The Human Soul in Courage and Fear
The habits of thinking that have come to be accepted in the modern
study of nature [Naturerkenntnis] can yield no satisfying results for
the study of the soul. What one would grasp with these habits of
thinking must either be spread out in repose before the soul or, if
the object of knowledge is in movement, the soul must feel itself
extricated from this movement. For to participate in the movement of
the object of knowledge means to lose oneself in it, to transform
oneself, so to speak, into it.
How should the soul grasp itself, however, in an act of knowing in
which it must lose itself? It can expect self-knowledge only in an
activity in which, step by step, it comes into possession of itself.
This can only be an activity that is creative. Here, however, a cause
for uncertainty arises at once for the knower. He believes he will
lapse into personal arbitrariness.
It is precisely this arbitrariness that he gives up in the knowledge
of nature. He excludes himself and lets nature hold sway. He seeks
certainty in a realm which his individual soul being does not reach.
In seeking self-knowledge he cannot conduct himself in this way. He
must take himself along wherever he seeks to know. He therefore can
find no nature on his path to self-knowledge. For where she would
encounter him, there he is no longer to be found.
This, however, provides just the experience that is needed with regard
to the spirit. One cannot expect other than to find the spirit when,
through one's own activity, nature, as it were, melts away; that is,
when one experiences oneself ever more strongly in proportion to one's
feeling this melting away.
If one fills the soul with something that afterward proves to be like
a dream in its illusory character, and one experiences the illusory in
its true nature, then one becomes stronger in one's own experience of
self. In confronting a dream, one's thinking corrects the belief one
has in the dream's reality while dreaming. Concerning the activity of
fantasy, this correction is not needed because one did not have this
belief. Concerning the meditative soul activity, to which one devotes
oneself for spirit-knowledge, one cannot be satisfied with mere
thought correction. One must correct by experiencing. One must first
create the illusory thinking with one's activity and then extinguish
it by a different, equally strong, activity.
In this act of extinguishing, another activity awakens, the
spirit-knowing activity. For if the extinguishing is real, then the
force for it must come from an entirely different direction than from
nature. With the experienced illusion one has dispersed what nature
can give; what inwardly arises during the dispersion is no longer
With this activity something is needed that does not come into
consideration in the study of nature: inner courage. With it one must
take hold of what inwardly arises. In the study of nature one needs to
hold nothing inwardly. One lets oneself be held by what is external.
Inner courage is not needed here. One forgets it. This forgetting then
causes anxiety when the spiritual is to enter the sphere of knowledge.
Fear is felt because one might grope in a void if one no longer could
hold onto nature.
This fear meets one at the threshold to spirit knowledge. And fear
causes one to recoil from this knowledge. One now becomes creative in
recoiling instead of in pressing forward. One does not allow the
spirit to shape creative knowledge in oneself; one invents for oneself
a sham logic for disputing the justification of spirit knowledge.
Every possible sham reason is brought forward to spare one from
acknowledging the spiritual, because one retreats trembling in fear of
Instead of spirit knowledge, then, there arises out of the creative
force that which now appears in the soul when it draws back from
nature, the enemy of spirit knowledge: first, as doubt concerning all
knowledge that extends beyond nature; and then, as the fear grows, as
an anti-logic that would banish all spirit knowledge to the realm of
Whoever has learned to move cognitively in the spirit often sees in
the refutations of this knowledge its strongest evidence; for it
becomes clear to him how in the soul, step by step, the refuter chokes
down his fear of the spirit, and how in choking it he creates this
sham logic. With such a refuter there is no point in arguing, for the
fear befalling him arises in the subconscious. The consciousness tries
to rescue itself from this fear. It feels at first that should this
anxiety arise, it would inundate the whole inner experience with
weakness. It is true, the soul cannot escape from this weakness, for
one feels it rising up from within. If one ran away it would follow
one everywhere. He who proceeds further in the knowledge of nature
and, in his dedication to it feels obliged to preserve his own self,
never escapes from this fear if he cannot acknowledge the spirit. Fear
will accompany him, unless he is willing to give up the knowledge of
nature along with spirit knowledge. He must somehow rid himself of
this fear in his pursuit of the science of nature. In reality he
cannot do so. The fear is produced in the subconscious during the
study of nature. It continually attempts to rise up out of the
subconscious into consciousness. Therefore one refutes in the thought
world what one cannot remove from the reality of soul experience.
And this refutation is an illusory layer of thought covering the
subconscious fear. The refuter has not found the courage to come to
grips with the illusory, just as in the meditative life he has to
obliterate illusion in order to attain spiritual reality. For this
reason he interposes the false arguments of his refutation into that
region of the life of the soul that now arises. They soothe his
consciousness; he ceases to feel the fear that, all the same, remains
in his subconscious.
The denial of the spiritual world is a desire to run away from one's
own soul. This, however, represents an impossibility. One must remain
with oneself. And because one may run away but not escape from
oneself, one takes care that in running one loses sight of oneself. It
is the same with the entire human being in the soul realm, however, as
it is with the eye with a cataract. The eye can then no longer see. It
is darkened within itself.
So, too, the denier of spirit knowledge darkens his soul. He causes
its darkening through sham reasoning born of fear. He avoids healthy
clarification of the soul; he creates for himself an unhealthy soul
darkening. The denial of spirit knowledge has its origin in a cataract
affliction of the soul.
Thus one is ultimately led to the inner spiritual strength of the soul
when one is willing to see the justification of spirit knowledge. And
the way to such a knowledge can be had only through the strengthening
of the soul. The meditative activity, preparing the soul for spirit
knowledge, is a gradual conquest of the soul's “fear of the void.”
This void, however, is only a “void of nature,” in which the
“fullness of the spirit” can manifest itself if one wishes to take
hold of it. Nor does the soul enter this “fullness of the spirit”
with the arbitrariness it has when acting through the body in natural life;
the soul enters this fullness at the moment when the spirit reveals to
the soul the creative will, before which the arbitrariness, existing
only in natural life, dissolves in the same way as nature herself