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The Hidden Depths of Soul Life

By Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, November 23rd, 1911

GA 61

A lecture delivered in Berlin, on November 23rd, 1911. Authorized translation from the German of Notes unrevised by the lecturer. Translated by A. Innes.

Lecture 5 of 16 from the lecture series: Human History in the Light of Spiritual Investigation. The volume of the Complete Edition of the works of Rudolf Steiner containing the original text of the this lecture, among sixteen others, is entitled: Menschengeschichte im Lichte der Geistesforschung. (No. 61 in the Bibliographical Survey, 1961).

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The Hidden Depths of Soul Life

Berlin, 23rd November, 1911

Translated by A. Innes

When an earthquake takes place in some part of the world and people feel the earth stirring under their feet, as a rule they experience a feeling of terror, a shudder runs through them.

If we try to find the causes of this feeling of terror, we must turn our attention not only to those occasions when a person faces the unknown, unexpected and inexplicable, but also to those when terror arises because as long as the tremor lasts he is wondering how far it will go and what may still surge up from unknown depths.

This feeling — even if not always apparent in man's daily life — can often be experienced in contrast to conscious existence, to all those conscious thoughts and feelings in the depths of the soul-life, and which sometimes act in a way that suggests earthquakes.

In what flashes up as instincts and desires along with unaccountable moods and inhibitions which often encroach on our conscious life, with the havoc an earthquake makes where things on the earth's surface are concerned, in all this man — however well he believes he knows himself — confronts this uncertainty: Whatever else will be flung up from the innermost depths of my soul? For anyone who delves more deeply into his being soon sees that all the life of ideas playing part in the consciousness — namely, what he controls from waking to falling asleep — resembles the dancing waves on the surface of the sea, the upward striving of which and the way they carry on their game must be traced to depths unknown to ordinary perception. Such is man's life of ideas. This alone should make those pause who, starting from so-called scientific findings, repeatedly raised objections to the statements of spiritual science imparted in these lectures.

If spiritual science cannot view man as so simple a being as people so often see him, the outer testimony of life itself and daily service are proof of his complex nature.

Spiritual science cannot consider man as only composed of what the eye first sees, or as external anatomical physiological science perceives him, dissects him, and with its own methods studies him. But when confronted by everything outer perception and science can master — that is to say, man's physical body — spiritual science must set up in contrast the higher super-sensible members of his being. We must say that these are only perceptible by means of the knowledge I outlined in the lecture on “Death and Immortality”, [an untranslated lecture given in Berlin on October 26th, 1911. GA# 61. e.Ed.] and of which more will be said in forthcoming lectures. From direct observation, unobtainable in the world of the senses and open only to a clairvoyant consciousness, spiritual science must place over against the outer physical body what we may call the next member of man's being — the etheric or life-body. (One need not object to an expression which like others just serves for a description.)

And when spiritual science affirms that the forces and substances belonging to man's physical body are present and equally active in his environment, it must add that the original activity of these forces and substances first appears in man's physical body after he passes through the gate of death. Man brings these forces and substances into the physical world. During the whole of his life they are attached to the higher etheric forces which counteract the decay of the physical substance, which decay sets in the moment the etheric at death is loosened from the physical. As our study today will soon convince us, for an all-embracing experience of life there is nothing strange when, added to man's physical body, we mention a higher one too. For in life divisions appear everywhere, and man is obviously twofold in so far as this physical body contains all that belongs to his physical environment, and is penetrated by the etheric or life-body.

But spiritual science must point out that everything playing its part in our conscious life must be clearly distinguished from all activities and forces present even when consciousness is extinguished, as normally happens in sleep. For it would be logically absurd to claim that all our daytime instincts, desires and ideas, in their pulsating soul life, arises when we awake, but vanish, leaving no trace, when we fall asleep. When a man is asleep what we see belongs to the physical body and the activity of the physical world. This means that when the man lies on his bed we have the physical and etheric bodies for us, but sharply divided from what we will now call the astral body — the actual vehicle of our consciousness.

Where this vehicle of our consciousness is concerned, if we really want to understand our soul life, we must again clearly distinguished between what always lives in us and is subject to our inner thought and the decisions made by our will, and on the other hand what can be said to surge from deeper soul levels, and is responsible for our temperament, the colouring and character of our soul life, although outside our control. From our normal consciousness we must distinguish all that fills our soul in a wider sense, such as those things we possess from earliest childhood to the end of our days, what makes us talented or not, good or evil, what renders us sensitive to aesthetics and beauty but has no connection with what we consciously think, feel or will. In speaking the language of spiritual science we first distinguish two parts of our soul life: one that forms an extended, or subconscious (as it is now called, it being no longer possible to deny its existence) soul-life, and the other, our conscious life playing its part in all our thoughts, will impulses, tastes and opinions.

Whatever one thinks of the need to make this division, if we consider life in the light of experience we are bound to admit it proves that we must begin by distinguishing these four parts of man. By examining without prejudice what on all sides of life presents, proof is found everywhere of what spiritual science declares. This is especially apparent when one examines the more detailed evidence spiritual science offers. One finds first of all that this knowledge not only tells us of etheric forces working in the organism, shaping this body that bears our soul into a purely physical structure, but it tells us besides that all we reckon as memory is anchored in the etheric body. For not the astral but the etheric body carries our memory, and this etheric, though not closely knit to the life of soul, is closely knit to the physical body that, as a rule, remains attached to it when, as normally happens only in sleep, man sinks into subconsciousness. So according to spiritual science, memory, and everything in our depths of which we are not fully conscious, must be sought in the etheric underlying physical body. To justify considering the etheric as the vehicle of memory, apart from the physical, we should admit that everyday life has to offer us proof of the independence of memory from the physical body.

If these assumptions of spiritual science are correct, how do we explain our relation to the outer world, and does our ego register the conscious impressions this outer world makes on our soul?

In regard to all this we, as men belonging to the physical world, must first depend on our sense organs and our intelligence linked with the instrument of the brain. Thus we may say that everything belonging to man's world-picture, the sum of all that lives in his daily consciousness, depends on the physical body and the state of its health, but above all on normal well formed sense organs and a well-developed brain. Are we justified in saying that what lies in the depths of the soul and can only be reflected in memory, is not bound to the outer organism in the same degree as daily consciousness, but lives beneath the threshold of all that relates to the senses and the brain? Have we reason to speak of an independent memory? If this is so, one would have some right to say that the etheric inside the physical body also has an independent existence, and one that is unaffected by the outer injuries afflicted on the bodily organism. An interesting question we can raise is whether the normal course of consciousness, dependent on a well-developed brain, runs parallel with that of memory, or does the latter function separately so that when the physical body no longer acts as the vehicle of perception, the memory proves itself independent? Let us ask life to answer our question. We shall then discover a remarkable fact, that anyone can verify, for it is to be found in literature. For all our queries regarding facts dependent on clairvoyant consciousness can be answered by seeing whether they are verified by life itself.

A personality whose tragic fate is known to all can serve as an example — Frederick Nietzsche. When the final disaster had for sometime been approaching, and Nietzsche had already experienced sudden attacks of insanity, his friend Overbeck (formerly Professor in Basle who died a few years ago) fetched him from Turin and took him to Basle in very difficult circumstances. Now Bernoulli's interesting book relates the following. I shall skip the isolated episodes of the journey from Turin to Basle and just look at what struck Overbeck after returning with Nietzsche to Basle. Nietzsche had no special interest in what took place around him, nor in anything relating to the sphere of normal consciousness. He scarcely noticed it, nor did he apply any effort of will towards anything that happened. He made no difficulty over allowing himself to be taken to a nursing home where he met an old acquaintance who happened to be the director. When Nietzsche, who had lost all interest for the outside world, heard the man's name, something surged up and, to the great surprise of his friend Overbeck, he immediately went on with the conversation he had held with this doctor many years earlier! He took up the matter exactly where it had been left seven years before — so accurately did memory function; whereas the instruments for the outer perception — the brain, the reason and the normal consciousness — had all been destroyed, thus rendering him indifferent and inattentive to what he would have perceived had his consciousness been normal. This palpably shows how that to which we must now concede a certain independence, continues its function in spite of a damaged organism. But we will go further. An experiment so clearly shown by Nature herself lets us see how matters stand when we make comprehensive use of our powers of observation. When Nietzsche was later taken to Jena, and visited there by Overbeck and others, it was evident there too that they could speak only things he had experienced in the past, and nothing that played any part in his immediate surroundings which could only have been observed by the part of him dependent on the physical body. On the other hand, the independent activity of the etheric body, the vehicle of memory, was very much in evidence. And countless such examples could be cited. It is of course true that a completely materialistic thinker can say that certain parts of the brain had remained undamaged and happened to be those that carried the memory; but one who is of this opinion will find it does not hold good when he faces the actual fact and takes an unprejudiced view of everyday life. Thus over against the physical body there stands the etheric or life body, which spiritual science shows us to be also the vehicle of memory.

In considering man from another aspect, that of his inner life, we see how he is daily aware of waves surging up from unknown depths, of which he is not so conscious as of his thinking, feeling and willing. Among things that point to the way these lower regions affect our soul and our conscious life — for this soul extends beyond the ordinary consciousness — belongs something to which I have already alluded, something most important for people to understand — dream-life. Dreams surging up and down in chaotic forms apparently lack all law and order, yet follow a subtle inner pattern of their own, and, although beyond man's control, play their part in the soul's subconscious regions and come in contact with the upper regions. I never intend to make our arbitrary statements in these lectures, but only those statements which I borrowed as in natural science from life, experience, or based on the findings of spiritual science. In wider circles it is scarcely known that a science of dreams exists in the same way as one of physics and chemistry, but it has disclosed a great deal about what lies hidden in the depths of the soul life. We will begin by relating quite a simple dream, which will probably at first seem absurd but it characterises what tries to reach the soul's hidden depths.

A peasant woman once dreamed she was on her way to the church in the town. She dreamed quite clearly how she reached the town, entered the church and how the parson was standing in the pulpit preaching. She heard his sermon quite distinctly. She found the fervent and heartfelt way he preached most wonderful. She was especially impressed by the way the preacher spread out his hands. This indefinite gesture, which affects many folk more than a definite one, deeply impressed this woman. An extraordinary thing then happened. Both the figure and voice of the preacher were transformed, and, after several intermediate phrases had been passed through, nothing was left in the dream of the parson's fine words. His voice had become the crow of a cock and he had turned into a cock with wings! The woman wakes up, and a cock is crowing outside her window!

If we look into all this we find that this dream has a great deal to show us. First it points out that in elucidating a dream we cannot reckon with the ordinary idea of time. The same idea of time expressed when looking back on our waking life is no longer valid in regard to dreams. No doubt time seemed long to the dreamer as she dreamed of going to town step by step, entering the church, watching the preacher ascend the pulpit, listening to the sermon, and so on. In the physical world all this would have taken some time. Of course the cock did not crow for as long as this, yet it awakened her. Now what the crowing of the cock aroused in the woman's soul corresponds to the backward course of the dream pictures. She looks back on a world she believes herself to have experienced and it is filled with pictures borrowed from the daily life. But the occasion was outwardly caused by the crowing of the cock which lasted a very short time. So if we take an external view of the matter, the length of time necessary for the woman's inner experience would be quite brief in relation to what it seemed in the dream. Now when spiritual science informs us that from falling asleep to re-awakening man is absent from his physical and etheric bodies, and finds himself in his astral body and ego in a super-sensible world invisible to the outer eye, we must realise that the cock's crowing has jerked the woman out of this super-sensible life. It would be wrong for man to think he experiences less in the world he inhabits between sleeping and waking than he does in the physical world, only these experiences are of a purely soul nature. As the woman is roused the cock's crowing plays into her waking, and she looks back on her experience. Now we must not consider the pictures and all the illusions of the dream as what she really experienced in sleep. We must realise — otherwise we shall not grasp the true dream phenomena — that the woman cannot really see into the experiences she has had before waking. But when the moment for waking approaches, the impact of the sleeping on the waking life indicates she has experienced not what it really was: something which induces her to insert into sleep-life symbolic pictures borrowed from daily life. It is as if the woman merges what she sees everyday when awake into pictures concealing her real experience in sleep. For this reason the time sequence does not appear as it really runs; but these pictures drawn over her sleep life like a curtain seemed to take as long to unfold as if they had been physical perceptions. So we must say that dream pictures in many respects are a covering or veil rather than a disclosure of what a person experiences in sleep. It is important to note that the dream — through the pictures man places over his sleep life — is itself a reality but no true reflection, and merely points to the fact that something has been experienced in sleep. — Proof of this lies in these dreams being different according to what lives in the man's soul. Anyone who is tormented by a bad conscience or worried by some occurrence during the day will have quite different dreams from anyone who on reaching the spiritual world in his sleep can yield himself to the peace and blessedness through which life acquires meaning. The quality of the experience, not the experience itself, reveals it to be something happening in the hidden depths of the soul. The dream becomes a particularly good revealer when it appears in the following way. We shall now consider dreams of this sort; I have already referred to it in other connections. In the case of a certain man, this dream, evoked by an event in his youth, was periodically repeated.

Already as a school boy he had displayed a certain talent for drawing, for which reason when he was about to leave school his teacher set him the task of drawing something especially difficult. Whereas normally the boy could copy a number of drawings in a short time, owing to the detail and exactitude this one demanded he was unable to complete it during the year. So it happened that when the time for his leaving school was approaching much remained undone and he had only finished a comparatively small part of the work. One must realise that the student, knowing he would not finish, suffered a good deal of anxiety and fear. But the anxiety he felt at the time was nothing compared to what recurred at regular intervals after a number of years. After being free of the dream for several years the man would then dream he was a school boy again, was unable to finish his drawing, and re-experienced the same anxiety. This feeling would rise to a very high pitch, and once it had re-occurred it would be repeated throughout the week. It would then disappear for years, but would again return, be repeated for a week, then disappear again, and so on.

One understands such a dream only by considering the rest of the man's life. As a school boy, then, he had his gift for drawing and it developed in stages. Careful observation revealed that his ability always increased after the dream which announced improvement in his drawing. He was able to achieve more. So we can say that following the dream the man felt himself filled with a greater capacity for expressing himself in his drawing. This is an extraordinarily interesting thing which can play a part in man's world of reality. Now what light can spiritual science shed on such an experience? If we call to mind what was said in recent lectures, namely, that in man lives the super-sensible core of his being, which not only continuously organises his inner forces but shapes his physiognomy too, and note that this core is a super-sensible entity which is man's basis, we must say: This central core works all his life on man's organism enabling him to keep developing new faculties connected with his outer accomplishments. This central core worked on the physical organism in such a way as to keep increasing the man's grasp of form, giving him the faculties needed to look at things as a draughtsman and to express what he saw in forms. The central core of man's being works into his body. Now as long as its activity streams into the body it will be unable to rise into consciousness. The forces all flow into the transformation of the body and then appear as faculties — in this case a faculty for drawing. Only when a certain stage has been reached and the man is ripe to carry this transformation into his consciousness, enabling him to exercise his newly-won faculties, the moment this central core rises to consciousness, he is able to know what is happening and functioning in the hidden depths of his soul. But in this instance we have a transition. While the man remains unaware that the central core is working on his faculty for drawing, no progress being visible, everything remains hidden in the depths of his soul. But when the time is ripe for this central core to rise into consciousness, this is asserted through a particular dream. It is clothed in this form to announce that the inner core has reached a certain termination with the faculties in question. The dream proves each time that something has been achieved. Until the dream appears the soul forces have been working down in the hidden depths of the body so as gradually to produce the faculties in a crystallised form. But this stage having been reached, and the body being now ready for the faculty, a transition takes place. It does not enter the consciousness at first but streams into the semi-consciousness of the dream. By means of the dream the hidden part of the soul life breaks through to the level of consciousness. So this faculty is always enhanced after being symbolically expressed in the dream.

Thus we see how this central core of man's being works in both physical and super-sensible organisations. Then when man has raised it to a certain level of consciousness, its task is completed, and after expressing itself in a dream its activity is transformed into forces evident in conscious life. What lies below, thus corresponds with what plays its part above in the consciousness, so we see why so much cannot find its way there, being still needed first to form the organs which will produce the faculties destined for conscious use. Thus we see how all life is open to observation and how the central core of man's being works upon his organism. When in childhood man gradually develops from within outwards, this same inner core that later goes on working in him functions prior to the advent of ego-consciousness up to the point of time to which the first memory can be traced. The whole being of mankind is involved in continuous self-transformation. Man is sometimes ignorant of what his soul experiences yet this works creatively in him; at other times this creative activity is discontinued and then it rises into consciousness. In this way our higher spheres of consciousness are related to what lies in the sub-consciousness, in the hidden depths of the soul. These hidden depths often speak quite a different language and contain much greater wisdom than the fully conscious man is aware of. That human consciousness cannot be regarded as the equivalent of what we call the intelligence of things, which seems to reflect human consciousness, can be inferred from the fact that rational activity, the ruling of reason, meets us also where we cannot admit that the light of reason is working in the same way as in man. In this respect if we compare man with the animals we find that man's superiority does not consist in his rational actions but in the light his sub-consciousness sheds upon them. In the case of beavers and their constructions, and wasps too, we see that intelligence governs the animals performances. In this way we can survey the whole range of animal activity. We see that here there rules fundamentally the same intelligence man employs when his consciousness illumines some part of the rational activity of the world. Man can never consciously shed light on more than part of this world activity, but a far wider active intelligence streams through our subconscious soul-life. There, not only does intelligence bring about unconscious conclusions and concepts — as a naturalist like Helmholtz points out — but without man's participation, intelligence produces many things artistic and wise.

I may now refer to a subject already mentioned which I should like to call “The Philosopher and the Human Soul”. I am thinking especially of those 19th-century philosophers inclined towards pessimism. The philosopher deals particularly with reason, the conscious activity of the intelligence, and only admits what this activity can investigate. If we take philosophers like Schopenhauer, Mainländer and Eduard von Hartmann, we find them starting from the idea that when man views the world with an open mind, as far as he can judge everything points to the conclusion that evil and suffering far outweigh joy and happiness. Eduard von Hartmann has more over produced in interesting estimate by which he most ingeniously showed how suffering and sorrow predominate. First he put together all man is bound to experience in this way of suffering and sorrow and subtracted this from the sum of joy and happiness. According to his reckoning, suffering and sorrow predominate; the philosopher deduces this by a process of reasoning and so of course has some justification, for if sorrow and suffering predominate life must be viewed with pessimism. Reason is responsible for the philosopher's example based on calculation, and comes to the conclusion that, from the standpoint of conscious life, the world appears to be anything but good.

In my “Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” I have pointed out that this calculation based on reasoning, this subtraction, is really not applicable. For who performs the operation, even when it is carried out by an ordinary man who is no philosopher? It is performed by the conscious soul-life. But astonishingly enough consciousness makes no distinction between the values of life. For life again shows us that even if man produces such an example, based on calculation, it does not lead him to conclude life is worthless. From this we must realise (I have already said that Eduard von Hartmann's calculation is clever and correct) that if man makes this calculation he can draw no conclusion from it in his conscious life. Robert Hamerling has declared in his “Atomistik des Willens” that there must be an error in this calculation, for every living being including man even when sorrows prevail still desires life and does not want it to come to an end. So in spite of this subtraction man does not conclude life to be worthless. Now in my “Philosophy of Spiritual Activity” I have indicated that this example is inapplicable, because in the depths of his soul man calculates quite differently. Only consciousness subtracts, the subconscious part of the soul divides. It divides the amount of happiness by that of sorrow. You all know that in subtraction if the amount of sorrow equals 8 and that of joy 8, too, the result is nought. If one divides instead of subtracting, the sum would read: eight divided by eight equals one; so one always obtains one as a result instead of nought. However high the denominator, provided it is not infinite, it still results in desire for existence. This division is made in man's hidden depths of soul with the result that he consciously feels the value and joy of life. In the same context I indicated that this peculiar phenomenon in man's soul life, namely, that, provided his nature is sound, he still has pleasure and joy in existence and appetite for the world, even when faced by overwhelming sorrow — that this phenomenon is comprehensible only because in the depths of his soul man carries out what in arithmetic we may call a division sum.

So we see that in its depths the soul life reveals how man's subconscious is ruled by reason. Just as the beaver building his lodge, or the wasp, displays an intelligence that by no means reaches the animal's consciousness and for which it cannot consciously account, so intelligence rules the depths of man's soul. Like the force in the sea which drives the waves upwards, this intelligence rises into the consciousness that covers a far smaller part of life than is included in the wide horizon of the soul life. We now begin to understand how man has to look upon himself as swimming on the ocean of the life of soul and consciousness, and how consciousness actually illumines his soul life only in part — the part that with his upper consciousness is swimming on the subconscious. In daily life too we see how man's attention is continually drawn to what governs these lower regions, and how differently life deals with outer events in the case of different people. Things of which we know nothing may hold sway in the depths of our soul. We may have experienced them in a far distant past, and are perhaps outwardly no longer conscious of them, but they still work on. To spiritual investigator they appear implanted and functioning in the centre of man's being, even if their activity does not follow a conscious pattern. Thus the following may occur. An experience that has made a deep impression in childhood may remain present in later years in the depths of someone's soul. We know that children are particularly susceptible to injustice. A child is often extremely open to perceive such a thing. Let us say that, in his seventh or eighth year, a child who has done something or other has experienced injustice either at the hands of his parents or anyone else in his environment. In later years the conscious soul-life covered it. It may have been forgotten in so far as consciousness is concerned, but it is not inactive in deeper unconscious regions. Let us say such a child grows up and in his sixteenth or seventeenth year at school again suffers injustice. Another child who has been spared this earlier experience may grow up and be exposed to the same kind of thing. He goes home, cries, protests, and perhaps complains of the teacher, but there are no further consequences. The matter blows over as if it had never happened and sinks into subconscious regions. But the same thing may happen to the other child who grows up having experienced injustice in his seventh or eight year, no longer consciously remembering it, but this time the matter does not pass unnoticed — and may result in a suicide. The explanation is that, whereas the same thing may have affected the consciousness of both children, in the one something came to light that flashed up from hidden depths.

In countless cases we can see how our subconscious soul-life plays into our consciousness. Take the following which we meet with time and again, but which unfortunately are not properly observed. There are people who during their whole later life display a characteristic one could describe as a yearning. It surges up, and if no one asks what they longer for, they reply that the worst of it is they do not know. Everything one offers them by way of comfort they cannot accept; the yearning remains. Adopting the methods of spiritual science, if one looks back into such a man's earlier life, one will remark that this yearning is due to former quite special experiences. One will then find — anyone who observes in this way can convince himself of it — that in early youth these people's attention and interest were constantly turned towards some definite thing not really belonging to the essential part of their being. They were led into a sphere of activity for which their soul had no longing. Hence the soul was denied what it really desired. Attention was focused in quite another direction. So later the following is seen. As the man's former urge had remained unsatisfied, his various successive experiences have grown into something working as a passion or instinct, manifest as the yearning or indefinite hankering for what earlier could have been satisfied. This is no longer possible because in the course of life attention was first focused on matters to which the soul was not drawn. For this reason these concepts have become so fixed that the man in question no longer understands what earlier would have suited him. Formerly no understanding was shown him where what was ruling and weaving in the soul's depths was concerned. He has now become disaccustomed to it, can no longer grasp it, and what is left is not what was meant for him.

So we see how parallel with man's stream of consciousness there runs an unconscious stream, and it appears every day into thousands of instances. But other phenomena show us how the conscious soul-life plunges into subconscious regions, and how man may make contact with these subconscious depths. Here we come to the point where spiritual science indicates how the soul sheds its light into the etheric body when man descends into his own inner depths. But what does he finds there? He finds what carries him beyond the restricted confines of humanity, and unites him with the whole cosmos. For we are related to the cosmos in both our physical and etheric bodies. When our soul life streams into our etheric body we can live ourselves into the wide spaces of the world, and man then receives the first intimation of something no longer belonging to him but to the cosmos. We then reach the life of human imagination. When man descends still further and inwardly expands over what covers the normal conditions of time and space, he senses how his physical and etheric bodies depend on the cosmos and belong to it. So what is outside man illumines his consciousness when he delves into the hidden depths of his soul. Having seen how the soul's hidden life can flash into human consciousness, we must on the other hand realise that we make our descent in full consciousness. We obtained the same result when we start our descent through Imagination, that is, not fantasy but true Imagination as understood by Goethe. On plunging still deeper we come to what we call clairvoyant forces. There are not limited to man's concerns in time and space, but enable us to attain the wide spaces of the cosmos, normally invisible.

In so far as we penetrate beyond Imagination we come to the sphere of the hidden things of existence. The gateway lies deep in our own soul and only after going through it do we find the spiritual and super-sensible depths of existence which, imperceptible to normal consciousness, form the basis of perceptible things. Through imagination — provided that it does not give way to fancy but that man lives with things so that a comprehensive picture replaces his perception — he realises how he forms part of the things. He knows that Imagination will not disclose the essential being, but Imagination is the pathway leading to what lies deeper than anything reason and ordinary science can grasp. Because of this a philosopher, Frohschammer, in a one-sided way calls the world's basis its creative element, “the creative imagination in things”. So according to this philosophical statement, when from his normal consciousness man plunges into subconscious regions — and who will deny that imagination belongs there — he will become more closely related to the essence of things where imagination is more creative in the things than reason can render possible. In spite of the fact that this outlook is extremely one-sided, it is yet in closer agreement with what the world conceals, than a purely intellectual point of view — when man passes from his intellectual activity into the world of imagination — world of a thousand possibilities compared to the hundred his intellect offers — he feels himself leaving his every day world and entering the manifold possibilities provided by the subconscious. In comparison all surface experience seems merely a small extract. Or may it not be that life itself offers millions of possibilities, whereas barely a thousand are realised on the surface of existence, and these we perceive? One need look only at the spawn produced by fish in the sea, the countless seeds brought forth in life, and compare this with what later appears in life — with what becomes reality. This shows how in its depths life holds far greater riches than appear on the surface. The same thing applies when man descends from what his reason can grasp to the realm of Imagination. Just as when we descend from the realm of outer realities to that of manifold possibilities, do we plunge from the world of reason into the magic land of Imagination.

But it is one-sided to think world creative forces run parallel with Imagination, because although it enables man to make his descent he does not go so far as to rise from these depths to the reality of the super-sensible world. This is possible only after evolving the clairvoyant powers found when he descends — consciously of course — from the surface of the soul-life into its hidden depths. Here we reach those forces that flash up merely unconsciously. If a man has this aim he must fashion his soul into an instrument of spiritual perception, in the same way as the chemist and physicist set up their instruments to observe outer objects. The soul must become an instrument which it is not in everyday life. Here indeed Goethe's words ring true:

“Geheimnisvoll am lichten Tag
Lässt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben;
Und was sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag,
Das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit Hebeln und mit Schrauben”

“Nature will ne'er by day unfold
From out her veils for you her secret stores;
What from your spirit she would fain withhold
You cannot force from her with any tool of yours.”

Instruments and experiments, those “tools”, will never enable one to reach the spirit, for they are based on what is external. But when consciousness illumines what lives in the depths veiled in darkness, one may then enter those spheres where the soul lives as an eternal, infinite being among creative beings who are infinite as the soul. Only by means of its own intimate experience can the soul be forged into such an instrument. It has been fully pointed out in “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds” how through meditation and concentration one can acquire what is needed to carry the conscious soul to the hidden depths. When we firmly resolve to exclude all sense impressions, to repress all remembrance of anxieties, sorrows, excitements and so on, including all other feelings, we are left with our emptied soul and all external memories are extinguished as in sleep. But in sleep the forces prevailing in the hidden depths are too weak to reach consciousness or, rather, the soul lacks the strength to plunge consciously into these regions. Man only succeeds in this by focusing his will on his subconscious life, for instance, devoting himself to a definite thought or chain of thoughts, thus performing the work normally done subconsciously. The will must govern the whole proceeding. The will must decide the thought, and only what the man's will sets in motion counts. In meditation man places before him a thought-content his will has selected. He takes a first step when for a given time he allows himself to think, contemplate and remember only what he has placed in his consciousness, keeping his spiritual eye focused, and concentrating his normally disbursed soul-forces. He must make of his will a focal point and not allow the thought to work suggestively. In other words, he must not be controlled by the thought but must always be able to extinguish it at the will. He must train his soul to the point where he brings thoughts to his consciousness through the will alone holding them as long as he likes, thereby inwardly strengthening his will. The thoughts belonging to the outer world are less effective than those we define as symbolic, or allegorical. For instance, if a man brings the thought “light” or “wisdom” into his consciousness, he will certainly reach a high point but will still not get very far. It will be different if he tells himself that wisdom is presented in the symbol of light, or love in that of warmth. In other words, he must choose symbols that have their life in the soul itself. In brief, he must dispense with thoughts borrowed from the outer world, bearing in mind, and devoting himself to, those that allow of many interpretations and are shaped by himself. Of course a materialist can say that such a person is in fact a visionary, as these thoughts mean nothing. But it is unnecessary for them to have any meaning. They serve only as training for the soul, enabling it to plunge into these depths. When man so strictly masters his soul that external influences, or those arising from the depths, no longer prevail, when his will controls every conscious thought, enabling strengthened in the forces to play their part, he then lives in true meditation, true concentration. By means of such exercises the soul undergoes a change. He who reaches this point will observe that his soul descends to other regions. If we described the experience open to one who thus meditates, we see at once in what the super-sensible core consists. The following experience is possible.

Man may come to a point where he perceives that the thoughts he develops are affecting him and transforming something within him. He no longer knows the soul only in thought, but perceives that part of it which drives to expand into cosmic space. It works upon him from cosmic space formatively; he feels himself to be growing into one with space, but always under fully conscious control. Now something of very great importance must be added that must never be neglected when investigating the reality of the outer super-sensible world. Man realises he is experiencing something, but he is unable to think of it in the way he ordinarily thinks. He cannot grasp these experiences with clear cut thoughts. They are manifold and allow of numerous interpretations, but he is unable to bring them into his consciousness. It is as if he were to come up against an obstacle when he attempts to bring all these into his usual consciousness. He must realise that a more extensive consciousness is behind him, but he senses resistance and feels powerless to use the ordinary instrument of his body. One then recognises the difference between what lives within us, and that of which we are conscious. We learn that our forces work into the etheric body, but that our physical body lies like a log outside. This is the first experience. And the second experience, following the exercises repeated time after time, is that the physical body begins to yield, so that the things we could not interpret at first and experienced only in the deeper regions of the soul can now be translated into ordinary ideas.

Everything spiritual science tells us regarding the spiritual worlds is clothed in concepts belonging to everyday life. But in this case the knowledge has not been acquired by logical processes nor by external judgments, but through super-sensible experience and the light shed by consciousness on the hidden depths of the soul. These things are brought into consciousness only after being supersensibly experienced, and he who has fashioned his soul into an instrument of super-sensible perception has now roused what reaches his physical and etheric forces, transforming his organism, thus enabling these facts to be imparted to the outer world and explained in ordinary terms. Spiritual science is imparted logically. When we clearly grasp what lies in our subconscious we can say: the spiritual investigator beholds what he referred to when he said that a repeated dream showed how the essential core first works inwardly, and how later, when the talent for drawing appeared, the man consciously experienced the result. So we first see this working on the subconscious, followed by a transformation; then what has worked in the depths rises into consciousness. In this conscious descent into the subconscious man starts by consciously living in meditation and concentration, after which the will forces he has applied to this transform the etheric and physical body. We ourselves then carry our super-sensible experience into our everyday consciousness. Thus it is possible by spiritual training to gain direct perception of what we observe in life provided we descend to the hidden depths of the soul.

What I have mentioned here as the result of this method of training, the only one suited to present-day man if he wishes to train himself for clairvoyant vision, makes its appearance in a natural way into man who has a tendency to work out of the centre of his soul. Through this natural tendency man can carry certain forces down into the hidden depths of his soul; then there arises in him a natural kind of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance of this kind can lead to what has been indicated just as well as the fully conscious clairvoyance described. When man thus penetrates down into the depths of his soul and perceives how what he has accomplished in his etheric body through meditation and concentration works on his bodily organisation, he no longer remains in the same spatial and temporal conditions as when he is within his purely external perception; he presses, rather, through space, time, and what is usually in the sense world, and comes to the spiritual things lying at the basis of the things of the senses. When we see a man with trained clairvoyant consciousness penetrating to the nature of things, it is possible for this to happen in certain conditions through a natural tendency. In the lecture on “The Meaning of Prophecy”, (see November 9, 1911 – Berlin) Nostradamus was shown to be a case where natural tendency resulted in clairvoyant powers. How this plays into life, how it generally works, what extended consciousness is and what means the working of soul forces which lie beyond the usual boundary of the conscious life of the soul — all this may be found in a book I should like to mention here. It gives a wonderful description of how the working of the hidden forces of the soul and spirit appear to ordinary science, and also of the connection of the spiritual forces acquired without particular training with what is given in my book about the relation of man to the higher worlds. The book referred to is written by Ludwig Deinhard and called “Das Mysterium des Menschen im Licht der Psychischen Forschung”. In it you find the two methods of super-sensible investigation described — the one which keeps to the methods of ordinary science as well as that which is in keeping with entrance into super-sensible worlds through actual schooling, that is, through meditation, concentration, and so on. But whoever wishes to penetrate more precisely into the soul's experience should turn to the description in my book “Knowledge of the Higher Worlds”.

Thus the soul manifests the same remarkable turbulence of underlying force that we experience in earthquakes. On the other hand spiritual science is called upon to point out that man can descend to these hidden depths of existence: an experiment of course only his own soul can make. But only by traveling through these regions and first grasping our own being shall we penetrate the depths where we find the spiritual external foundations of what belongs to the outer world. Spiritual science leads us through the inner depths of the soul to the hidden depths of the cosmos. This is the essential part of the methods of spiritual science. When we view things in this way, Goethe's words are confirmed in a quite special sense — words he spoke after Haller had written in such a mistaken way of nature. When Haller said:

“To Nature's hidden core no living soul can probe;
Happy the one to whom she does not show her shell!”,

Goethe, as one approaching the threshold of clairvoyance, was aware of the relation between human consciousness and the hidden depths of the cosmos. He knew it through his own experience, his life in the outer world, by his contact with nature; so to Haller's words which took account of knowledge of the outer world only, he replied;

“Ins Innre der Natur” —
O du Philister! —
“Dringt kein ershaffner Geist.”
Mich und Geschwister
Mögt ihr an selches Wort
Nur nicht erinnern;
Wir denken: Ort für Ort
Sind wir im Innern.
“Glückselig! Wem sie nur
Die äussre Schale weist!”
Das hör' ich sechzig Jahre wiederholen;
Ich fluche drauf, aber verstohlen
Sage mir tausend tausendmale:
Alles gibt sie reichlich und gern;
Natur hat weder Kern
Noch Schale,
Alles ist sie nit eniem Male;
Dich prüfe du nur allermeist,
Ob du Kern oder Schale seist.

To nature's hidden core” —
O you philistine! —
No living soul can probe.
In voicing such a thought
You surely must forget
Me and my kin.
We think that everywhere
We are within.
Happy the one to whom
She does but show her shell!
I've heard this now for fully sixty years
Cursing in secret such ideas;
Again and yet again myself do tell:
Richly she gives of her rich store,
Nature has neither core
Nor has she shell,
For she is all in all and everything;
And at the most you can but find
Whether yourself you're core or rind.

We can truly say that the world contains much that is enigmatical and what enters mans consciousness is scarcely more than the outer shell of his life of soul. But if we adopt the right methods we see that man made break through the shell and reach the core of his being, and from these depths gain insight into cosmic life. Thus we can truly join with Goethe in saying:

“Müsset in Natur betrachten
Immer eins wie alles achten;
Nichts ist drinnen, nichts ist draussen:
Den was innen, das ist aussen ...”

“If you would on nature gaze
You must notice all her ways;
Nothing is without, within her,
What is outer, that is inner.”

Man must simply begin to discover what is hidden within! Since spiritual science has its own way of explaining these hidden depths, it must admit that when we contemplate the outer world we are faced by riddle upon riddle. These riddles may often cause a shudder when we find riddles in our own inner being and perceive how these inner forces work in our immediate experience, or when we stand anxiously facing what unknown things may be in store for us. The outside world presents man with a series of riddles. If we rightly compare our outer life with our inner life, we feel something of the activity of these inner soul forces which are excluded from the restricted range of our ordinary consciousness. But these forces surge into clear consciousness just as those of the earthquake thrust through the crust of the earth. When we see on the one hand, however, that we can entertain certain hope that man made descends to the depths of his being, there solving these manifold riddles, on the other hand, we can entertain the hope that the further promise of spiritual science may be fulfilled. This promise tells us that not only can the soul's riddles be solved, but that in passing the gateway of the spiritual world, further vistas of the great outside world unfold for man's soul, and its riddles, too, find solution. Man penetrates through the riddles and barriers of the soul if he has the courage to comprehend himself as a riddle and if he bestirs himself to raise his soul, as instrument of perception, to the hope and assurance that for his spirit the great riddles of the cosmos may be solved, thus bringing him satisfaction and a sense of security in life.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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