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West-East Aphorisms

An Article By
Rudolf Steiner
GA 36



Copyright © Unknown
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We lose the human being from our field of vision if we do not fix the eye of the soul upon his entire nature in all its life-manifestations. We should not speak of man's knowledge, but of the complete man manifesting himself in the act of cognition. In cognition, man uses as an instrument his sense-nerve nature. For feeling, he is served by the rhythm living in the breath and the circulation of the blood. When he wills metabolism becomes the physical basis of his existence. But rhythm courses into the physical occurrence within the sense-nerve nature; and metabolism is the material bearer of the life of thought, even in the most abstract thinking, feeling lives and the waves of will pulsate.

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The ancient Oriental entered into his dream-like thinking more from the rhythmic life of feeling than does the man of the present age. The Oriental experienced for this reason more of the rhythmic weaving in his life of thought, while the Westerner experiences more of the logical indications. In ascending to super-sensible vision, the Oriental Yogi interwove conscious breath with conscious thinking, in this way, he laid hold in his breath upon the continuing rhythm of cosmic occurrence. As he breathed, he experienced the world as Self. Upon the rhythmic waves of conscious breath, thought moved through the entire being of man. He experienced how the Divine-Spiritual causes the spirit-filled breath to stream continuously into man, and how man thus becomes a living soul. The man of the present age must seek his super-sensible knowledge in a different way. He cannot unite his thinking with the breath. Through meditation, he must lift his thinking out of the life of logic to vision. In vision, however, thought weaves in a spirit element or music and picture. It is released from the breath and woven together with the spiritual in the world. The Self is now experienced, not in connection with the breath in the single human being, but in the environing world of spirit. The Eastern man once experienced the world in himself, and in his spiritual life today he has the echo of this. The Western man stands at the beginning of his experience, and is on the way to find himself in the world. If the Western man should wish to become a Yogi, he would have to become a refined egoist, for Nature has already given him the feeling of the Self. which the Oriental had only in a dream-like way. If the Yogi had sought for himself in the world as the Western man must do, he would have led his dream-like thinking into unconscious sleep, and would have been psychically drowned.

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The Eastern man had the spiritual experience as religion, art, and science in complete unity. He made sacrifices to his spiritual-divine Beings. As a gift of grace, there flowed to him from them that which lifted him to the state of a true human being. This was religion. But in the sacrificial ceremony and the sacrificial place there was manifest to him also beauty, through which the Divine-Spiritual lived in art. And out of the beautiful manifestations of the Spirit there flowed science.

Toward the West streamed the waves of wisdom that were the beautiful light of the spirit and inspired piety in the artistically inspired man. There religion developed its own being, and only beauty still continued united with wisdom. Heracleitos and Anaxagoras were men wise in the world who thought artistically; Aeschylos and Sophocles were artists who moulded the wisdom of the world. Later wisdom was given over to thinking; it became knowledge. Art was transferred to its own world. Religion, the source of all, became the heritage of the East; art became the monument of the time when the middle region of the earth held sway; knowledge became the independent mistress of its own field in man's soul. Thus did the spiritual life of the West come to existence. A complete human being like Goethe discovered the world of spirit immersed In knowledge. But he longed to see the truth of knowledge in the beauty of art. This drove him to the south. Whoever follows him in the spirit may find a religiously Intimate knowledge striving in beauty toward artistic revelation. If the Western man beholds in his cold knowledge the spiritual-divine streaming forth below him and glancing with beauty, and if the Eastern man senses in his religion of wisdom, warm with feeling and speaking of the beauty of the cosmos, the knowledge that makes man free, transforming itself in man into the power of will, then will the Eastern man in his feeling intuition no longer accuse the thinking Western man of being soulless, and the thinking Western man will no longer condemn the intuitively feeling Eastern man as an alien to the world. Religion can be deepened by knowledge filled with the life of art. Art can be made alive through knowledge born out of religion. Knowledge can be illuminated by religion upheld by art.

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The Eastern man spoke of the sense-world as an appearance in which there lived a lesser manifestation of what he experienced as spirit in utter reality within his own soul. The Western man speaks of the world of ideas as an appearance where there lives in shadowy form what he experiences as Nature in utter reality through his senses. What was the Maja of the senses to the Eastern man is self-sufficing reality to the Western man. What is the ideology constructed by the mind to the Western man was self-creating reality to the Eastern man. If the Eastern man finds today in his reality of spirit the power to give the strength of existence to Maja, and if the Western man discovers life in his reality of Nature, so that he shall see the Spirit at work in his ideology, then will understanding come about between East and West.

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In hoary antiquity the humanity of the Orient experienced in knowledge a lofty spirituality. This spirituality, laid hold upon in thought, pulsated through the feeling; it streamed out into the will. The thought was not yet the percept which reproduces objects. It was real being which bore into the inner nature of man the life of the spiritual world. The man of the East lives today in the echoes of this lofty spirituality. The eye of his cognition was once not directed toward Nature. He looked through Nature at the spirit. When the adaptation to Nature began, man did not at once see Nature; he saw the spirit by the way of Nature; he saw ghosts. The last residues of a lofty spirituality became, on the way from East to West, the superstitious belief in ghosts. To the Western man, a knowledge of Nature was given as Copernicus and Galileo arose for him. He had to look into his own inner nature in order to seek for the spirit. There the spirit was still concealed from him, and he beheld only appetites and instincts. But these are material ghosts, taking their place before the eyes of the soul because this is not yet inwardly adapted to the spirit. When the adaptation to the spirit begins, the inner ghosts will vanish, and man will took upon the spirit through his own inner nature, as the ancient man of the East looked upon the spirit through Nature. Through the world of the inner ghosts the West will reach the spirit. The Western ghost superstition is the beginning of the knowledge of spirit. What the East bequeathed to the West as a superstitious belief in ghosts is the end of the knowledge of spirit. Men should find their way past the ghosts into the spirit — and thus will a bridge be built between East and West.

The man of the East feels “I” and sees “World”; the I is the moon which reflects the world. The man of the West thinks the “World” and radiates into the world of his own thought “I”. The I is a sun which irradiates the world of pictures. If the Eastern man comes to feel the rays of the sun in the shimmer of his moon of wisdom, and the Western man experiences the shimmer of moon-wisdom in the rays of his sun of will, then shall the will of the West release the will of the East.

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The ancient Oriental felt himself to be in a social order willed by the Spirit. The commandments of the spiritual Power, brought to his consciousness by his Leader, gave him the conception as to how he should integrate himself with this order. These leaders derived such conceptions out of their vision in the super-sensible world. Those who were led felt that in such conceptions lay the main directions transmitted to them for their spiritual, political and economic life. Views regarding man's relationship to the spiritual, the relationship between man and man, the handling of the economic affairs were derived for them from the same sources, commandments willed by the spirit. The spiritual life, the social-political order, the handling of the economic affairs were experienced as a unity. The farther culture progressed toward the West, the more relationship of rights between man and man and the handling of economic affairs were separated from the spiritual life in human consciousness. The spiritual life became more independent. The other members of the social order still continued to constitute a unity. But, with the further penetration of the West, they also became separated. 3y the side of the element of rights and the state, which for a time controlled everything economic, there took form an independent economic thinking. The Western man is still living amidst the processes of this last separation. At the same time, there arises for him the task to mould into a higher unity the separated members of the social life — the life of the spirit, the control of rights and of the state, the handling of economic affairs, if he achieves this, the man of the East will look upon this creation with understanding, for he will again discover what he once lost, the unity of human experience.

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Among the partial currents whose interaction and reciprocal conflict compose human history, there is included the conquest or labor by man's consciousness. In the ancient Orient, man labored in accordance with an order imposed upon him by the will of the Spirit, in this reeling, he was either a master or a worker. With the migration of the life of culture toward the West, there came into human consciousness the relationship between man and man. into this was woven the labor which one performs for others. Into the concepts of rights there penetrated the concept of the value of work. A great part of Roman history represents this growing together of the concepts of rights and of work. With the further penetration of culture into the West, economic life took on more and more complicated forms, It drew labor into itself when the structure of rights which this had hitherto taken on was not yet adequate for the demands of the new forms. Disharmony arose between the conceptions of work and of rights. The re-establishment of harmony between the two is the great social problem of the West. How labor can discover its form within the entity of rights, and not be torn out of this entity in the handling of economic affairs, constitutes — the content or the problem, if the West begins to advance toward this solution, through insight and in social peace, the East will meet this with understanding. But, if this problem generates in the West a stand in thinking which manifests itself in social turmoil, the East will not be able to acquire confidence in the further evolution of humanity through the West.

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The unity between the spiritual life, human rights, and the handling of economic affairs, in accordance with an order willed by the Spirit, can survive only so long as the tilling of the soil is predominant in economics, while trade and industry are subordinate to agricultural economics. It is for this reason that the social thinking of the ancient Orient, willed by the Spirit, bears with reference to the handling of economic affairs a character adapted to agricultural economics. With the course of civilization toward the West, trade first becomes an independent element in economics. It demands the determination of rights. It must be possible to carry on business with everyone. With reference to this, there are only abstract standards of rights. As civilization advanced still farther toward the West, production in industry becomes an independent element in the handling of economic affairs. It is possible to produce useful goods only when the producer and those persons with whom he must work in this production live in a relationship which corresponds with human capacities and needs. The unfolding of the industrial element demands out of :he economic life associative unions so moulded that men know their needs to be satisfied in these so far as the natural conditions make this possible, To discover the fight associative life is the task of the West. If it proves to be capable of this task, the East will say: “Our life once flowed into brotherhood. In the course of time, this disappeared; the advance of humanity took it away from us. The West causes it to blossom again out of the associative economic life. It restores the vanished confidence in true humanness.”

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When the ancient man composed a poem, he felt that spiritual Power spoke through him. In Greece the poet let the Muse speak through him to his fellowmen. This consciousness was a heritage of the ancient Orient. With the passage of the spiritual life toward the West, poetry became more and more the manifestation of man himself. In the ancient Orient, the spiritual Powers sang through man to men. The cosmic word resounded from the gods down to man. in the West, it has become the human word. It must find the way upward to the spiritual Powers. Man must learn to create poetry in such a way that the Spirit may listen to him. The West must mould a language suited to the Spirit. Then will the East say: “The divine Word, which once streamed for us from heaven to earth, finds its way back from the hearts of men into the spiritual world. In the human word mounting upward we behold with understanding the cosmic Word whose descent our consciousness once experienced.”

The man of the East has no understanding for “proof”. He experiences in vision the content of his truths, and knows them in this way. And what man knows he does not prove. The man of the West demands everywhere “proofs”. Everywhere he strives to reach the content of his truths out of the external reflection by means of thought, and interprets them in this way. But what is interpreted must be “proven”. If the man of the West releases from his proof the life of truth, the man of the East will understand him. if, at the end of the Western man's struggle for proof, the Eastern man discovers his unproven dreams of truth in a true awaking, the man of the West will then have to greet him as a fellow-worker who can accomplish what he himself cannot accomplish in work for the progress of humanity.

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Last Modified: 06-Jun-2017
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