which came to expression through the various religions. The same holds true for Christianity. What is found in the Gospels is the new good tidings, promulgated for all to hear. But there was a deeper teaching. It is contained in the Apocalypse in the form of symbols.

There is a way to read the Apocalypse that can be made public only in our time. It was cultivated in the Middle Ages in the occult schools of the Rosicrucians. At that time historical questions concerning the book were considered unimportant. These were questions concerning its composition and the identity of the author; in short, all that which occupies the sole interest of theologians today, who seek nothing more than historical facts in this book. Modern critical theology knows only the external shell of this book and ignores the kernel. The Rosicrucians stayed with the prophetic aspect, the eternal truth of the book.

Occultism is not usually concerned with the history of a single century or a single era, but rather with the inner history of human evolution as a whole. This is true when it delves into the first manifestations of our planetary system, when it looks into the distant past at the vegetative and animal conditions of humanity, and when its perspective expands over millions of years forward to a future when humanity will have become divine. The earth itself will have changed then both in form and substance. But how can the future be guessed? Is prophecy really possible? It is possible because all that is to take place physically in the future already exists in seed form in the womb of the archetypes whose thoughts form the plan for our evolution. Nothing appears on the physical plane that was not already planned and preformed in general outline in the region of devachan. Nothing happens in the depths that did not exist before in the heights. That is the way things are realized. They depend upon the freedom and initiative of the individual.

Esoteric Christianity is not based on vague and sentimental idealism but rather on a concrete ideal that originates in knowledge of higher worlds. This is the knowledge that the writer of the Apocalypse had, the great seer of Patmos, who sketched the future of humankind in Christian perspective.

Let us consider this future according to the laws of world creation just described. The Rosicrucians first revealed to their pupils some visions from the past and the future. Then the pupils were given the Apocalypse to interpret these visions. Let us do the same and observe how humanity has become what it is, and what future will open for it.

We have, for example, spoken of the ancient Atlantean continent and of the Atlanteans whose etheric body was far more developed than their physical body. Their preliminary consciousness of self, their I-consciousness, came to them only at the end of their culture. The successive post-Atlantean cultures were: First, the pre-Vedantic culture in southern Asia, in India. That was the beginning of the Aryan cultures; second, the epoch of Zarathustra, including the culture of ancient Persia; third, the Egyptian culture, the epoch of Hermes, to which are attached the Chaldean and Semitic cultures. The first seeds of Christianity were sown during this age in the womb of the Hebrew peoples; fourth, the Greco-Latin cultural epoch that experienced the birth of Christianity; and fifth, a new epoch was prepared at the time of the mass migrations and wars of conquest in the fourth through the sixth centuries.

The legacy of the Greco-Latin culture was taken over by the northern races: Celts, Germans, and Slavs. This is the epoch in which we are now still living. It is a slow transformation of the Greco-Latin cultural heritage brought about through the powerful element of the new peoples under the mighty impulse of Christianity. This impulse has also been mixed with the leaven of the East brought to Europe through the Arabs. The actual goal of this cultural epoch is to adapt the human being fully to the physical plane. This occurs when our reason, our practical commonsense is developed and our intellect delves into physical matter in order to understand and master it. In the course of this hard work, this astonishing achievement that has culminated in our time, human beings have momentarily forgotten the higher worlds of their origin. By comparing our spiritual soul constitution with that of the Chaldeans, for example, it is easy to see what we have won and what we have lost. When Chaldean magicians observed the heavens, which present for us nothing more than a problem in celestial mechanics, they had an entirely different idea, an entirely different feeling, one could say, a totally different experience than we. Where a modern astronomer sees nothing more than a soulless machine, the ancient magicians felt the harmony of the heavens depths as a divine, living being. When they observed Mercury, Venus, the moon, or the sun, they saw not only the physical light of these heavenly bodies, they perceived the planets' souls as belonging to living beings, and they felt their own souls in connection with these great beings of the firmament. They perceived the influence of heavenly bodies as attraction and repulsion, like a wonderful concert of streaming, flowing divine will; and the symphony of the cosmos sounded forth in the magicians like a harmonious echo of the human microcosm. In this way the music of the spheres was a reality that united human beings with heaven.

The superiority of the modern scholar is rooted in knowledge of the physical world, of matter. Spiritual science has descended to the physical plane we know so well. However, we must now be concerned with again achieving knowledge of the astral plane through clairvoyance.

This descent into matter was necessary for the fifth epoch to fulfill its mission. Astral and spiritual clairvoyance had to be veiled so that the intellect could develop itself on the field of the sense world through minute, mathematical observation of the physical world.

Now we must supplement natural science with spiritual science. Here is an example: Ptolemy's map of the heavens is usually placed next to that of Copernicus and then the former is declared to be false. This is, however, not true. They are equally justified. Ptolemy's map is concerned with the astral plane wherein the earth forms the center point of the planets and the sun is itself a planet. Copernicus's map is concerned with the physical plane where the sun is in the middle. All truths are relative according to time and place. Ptolemy's system will be rehabilitated in an epoch yet to come.

After our fifth epoch another will come, the sixth, which will be related to ours as a spiritually minded soul is related to a rationally inclined soul. This epoch will bring genius, clairvoyance, the creative spirit, to development. How will Christianity appear in the sixth epoch? There was a harmonious union of science and faith for the ancient priests of the pre-Christian age. Science and faith were one and the same thing. When the ancient priests observed the firmament they knew and felt that the soul was a drop of water that had fallen from the heavenly ocean and had been led down to earth by immeasurable rivers of life that flow through space. Today, when our sight is directed only to the physical world, faith needs a free space, a religion. For this reason science and faith are separated. The faithful reverence of the person of Christ, the god of the human being on the earth, has for a certain time taken the place of occult science and the mysteries. But the two streams will be united in the sixth epoch. The mechanical science of the physical plane will be elevated to the heights of spiritual creative power. That will be gnosis or spiritual knowledge. This sixth epoch will be radically different from ours. Great, tumultuous catastrophes will precede it, for the sixth epoch will be just as spiritual as ours is materialistic, but such a transformation can only occur through great, physical upheavals. Everything that will be formed in the course of the sixth epoch will call into existence the possibility of a seventh epoch which itself will form the end of these post-Atlantean cultures and will know completely different conditions of life from our own. This seventh epoch will end with a revolution of the elements, similar to the one that brought an end to the Atlantean continent. The condition of the earth that will then appear will have a spirituality prepared through the last two post-Atlantean epochs.

The Aryan cultures encompass seven great epochs. We see the laws of evolution slowly unfolding. Human beings always carry within themselves what they will see around them in future times. All that presently exists around us actually came forth from us in preceding ages when our being was still united with the earth, the moon, and the sun. This cosmic being, from which the present human being together with all the kingdoms of nature have arisen, is called in the Kabbala, “Adam Kadmon.” All of the manifold forms of men and women presently represented by ethnic groups and races were contained in this human archetype.

What human beings possess today as their inner soul life, their thoughts, their feelings, will similarly be revealed externally and become the environment in which people live. The future resides in the hearts of men and women. The choice is ours to decide for a future of good or of evil. Just as it is true that the human being once left behind something that then became the world of animals, so too, what is evil in the human being will one day form a kind of degenerate humanity. At the present time we can more or less hide the good or evil within us. A day will come when we can no longer do this, when the good or the evil will be written indelibly on our forehead, on our body, and even on the face of the earth. Humanity will then be split into two races. In the same way that we encounter boulders or animals today, in the future we will encounter beings of pure evil and ugliness. When a human being's facial features become an expression of that individual's karma, then people will separate themselves according to the stream in which they apparently belong. Everything depends on whether human beings have conquered the lower nature within them or whether this lower nature has triumphed over the spirit.

Beginning in the past we can see the lines of a future reality beginning to form. To the extent that we are prepared to understand the past and to work in the present we can realize the ideal of this future reality. A new race will be formed that will constitute the connecting link between present-day humanity and the spiritualized human being of the future. But one must distinguish between the evolution of races and the evolution of souls. It lies within the freedom of every single soul to develop itself toward this external form of a race, whose character corresponds to the good that it will incarnate. Individuals will belong to this race only through the exercise of their free will and through a great exertion of their soul forces. Membership in a race will no longer be forced upon a soul, but rather it will be the result of an individual's evolution.

The meaning of Manichean teaching is that, from now on, souls should prepare themselves to transform into good the evil that will appear in its full strength in the sixth epoch. Indeed, it will be necessary for human souls to become strong enough to protect, through a spiritual alchemy, the good from the evil that will come to light.

The evolution of our planet earth will lead it back through the former phases of its development in reversed order. First the earth will unite with the moon, then a union — a reunion — of this mixed-world body with the sun will occur. The reuniting of the moon with the earth will coincide with a high tide of evil on the earth. In contrast to this, the union of the earth with the sun will mark the beginning of blessed happiness, the reign of the chosen people.

Human beings will bear the mark of the seven great phases of earth evolution. The book of the seven seals spoken of in the Apocalypse will be opened. The woman dressed in the sun and with the moon under her feet is related to the time when the earth will be united again with the sun and the moon. The trumpets of the last judgment will sound forth, for the earth will have arrived in a devachanic condition, where tone, not light, will rule. The end of earthly evolution will stand in the sign of the Christ principle that will permeate all of humankind. Human beings will have become similar to Christ; they will gather around Christ like a multitude around the lamb, and the New Jerusalem will arise as the fruit of this evolution. It represents the crowning of the world.

Source: June 14, 1906. GA 94

Reverence : The Eternal Masculine : The Anthropos of Anthropos-Sophia

"Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
— Matthew 16:18

Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, October 28, 1909:
"The Mission of Reverence"

You all know the words with which Goethe concluded his life's masterpiece, Faust:

All things transient
Are but a parable;
Earth's insufficiency
Here finds fulfilment;
The indescribable
Here becomes deed;
The eternal-feminine
Draws us on high.

It goes without saying that in this context the “eternal-feminine” has nothing to do with man and woman. Goethe is making use of an ancient turn of speech. In all forms of mysticism — and Goethe gives these closing lines to a Chorus mysticus — we find an urge in the soul, at first quite indefinite, towards something which the soul has not yet come to know and to unite itself with, but must strive towards. This goal, at first only dimly surmized by the aspiring soul, is called by Goethe, in accord with the mystics of diverse times, the eternal-feminine, and the whole sense of the second part of Faust confirms this way of taking the concluding lines.
This Chorus mysticus, with its succinct words, can be set against the Unio mystica, the name given by true mystical thinkers to union with the eternal-feminine, far off spiritually but within human reach.
When the soul has risen to this height and feels itself to be at one with the eternal-feminine, then we can speak of mystical union, and this is the highest summit that we shall be considering today.
In the last two lectures, on the mission of anger and the mission of truth, we saw that the soul is involved in a process of evolution. On the one hand, we indicated certain attributes which the soul must strive to overcome, whereby anger, for example, can become an educator of the soul; and we saw on the other, how truth can educate the soul in its own special way.
The end and goal of this process of development cannot always be foreseen by the soul. We can place some object before us and say that it has developed from an earlier form to its present stage. We cannot say this of the human soul, for the soul is progressing through a continuing evolution in which it is itself the active agent. The soul must feel that, having developed to a certain point, it has to go further. And as a self-conscious soul it must say to itself: How is it that I am able to think not only about my development in the past but also about my development in the future?
Now, we have often explained how the soul, with all its inner life, is composed of three members. We cannot go over this in detail again today, but it will be better to mention it, so that this lecture can be studied on its own account. We call these three members of the soul the Sentient Soul, the Intellectual Soul, and the Consciousness Soul. The Sentient Soul can live without being much permeated by thinking. Its primary role is to receive impressions from the outer world and to pass them on inwardly. It is also the vehicle of such feelings of pleasure and pain, joy and grief, as come from these outer impressions. All human emotions, all desires, instincts, and passions, arise from within the Sentient Soul. Man has progressed from this stage to higher levels; he has permeated the Sentient Soul with his thinking and with feelings induced by thinking. In the Intellectual Soul, accordingly, we do not find indefinite feelings arising from the depths, but feelings gradually penetrated by the inner light of thought. At the same time it is from the Intellectual Soul that we find emerging by degrees the human Ego, that central point of the soul which can lead to the real Self and makes it possible for us to purify, cleanse, and refine the qualities of our soul from within, so that we can become the master, leader, and guide of our volitions, feelings, and thoughts.
This Ego, as we have seen already, has two aspects. One possibility of development for it is through the endeavors that man must make to strengthen this inner center more and more, so that an increasingly powerful influence can radiate out from it into his environment and into all the life around him. To enhance the value of the soul for the surrounding world and at the same time to strengthen its independence — that is one aspect of Ego development.
The reverse side of this is egoism. A self that is too weak will lose itself in the flood of the world. But if a man likes to keep his pleasures and desires, his thinking and his brooding, all within himself, his Ego will be hardened and given over to self-seeking and egoism.
Now we have briefly described the content of the Intellectual Soul. We have seen how wild impulses, of which anger is an example, can educate the soul if they are overcome and conquered. We have seen also that the Intellectual Soul is positively educated by truth, when truth is understood as something that a man possesses inwardly and takes account of at all times; when it leads us out of ourselves and enlarges the Ego, while at the same time it strengthens the Ego and makes it more selfless.
Thus we have become acquainted with the means of self-education that are provided for the Sentient Soul and the Intellectual Soul. Now we have to ask: Is there a similar means provided for the Consciousness Soul, the highest member of the human soul? We can also ask: What is there in the Consciousness Soul which develops of its own accord, corresponding to the instincts and desires in the Sentient Soul? Is there something that belongs by nature to the Consciousness Soul, such that man could acquire very little of it if he were not already endowed with it?
There is something which reaches out from the Intellectual Soul to the Consciousness Soul — the strength and sagacity of thinking. The Consciousness Soul can come to expression only because man is a thinking being, for its task is to acquire knowledge of the world and of itself, and for this it requires the highest instrument of knowledge: thinking.
We learn about the external world through perceptions; they stimulate us to gain knowledge of our surroundings. To this end, we need only devote our attention to the outer world and not stand blankly in front of it, for then the outer world itself draws us on to satisfy our thirst for knowledge by observing it. With regard to gaining knowledge of the supersensible world, we are in a quite different situation. First of all, the supersensible world is not there in front of us. If a man wishes to gain a knowledge of it, so that this knowledge will permeate his Consciousness Soul, the impulse to do so must come from within and must penetrate his thinking through and through. This impulse can come only from the other powers of his soul: feeling and willing. Unless his thinking is stimulated by both these powers, it will never be impelled to approach the supersensible world. This does not mean that the supersensible is merely a feeling, but that feeling and willing must act as inner guides towards its unknown realm.
What qualities, then, must feeling and willing acquire in order to do this?
First of all, someone might object to the use of a feeling as a guide to knowledge. But a simple consideration will show that in fact this is what feeling does. Anyone who takes knowledge seriously will admit that in acquiring knowledge we must proceed logically. We use logic as an instrument for testing the knowledge we acquire. How, then, if logic is this instrument, can logic itself be proved? One might say: Logic can prove itself. Yes, but before we begin proving logic by logic, it must be at least possible to grasp logic with our feeling. Logical thought cannot be proved primarily by logical thought, but only by feeling. Indeed, everything that constitutes logic is first proved through feeling, by the infallible feeling for truth that dwells in the human soul. From this classical example we can see how feeling is the foundation of logic and of thinking. Feeling must give the impulse for the verification of thought. What must feeling become if it is to provide an impulse not only for thinking in general, but for thinking about worlds with which we are at first unacquainted and cannot survey?
Feeling of this kind must be a force which strives from within towards an object yet unknown. When the human soul seeks to encompass with feeling some other thing, we call this feeling love. Love can of course be felt for something known, and there are many things in the world for us to love. But as love is a feeling, and a feeling is the foundation of thinking in the widest sense, we must be clear that the unknown supersensible can be grasped by feeling before thinking comes in, Unprejudiced observation, accordingly, shows that it must be possible for human beings to come to love the unknown supersensible before they are able to conceive it in terms of thought. This love is indeed indispensable before the supersensible can be penetrated by the light of thought.
At this stage, also, the will can be permeated by a force which goes out towards the supersensible unknown. This quality of the will, which enables a man to wish to carry out his aims and intentions with regard to the unknown, is devotion. So can the will inspire devotion towards the unknown, while feeling becomes love of the unknown; and when these two emotions are united they together give rise to reverence in the true sense of the word. Then this devotion becomes the impulse that will lead us into the unknown, so that the unknown can be taken hold of by our thinking. Thus it is that reverence becomes the educator of the Consciousness Soul. For in ordinary life, also, we can say that when a man endeavors to grasp with his thinking some external reality not yet known to him, he will be approaching it with love and devotion. Never will the Consciousness Soul gain a knowledge of external objects unless love and devotion inspire its quest; otherwise the objects will not be truly observed. This also applies quite specially to all endeavors to gain knowledge of the supersensible world.
In all cases, however, the soul must allow itself to be educated by the Ego, the source of self-consciousness. We have seen how the Ego gains increasing independence and strength by overcoming certain soul qualities, such as anger, and by cultivating others, such as the sense of truth. After that, the self-education of the Ego comes to an end; its education through reverence begins. Anger is to be overcome and discarded; a sense of truth is to permeate the Ego; reverence is to flow from the Ego towards the object of which knowledge is sought. Thus, having raised itself out of the Sentient Soul and the Intellectual Soul by overcoming anger and other passions and by cultivating a sense of truth, the Ego is drawn gradually into the Consciousness Soul by the influence of reverence. If this reverence becomes stronger and stronger, one can speak of it as a powerful impulse towards the realm described by Goethe:

All things transient
Are but a parable;
Earth's insufficiency
Here finds fulfilment;
The indescribable
Here becomes deed;
The eternal-feminine
Draws us on high.

The soul is drawn by the strength of its reverence towards the eternal, with which it longs to unite itself. But the Ego has two sides. It is impelled by necessity to enhance continually its own strength and activity. At the same time it has the task of not allowing itself to fall under the hardening influence of egoism. If the Ego seeks to go further and gain knowledge of the unknown and the supersensible, and takes reverence as its guide, it is exposed to the immediate danger of losing itself. This is most likely to happen, above all, to a human being if his will is always submissive to the world. If this attitude gains increasingly the upper hand, the result may be that the Ego goes out of itself and loses itself in the other being or thing to which it has submitted. This condition can be likened to fainting by the soul, as distinct from bodily fainting. In bodily fainting the Ego sinks into undefined darkness; in fainting by the soul, the Ego loses itself spiritually while the bodily faculties and perceptions of the outer world are not impaired. This can happen if the Ego is not strong enough to extend itself fully into the will and to guide it.
This self-surrender by the Ego can be the final result of a systematic mortification of the will. A man who pursues this course becomes incapable of willing or acting on his own account; he has surrendered his will to the object of his submissive devotion and has lost his own self. When this condition prevails, it produces an enduring impotence of the soul. Only when a devotional feeling is warmed through by the Ego, so that man can immerse himself in it without losing his Ego, can it be salutary for the human soul.
How, then, can reverence always carry the Ego with it? The Ego cannot allow itself to be led in any direction, as a human Self, unless it maintains in its thinking a knowledge of itself. Nothing else can protect the Ego from losing itself when devotion leads it out into the world. The soul can be led out of itself towards something external by the force of will, but when the soul leaves behind the boundary of the external, it must make sure of being illuminated by the light of thought.
Thinking itself cannot lead the soul out; this comes about through devotion, but thinking must then immediately exert itself to permeate with the life of thought the object of the soul's devotion. In other words, there must be a resolve to think about this object. Directly the devotional impulse loses the will to think, there is a danger of losing oneself. If anyone makes it a matter of principle not to think about the object of his devotion, this can lead in extreme cases to a lasting debility of the soul.
Is love, the other element in reverence, exposed to a similar fate? Something that radiates from the human Self towards the unknown must be poured into love, so that never for a moment does the Ego fail to sustain itself. The Ego must have the will to enter into everything which forms the object of its devotion, and it must maintain itself in face of the external, the unknown, the supersensible. What becomes of love if the Ego fails to maintain itself at the moment of encountering the unknown, if it is unwilling to bring the light of thinking and of rational judgment to bear on the unknown? Love of that kind becomes more sentimental enthusiasm (Schwarmerei). But the Ego can begin to find its way from the Intellectual Soul, where it lives, to the external unknown, and then it can never extinguish itself altogether. Unlike the will, the Ego cannot completely mortify itself. When the soul seeks to embrace the external world with feeling, the Ego is always present in the feeling, but if it is not supported by thinking and willing, it rushes forth without restraint, unconscious of itself. And if this love for the unknown is not accompanied by resolute thinking, the soul can fall into a sentimental extreme, somewhat like sleep-walking, just as the state reached by the soul when submissive devotion leads to loss of the Self is somewhat like a bodily fainting-fit. When a sentimental enthusiast goes forth to encounter the unknown, he leaves behind the strength of the Ego and takes with him only secondary forces. Since the strength of the Ego is absent from his consciousness, he tries to grasp the unknown as one does in the realm of dreams. Under these conditions the soul falls into what may be called an enduring state of dreaming or somnambulism.
Again, if the soul is unable to relate itself properly to the world and to other people, if it rushes out into life and shrinks from using the light of thought to illuminate its situation, then the Ego, having fallen into a somnambulistic condition, is bound to go astray and to wander through the world like a will-o-the-wisp.
If the soul succumbs to mental laziness and shuns the light of thought when it meets the unknown, then, and only then, will it harbor superstitions in one or other form. The sentimental soul, with its fond dreams, wandering through life as though asleep, and the indolent soul, unwilling to be fully conscious of itself — these are the souls most inclined to believe everything blindly. Their tendency is to avoid the effort of thinking for themselves and to allow truth and knowledge to be prescribed for them.
If we are to get to know an external object, we have to bring our own productive thinking to bear on it, and it is the same with the supersensible, whatever form this may take. Never, in seeking to gain a knowledge of the supersensible, must we exclude thinking. Directly we rely on merely observing the supersensible, we are exposed to all possible deceptions and errors. All such errors and superstitions, all the wrong or untruthful ways of entering the supersensible worlds, can be attributed in the last instance to a refusal to allow consciousness to be illuminated by the light of creative thought. No one can be deceived by information said to come from the spiritual world if he has the will to keep his thinking always active and independent. Nothing else will suffice, and this is something that every spiritual researcher will confirm. The stronger the will is to creative thinking, the greater is the possibility of gaining true, clear, and certain knowledge of the spiritual world.
Thus we see the need for a means of education which will lead the Ego into the Consciousness Soul and will guide the Consciousness Soul in the face of the unknown, both the physical unknown and the unknown supersensible. Reverence, consisting of devotion and love, provides the means we seek. When the latter are imbued with the right kind of self-feeling, they become steps which lead to ever greater heights.
True devotion, in whatever form it is experienced by the soul, whether through prayer or otherwise, can never lead anyone astray. The best way of learning to know something is to approach it first of all with love and devotion. A healthy education will consider especially how strength can be given to the development of the soul through the devotional impulse. To a child the world is largely unknown: if we are to guide him towards knowledge and sound judgment of it, the best way is to awaken in him a feeling of reverence towards it; and we can be sure that by so doing we shall lead him to fullness of experience in any walk of life.
It is very important for the human soul if it can look back to a childhood in which devotion, leading on to reverence, was often felt. Frequent opportunities to look up to revered persons, and to gaze with heartfelt devotion at things that are still beyond its understanding, provide a good impulse for higher development in later life. A person will always gratefully remember those occasions when as a child in the family circle he heard of some outstanding personality of whom everyone spoke with devotion and reverence. A feeling of holy awe, which gives reverence a specially intimate character, will then permeate the soul. Or someone may relate how with trembling hand, later on, he rang the bell and shyly made his way into the room of the revered personality whom he was meeting for the first time, after having heard him spoken of with so much respectful admiration. Simply to have come into his presence and exchanged a few words can confirm a devotion which will be particularly helpful when we are trying to unravel the great riddles of existence and are seeking for the goal which we long to make our own. Here reverence is a force which draws us upward, and by so doing fortifies and invigorates the soul. How can this be? Let us consider the outward expression of reverence in human gestures — what forms does it take? We bend our knees, fold our hands, and incline our heads towards the object of our reverence. These are the organs whereby the Ego, and above all the higher faculties of the soul, can express themselves most intensively.
In physical life a man stands upright by firmly extending his legs; his Ego radiates out through his hands in acts of blessing; and by moving his head he can observe the Earth or the heavens. But from studying human nature, we learn also that our legs are stretched out at their best in strong, conscious action if they have first learnt to bend the knee where reverence is really due. For this genuflection opens the door to a force which seeks to find its way into our organism. Knees which have not learnt to bend in reverence give out only what they have always had; they spread out their own nullity, to which they have added nothing. But legs which have learnt to genuflect receive, when they are extended, a new force, and then it is this, not their own nullity, which they spread around them. Hands which would fain bless and comfort although they have never been folded in reverence and devotion cannot bestow much love and blessing from their own nullity. But hands which have learnt to fold themselves in reverence have received a new force and are powerfully penetrated by the Ego. For the path taken by this force leads first through the heart, where it kindles love; and the reverence of the folded hands, having passed through the heart and flowed into the hands, turns into blessing. The head may turn its eyes and strain its ears to survey the world in all directions, but it presents nothing but its own emptiness. If, however, the head has been bent in reverence, it gains a new force; it will bring to meet the outer world the feelings it has acquired through reverence.
Anyone who studies the gestures of people, and knows what they signify, will see how reverence is expressed in external physiognomy; he will see how this reverence enhances the strength of the Ego and so makes it possible for the Ego to penetrate into the unknown. Moreover, this self-education through reverence has the effect of raising to the surface our obscure instincts and emotions, our sympathies and antipathies, which otherwise make their way into the soul unconsciously or subconsciously, unchallenged by the light of judgment. Precisely these feelings are cleansed and purified through self-education by reverence and through the penetration by the Ego of the higher members of the soul. The obscure forces of sympathy and antipathy, always prone to error, are permeated by the light of the soul and transformed into judgment, aesthetic taste, and rightly guided moral feeling. A soul educated by reverence will convert its dark cravings and aversions into a feeling for the beautiful and a feeling for the good. A soul that has cleansed its obscure instincts and will-impulses through devotion will gradually build up from them what we call moral ideals. Reverence is something that we plant in the soul as a seed; and the seed will bear fruit.
Human life offers yet another example. We see everywhere that the course of a man's life goes through ascending and declining stages. Childhood and youth are stages of ascent; then comes a pause, and finally, in the later years, a decline. Now the remarkable thing is, that the qualities acquired in childhood and youth reappear in a different form during the years of decline. If much reverence, rightly guided, has been part of the experience of childhood, it acts as a seed which comes to fruition in old age as strength for active living. A childhood and youth during which devotion and love were not fostered under the right guidance will lead to a weak and powerless old age. Reverence must take hold of every soul that is to make progress in its development.
How is it, then, with the corresponding quality in the object of our reverence? If we look with love on another being, then the reciprocated love of the latter will reveal what can perhaps arise. If a man is lovingly devoted to his God, he can be sure that God inclines to him also in love. Reverence is the feeling he develops for whatever he calls his God out there in the universe. Since the reaction to reverence cannot itself be called reverence, we may not speak of a divine reverence towards man. What, then, precisely is the opposite of reverence in this context? What is it that flows out to meet reverence when reverence seeks the divine? It is might, the Almighty power of the Divine. Reverence that we learn to feel in youth returns to us as strength for living in old age, and if we turn in reverence to the divine, our reverence flows back to us as an experience of the Almighty. That is what we feel, whether we look up to the starry heavens in their endless glory and our reverence goes out to all that lies around us, beyond our compass, or whether we look up to our invisible God, in whatever form, who pervades and animates the cosmos.
We look up towards the Almighty and we come to feel with certainty that we cannot advance towards union with that which is above us unless we first approach it from below with reverence. We draw nearer to the Almighty when we immerse ourselves in reverence. Thus we can speak of an Almighty in this sense, while a true feeling for the meaning of words prevents us from speaking of an All-loving. Power can be increased or enhanced in proportion to the number of beings over which it extends. It is different with love. If a child is loved by its mother, this does not prevent her from loving equally her second, third, or fourth child. It is false for anyone to say: I must divide up my love because it is to cover two objects. It is false to speak either of an “all-knowledge” or of an indefinite “all-love”. Love has no degree and cannot be limited by figures.
Love and devotion together make up reverence. We can have a devoted attitude to this or that unknown if we have the right feeling for it. Devotion can be enhanced, but it does not have to be divided up or multiplied when it is felt for a number of beings. Since this is true also of love, the Ego has no need to lose or disperse itself if it turns with love and devotion towards the unknown. Love and devotion are thus the right guides to the unknown, and the best educators of the soul in its advance from the Intellectual Soul to the Consciousness Soul.
Whereas the overcoming of anger educates the Sentient Soul, and the striving for truth educates the Intellectual Soul, reverence educates the Consciousness Soul, bringing more and more knowledge within its reach. But this reverence must be led and guided from a standpoint which never shuts out the light of thought. When love flows forth from us, it ensures by its own worth that our Self can go with it, and this applies also to devotion. We could indeed lose our Self, but we need not. That is the point, and it must be kept especially in mind if an impulse of reverence enters into the education of the young. A blind, unconscious reverence is never right. The cultivation of reverence must go together with the cultivation of a healthy Ego-feeling.
Whereas the mystics of all ages, together with Goethe, have spoken of the unknown, undefined element to which the soul is drawn as the eternal-feminine, we may without misunderstanding speak of the element which must always animate reverence as the eternal-masculine. For just as the eternal-feminine is present in both man and woman, so is this eternal-masculine, this healthy Ego-feeling, present in all reverence by man or woman. And when Goethe's Chorus mysticus comes before us, we may, having come to know the mission of reverence which leads us towards the unknown, add the element which must permeate all reverence: the Eternal-masculine.
Thus we are now able to reach a right understanding of the experience of the human soul when it strives to unite itself with the unknown and attains to the Unio mystica, wherein all reverence is consummated.
But this mystical union will harm the soul if the Ego is lost while seeking to unite itself with the unknown in any form. If the Ego has lost itself, it will bring to the unknown nothing of value. Self-sacrifice in the Unio mystica requires that one must have become something, must have something to sacrifice. If a weak Ego, with no strength in itself, is united with what lies above us, the union has no value. The Unio mystica has value only when a strong Ego ascends to the regions of which the Chorus mysticus speaks. When Goethe speaks of the regions to which the higher reverence can lead us, in order to gain there the highest knowledge, and when his Chorus mysticus tells us in beautiful words:

All things transient
Are but a parable;
Earth's insufficiency
Here finds fulfilment;
The indescribable
Here becomes deed;
The eternal-feminine
Draws us on high —

Then, if we rightly understand the Unio mystica, we can reply: Yes —

All things transient
Are but a parable;
Earth's insufficiency
Here finds fulfilment;
The indescribable
Here becomes deed;
The eternal-masculine
Draws us on high.