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The World of the Senses and the World of the Spirit

Schmidt Number: S-2507

On-line since: 25th June 2004

LECTURE I.

 

It will be my task in these lectures to build a bridge from the ordinary experiences of everyday life to the most lofty concerns of man, and in so doing find a new point of contact between our daily life and what Anthroposophy or spiritual science has to give for our soul and spirit. For, as you know, my dear friends, the more thoroughly we absorb what spiritual science can give the more does it flow into our feeling, into our willing, and into those forces which we need in order to meet the manifold events and circumstances of life. And we know, too, that this spiritual science, which we can now learn by reason of the inpourings that are coming at this very time from higher worlds, is to a certain extent a necessity for mankind. Within a comparatively short time man would inevitably lose all confidence in life, all inner calm, all that peace of mind which is so necessary to life, if the message to which we give the name of Anthroposophy or spiritual science were not able to come to mankind precisely in our time.

But now it is also well known to us that this anthroposophical spiritual stream brings into sharp collision two divergent tendencies in man's thought and feeling and perception. One is a direction in thought and feeling which has been in preparation for many centuries and which has by now gained complete hold upon mankind, or will most assuredly do so in the near future. It is what we call the materialistic outlook, using the word in its widest sense, and it makes attack, so to say, upon the other direction of thought which is given with anthroposophy, it attacks the spiritual outlook on the world. And more and more pronounced will the conflict become in the near future between these two directions of thought. It will, moreover, be fought in such a way that it will often be very difficult to know with which direction of thought one is dealing. For the materialistic tendency of thought, for example, may not always come before one in unvarnished truthfulness, it may assume all manner of disguises. There will indeed be plenty of materialistic streams which will wear a spiritual mask, and it will be far from easy at times to know where materialism lurks and where we are to recognise the true spiritual stream. How difficult it is to form correct conclusions in this respect I endeavoured to show from various instances in two lectures which I recently delivered. In the first it was my aim to awaken an understanding for the ease with which one can become a sincere opponent of the anthroposophical world conception if one lets oneself be ruled by the thoughts and ideas that prevail in the world to-day. “How one refutes Spiritual Science” — that was what I tried to demonstrate in the first lecture, and I went on to give another on the subject of how Spiritual Science may be advocated and substantiated.

Not that I imagined for a moment I could bring forward everything that might be brought forward on the one and on the other side; my aim was merely to call forth a feeling for the fact that it is perfectly possible to adduce a surprising number of arguments against the anthroposophical world conception, and to do so with great apparent justification. There are in our day men who simply cannot do other than make opposition with their whole soul to anthroposophy, and they belong by no means to the most insincere of our age, very often they are the most honest and devoted seekers after truth. I have no desire at this point to go over again all the grounds that can be brought forward against anthroposophy. I only want to suggest that from the very habits of thought of our time such grounds do easily result and can be well established. It is perfectly possible in our day to refute anthroposophy root and branch. But the question arises when one refutes anthroposophy in this way, when one adduces all reasons and arguments which can be leveled against anthroposophy: by what path does one come to such a position? Suppose that someone today out of the fundamental inherent tendency of his soul adopts anthroposophy, and then proceeds to make himself acquainted with all that the modern sciences can teach from their materialistic basis. Such a man can most radically refute and disprove anthroposophy or spiritual science. In order to do so, however, he must first of all induce a particular standpoint in his soul, he must assume the purely intellectual standpoint. You will see more clearly what is meant if you will now follow me in a consideration of the very opposite condition of soul. For the moment let us leave it at the simple statement, which I make out of personal experience, that when a man who is conversant with all the results of science in the present day abandons himself entirely to his intellect he can then refute anthroposophy radically. Let us now refrain from discussing this any further and turn in another direction, so as to approach our theme from a new aspect.

Man can look upon the world from two sides. He finds one view of the world when, for example, he considers a wonderfully beautiful sunrise. He sees the sun come to view, as it were, giving birth to itself from out of the gold of the dawn, he watches how the sunshine spreads over the earth, and he contemplates with deep feeling the power and the warmth of the sun's rays as they enchant forth life from the ground of the earth in a yearly returning cycle. Or again, a man may give himself up to contemplation of the setting sun; he beholds the twilight deepen until the darkness of night falls and countless stars shine out in the vault of heaven, and he sinks himself in meditation on the wonder of the starry heaven at night-time. When a man contemplates nature in this way he rises to a conception which must fill him with deepest blessing. For he can rise to a conception similar to a thought expressed once so beautifully by Goethe when he said: “When we look up to the wonder of the starry world, when we contemplate the whole process of the universe with its glories and marvels, then we are led at last to the feeling that all the glory that lies open to our view in the whole universe that surrounds us only has meaning when it is reflected in an admiring human soul.” Yes, man comes to the thought that just as the air that is all around him forms and builds his being — entering into him, so that he can breathe it, so that by the process it undergoes inside him it can build up his being — just as man is thus a product of this air and of its laws and processes of combination, so he is a product in a certain way of the whole wide world that constitutes his sense environment, he is a product of all that flows not only into his sense of sight, but into the sense which opens to the world of sound and the other worlds which stream in through our senses. Man comes to feel that he confronts the external sense world as a being in which this whole sense world is contained; he feels himself as a confluence of the world that is around him. And he can say to himself: When I look more closely into nature that is round about me, when I meditate upon it, perceiving it with all my senses, then I see how the true meaning of all that I behold out there finds its best fulfilment when it is crystallised out into the wonderful form of man himself.

And in very truth, when a man attains to seeing this, the feeling can come over him which has been expressed with such elemental force by the Greek poet:

“Many a wonder lives and moves,
But the wonder of all is man!”

For in man all the revelations of the external world flow together; all the one-sidedness becomes in man a many-sidedness. We contemplate the world of the senses, and we behold man standing in its midst as a being of sense, in whom everything else in the world is contained. For the more accurately we study the world the more closely do we see that in man all the one-sidednesses of the universe flow together and are united into a whole. And then, as we develop this feeling towards the great world, beholding how it all flows together in man, a thought can arise in our soul that can fill us with a deep sense of blessedness — the thought, my dear friends, of the God-willed man. We can feel how it is really as though the deeds and purposes of the Gods had built up a whole universe and had let stream forth from it on every side influences and workings which could at length flow together and unite in their most precious work which they placed into the very centre of the Universe — Man. Wrought by the will of the Gods! So said one who also contemplated the world of the senses in this aspect, namely in its relation to man. What, said he, are all the instruments of music in comparison with the marvellous structure of the human ear? What are they beside the marvellous structure of the human larynx, which is, in truth, like the ear, a musical instrument? Many a thing in the world can awaken our wonder and admiration: and if man, as he stands within the world, does not arouse this feeling, it is only because we have not learned to know him in all the marvel of his structure. When we give ourselves up to such a contemplation then the thought may indeed arise in our heart: What countless deeds of wonder have the divine and spiritual Beings performed that man might come into being!

That, then, is one path, my dear friends, on which man may be led in his consideration of the world. But there is another. And the other path opens up for us when we develop a feeling for the majesty and power, for the overwhelming greatness of what we call our moral ideals; when we look into our own soul and take cognisance for a moment of what moral ideals signify in the world. It belongs to an all-round healthy human nature to be very sensitive to the greatness and sublimity of moral ideals. And we can develop in us with regard to the moral ideals within a feeling that works just as overpoweringly in the soul as the feeling inspired by the glory and beauty of the revelations of the universe without. It can, indeed, be so when we enkindle within us love and enthusiasm for the moral ideals and purposes of man. A great warmth of feeling can then fill the soul. But this is now followed, quite necessarily, by a thought which is different from the thought that follows naturally on the contemplation of the world just described, which rests upon the revelation of the universe through man. There follows now a thought which is experienced most intensely of all by those very people who have the most sublime conception of the power of moral ideals. It may be expressed thus. How far art thou, O man, as thou art to-day, how far art thou removed from the lofty moral ideals which can rise up in thy heart! How tiny and insignificant art thou, with all thou dost and canst ever do, in comparison with the greatness of the age moral ideals thou canst set before thee! And not to feel so, dear friends, not to feel oneself small in comparison with one's ideals can only mean one has a mind that is itself pitiably small! For it is precisely as his mind and soul grow that a man comes to feel more and more his inadequacy in face of his moral ideals. And another thought then begins to dawn in the soul, a thought which can often come over us human beings, namely, the resolve to put forth all our courage and all our strength that we may learn to make moral ideals more living and strong within us than they have been hitherto. Or it may also happen that in certain natures the thought of their inadequacy in moral ideals takes such firm hold in their souls that they feel quite crushed by it, and feel themselves estranged from God, just because they have, on the other hand, so powerful a feeling of man as God-willed in his external aspect, as he is placed into the world of the senses. “There I stand” — perhaps they say to themselves — “as an external being. When I consider myself as external being I am bound to say to myself: You are confluence of the whole God-willed world, you are a God-willed being, you bear a God-like countenance! Then I look within me ... there I find ideals which God has inscribed into my heart, and which it is quite certain ought to be God-willed forces within me...” And then they feel a sense of their own inadequacy welling up out of their soul.

These are the two paths man can tread in his observation of the world and of himself. He can look upon himself from without and experience a wonderful sense of blessedness in his God-willed nature; he can look upon himself from within and experience an overwhelming sense of contrition for his God-estranged soul. A healthy state of mind, however, can do no other than come to the following conclusion: From the same divine source whence come the forces which have placed man in the midst of the universe — as it were, like a strongly concentrated extract of the universe, from the same divine source must also spring the moral ideals that be finds inscribed in his heart. Why is it the one is so far removed from the other? That is actually the great riddle of human existence. And truth to say, there would never have been such a thing in the world as Theosophy, or even Philosophy, if this breach had not arisen in the souls of men, if this discord which I have described had not been more or less consciously felt, whether as a dim and undefined sensation or as a clear and organised perception. For it is from the experience of this discord in the soul that all deeper thought and contemplation and enquiry have sprung. What is there to come between the God-will man and the God-estranged man? That is the fundamental question of all philosophy. Men may have formulated it and defined it in countless different ways, but it lies at the root of all human thinking. Is there a way by which man can see a possibility of building a bridge between the indubitably blissful vision of his external nature and the equally indubitably disturbing vision of his soul?

At this point, my dear friends, we must say a little about the road the human soul can take in order to lift itself up in a worthy manner to a consideration of the great and lofty questions of existence. For in treading this road we shall be able to discover the sources of many errors.

In the world outside, in so far as this world is ruled by external science, when people speak of knowledge, you will always find them say: Yes, of course, we arrive at knowledge when we have formed right judgments and exercised correct thinking. I recently cited a very simple example to illustrate how great an error is involved in this assumption that we are bound to arrive at truth when we make correct and reasonable judgments; and I would like to relate it again now, to show you that accuracy of reasoning need by no means lead to the truth.

There was once a small boy in a village who was sent regularly by his parents to fetch bread. He used always to have ten kreuzer, and bring back in exchange six rolls. If you bought one such roll it cost two kreuzer, but he always brought back six rolls for his ten kreuzer. The boy was not particularly good at arithmetic and never troubled himself as to how it worked out that he always took with him ten kreuzer, that a roll cost two and yet he brought home six rolls in return for his ten. One day a boy was brought into the family from another part and he became for our small boy a kind of foster-brother. They were of about the same age, but the foster-brother was a good arithmetician. And he saw how his companion went to the baker's, taking with him ten kreuzer, and he knew that a roll cost two. So he said to him, “You must bring home five rolls.” He was a very good arithmetician and his reasoning was perfectly accurate. One roll costs two kreuzer (so he reasoned), he takes with him ten, he will obviously bring home five rolls. But behold, he brought back six. Then said our good arithmetician: “But that is quite wrong! One roll costs two kreuzer, and you took ten, and two into ten goes five times; you can't possibly bring back six rolls. You must have made a mistake or else you have pinched one ...” But now, lo and behold, on the next day, too, the boy brought home six rolls. It was, you see, a custom in those parts that when you bought five you received an extra one in addition, so that in fact when you paid for five rolls you received six. It was a custom that was very agreeable for anyone who needed five rolls for his household.

The good arithmetician had reasoned, quite correctly, there was no fault in his thinking; but this correct thinking did not accord with reality. We are obliged to admit the correct thinking did not arrive at the reality, for reality does not order itself in accordance with correct thinking. You may see very clearly in this case how with the most conscientious, the most clever logical thinking that can possibly be spun out, you may arrive at a correct conclusion and yet, measured by reality your conclusion may be utterly and completely false. That can always happen. Consequently a proof that is acquired purely through thought can never be a criterion for reality — never.

One can also go very far wrong in the linking up of cause and effect when, for example, one applies it in respect of the external world. Let me give you an instance. Let us suppose a man is walking along the bank of a stream. He comes to a certain place, and you observe from a distance that at this point he falls over the edge into the water. You hurry up to him, meaning to save him; but he is drawn up out of the water quite dead. Now you see before you the corpse. You can quite well maintain, let us say, that the man has been drowned. You can go to work with your proof in a very able way. Perhaps at the place where he fell into the water there was a stone. Very well then, he stumbled over the stone and fell in and was drowned. The sequence of the thought is quite correct. When a man goes to the bank of a river, stumbles over a stone that is lying there, falls into the water and is pulled out dead — he must have been drowned. It cannot be otherwise. Now precisely in this instance it is not necessarily so. When you stop allowing yourself to be ruled by this particular connection of cause and effect, you may be able to discover that this man, in the moment when he fell into the water, was seized with a heart attack, in consequence of which, since he was walking at the edge of the stream, he fell in. He was already dead when he fell in; though everything happened to him just as it would to a man who fell in alive. You see, when someone comes to the conclusion, in this case from the sequence of the external events, that the man in question slipped, fell into the water and was drowned, the conclusion is quite a false one, it does not correspond with reality. For the man fell into the water because he was dead; he was not pulled out dead because he had fallen in. Twisted conclusions like this are to be found at every turn in the scientific literature of our time; only they are not noticed, any more than this instance would have been noticed if one had not taken trouble to investigate the matter. In more delicate and subtle connections of cause and effect such mistakes are continually being made. I only want to indicate in this way that in point of fact our thinking is quite incompetent to form a decision in respect of reality.

But now, if this is really so, if our thinking can be no sure guide for us, how are we ever to save ourselves from sinking into doubt and ignorance? For it is a fact, whoever has had experience in these matters and concerned himself deeply with thinking, knows that one can prove and disprove everything. No philosophy, however penetrating in its thought, can impose upon him any more. He may admire the acumen and penetration of its thought, but he cannot give himself up to the mere reasoning of the intellect, since he knows that one could just as well reason intellectually in the opposite sense. This is true of everything that can be proved, or disproved. In this connection one can often make intensely interesting observations in everyday life. There is a certain fascination, though of course only a theoretical fascination, in making the acquaintance of people who have come to that particular point in soul evolution where they begin to perceive and experience that everything can be proved and everything disproved, but are not yet sufficiently mature to adopt what we may call a spiritual attitude to the world.

In the last few weeks I have often been forcibly reminded of a man I once met who showed to a remarkable degree such a constitution of soul and yet was not able to come through to a grasp of reality such as spiritual science could give. He had come to the point of seeing quite clearly the possibility of contradicting and establishing every single statement that philosophy could possibly make. I refer to a professor in the University of Vienna, who died a few weeks ago, a man of quite unusual ability and intelligence, Laurenz Mullner. A remarkably gifted man, who could adduce with great clarity proof for all possible philosophical systems and thoughts; he could also contradict them all, and always styled himself a sceptic. I once heard him utter this rather terrible exclamation: All philosophy is really nothing but a very pretty game! — And when one observed, as one often had occasion, the quick flash and play of the man's mind in this game of thought, it was interesting also to see how you could never be sure of Mullner on any point, for he never admitted anything at all. At most, when someone else had spoken against a particular point of view, he would take great delight in bringing forward whatever could be brought forward for the confirmation of that point of view — and this in spite of the fact that perhaps a few days before he had himself picked it to pieces relentlessly. A most interesting mind, in fact from a certain aspect one of the most significant philosophers who have lived in recent times. The manner in which he came to be led into such a mood is also very interesting. For besides being a profound student of the history of the philosophical evolution of mankind, Mullner was a Roman Catholic priest. And it was always his earnest desire to remain a good Catholic priest, notwithstanding that for many years he was a professor in Vienna University. He was steeped in Catholic ways of thought, and this had the effect, on the one hand, of making all the mere game of thought which he found in the world outside seem small in comparison with the methods of thought which were fructified with a certain religious zeal. But his Catholicism had also this effect, that in spite of all, he yet could not get beyond the position of doubt. He was too great a man to stop short at a mere dogmatic Catholicism, but on the other hand his Catholicism was too great in him for him to be able to rise to a theosophical grasp of reality. It is extraordinarily interesting to observe such a soul, who has come to the point where one can actually study what it is the man needs if he is to approach reality. For it goes without saying that this able and most intelligent man saw quite clearly that with his thinking he could not approach reality.

As long ago as in ancient Greece it was known what the healthy human mind must take for its starting point if it hopes one day to reach reality. And the same statement that was uttered in ancient Greece still holds good. It was said: All human enquiry must proceed from wonder! That statement must be received in a perfectly positive way, my dear friends. In actual fact, in the soul that wants to penetrate to truth, this condition must first be present: the soul must stand before the universe in a mood of wonder and marveling. And anyone who is able to comprehend the whole force of this expression of the Greeks comes to perceive that when a man, irrespective of all the other conditions by which he arrives at the study and investigation of truth, takes his start from this mood of wonder, from nothing else than a feeling of wonder in face of the facts of the world, then it is in very truth as when you drop a seed in the ground and a plant grows up out of it. In a sense we may say that all knowledge must have wonder for its seed. It is quite a different thing when a man proceeds not from wonder but perhaps from the fact that in his youth his good teachers have drummed into him principles of some sort or other which have made him into a philosopher; or when perhaps he has become a philosopher because — well, because in the walk of life in which he grew up it is the custom to learn something of the sort, and so he has come to philosophy purely by dint of circumstances. It is also well known that the examination in philosophy is the easiest to pass. In short, there are hundreds and thousands of starting points for the study of philosophy that are not wonder, but something altogether different. All such starting points, however, lead merely to an acquaintance with truth that may be compared with making a plant of papier-mache and not raising it from seed. The comparison is quite apt! For all real knowledge, that hopes to have a chance of coming to grips with the riddles of the world, must grow out of the seed of wonder. A man may be ever so clever a thinker, he may even suffer from a superabundance of intelligence; if he has never passed through the stage of wonder nothing will come of it. He will give you a cleverly thought-out concatenation of ideas, containing nothing that is not correct — but correctness does not necessarily lead to reality. It is absolutely essential that before we begin to think, before we so much as begin to set our thinking in motion, we experience the condition of wonder. A thinking which is set in motion without the condition of wonder remains nothing but a mere play of thought. All true thinking must originate in the mood of wonder.

Nor is that enough. We must go a step further. Even when thinking originates in the mood of wonder, then if a man is predisposed by his karma to grow sharp-witted and clever, and quickly begins to be proud and take pleasure in his cleverness and then perhaps gives all his energy to developing that alone, the wonder he felt in the beginning will no longer help him at all. For if, after wonder has taken hold in the soul, then in the further course of his thinking a man does no more than merely “think,” he cannot penetrate to reality. Please let me emphasise here that I am not saying a man ought to become thoughtless and that thinking is harmful. This opinion is often widespread in our circles. Just because it has been said that one must proceed from wonder, people are apt to regard thinking as wrong and harmful. When a man has made a small beginning in thinking and can reckon up the seven principles of the human being, and so on, there is no reason why he should then cease thinking. Thinking must continue. But after the wonder another condition must show itself, and that is a condition we may best describe as reverence for all that to which thought brings us. After the mood of wonder must follow the mood of veneration, of reverence. And any thinking that is divorced from reverence, that does not behold in a reverent manner what is proffered to its view, will not be able to penetrate to reality. Thinking must never, so to say, go dancing through the world in a careless, light-footed way. It must, when it has passed the moment of wonder, take firm root in the feeling of reverence for the universe.

Here the path of true knowledge comes immediately into open opposition with what is called science in our day. Suppose you were to say to someone who is standing in his laboratory with his retorts, analysing substances and then again building up compound by a process of synthesis — suppose you were to say to him: “You cannot really hope to investigate truth. You will, of course, think it out very beautifully and piece it together in your mind, but what you are doing is no more than mere facts. And you approach these facts of the world without any piety or reverence. You ought really to stand before the processes going on in your retorts with the same pious and reverential feeling as a priest feels before the altar.” What would such a man say to you to-day? Probably he would laugh at you, because from the standpoint of present-day science one simply cannot see that reverence has anything whatever to do with truth and with knowledge. Or, if he does not laugh at you, at best he will say: “I can feel great enthusiasm for what goes on in my retorts, but that my enthusiasm is anything other than my own private affair, that my enthusiasm should have anything to do with the investigation of truth — that you can never persuade a person of intelligence to believe.” You are bound to appear foolish in the eyes of present-day scientists if you venture to say that research into the nature of objects, and even thought about objects, ought never to be divorced from reverence, and that one ought not to take a step forward in thought without being filled with the feeling of reverence for the object of one's enquiry. Reverence is, however, the second requisite on the path of knowledge.

But now a man who had attained to a certain feeling of reverence, and then, having experienced this feeling of reverence, wanted to press forward with mere thought — such a man would again come to a nothingness, he would not be able to get any farther. He would, it is true, make some discoveries that were quite correct, and because he had gone through these first two stages, he would with his correct knowledge have also acquired many clearly and firmly established points of view. But he would inevitably, for all that, soon fall into uncertainty. For a third condition must take hold in the soul after we have experienced wonder and reverence, and this third mood we may describe as feeling oneself in wisdom-filled harmony with the laws of the world. And this feeling can be attained in no other way than by having insight into the worthlessness of mere thinking. One must have felt over and over again that he who builds on correctness of thinking — whether he ends by confirming or contradicting is of no account — is really in the same case as our little boy who reckoned up the number of the rolls so correctly. Had that little boy been able to say to himself: “My reckoning may be quite correct, but I must avoid building upon my correctness of thought, I must follow truth, I must put myself into accord with reality” — then he would have found out something which stands higher than correctness, viz., the custom of the village to give in an extra roll with every five. He would have found that one has to go out of oneself into the external world and that correct thinking stands us in no stead when we want to find out whether something is real.

But this placing oneself into wisdom-filled harmony with reality is something that does not come easily, does not come of itself. If it were so, my dear friends, man would not in this time be experiencing — nor would he ever have experienced — the temptation that comes through Lucifer. For what we call discriminating between good and evil, acquiring knowledge, eating of the tree of knowledge, was most assuredly planned to come for man by the divine leaders of the world — only at a later time. Where man went wrong was in wanting to possess himself too early of the knowledge of the difference of good and evil. What had been intended for him at a later time, the temptation of Lucifer made him want to acquire earlier; that is the point. The only possible outcome was an inadequate knowledge, which has the same relation to the true knowledge man would have won in the way intended for him, as a premature birth has to a normal one. The old Gnostics actually used this expression, and one can see now how right they were. They said: Human knowledge, as it accompanies man through the world in all his incarnations, is in reality a premature birth, an Ectroma; because men could not wait until they had undergone all the experiences which should have led them step by step to know-ledge. A time should have been allowed to pass, during which man should have brought certain moods and conditions of soul to greater and greater maturity, and then knowledge would have been bound to come to him. This original sin of mankind is still being constantly committed. For if men were not guilty of this sin they would care less how quickly they can acquire this or that truth and would be concerned instead as to how they might grow mature for the comprehension of truth.

How strange it would seem to a man of the present day if some-one were to come and say to him: “The Theorem of Pythagoras is quite comprehensible to you, but if you want to have a deeper understanding of the hidden meaning of the statement: ‘The sum of the squares on the two sides of a right-angled triangle is equal to the square on the hypotenuse’” — or to take a still simpler case, if someone were to come and say to him: “Before you are ripe to understand that three multiplied by three is equal to nine you must go through this or that experience in your soul! For you can only grasp that truth when you have brought yourself into harmony with the laws of the world, which have so ordered things that mathematical laws appear to us as they do!” Why, he would only laugh, and even louder than before! Really and truly men are still continually guilty of the original sin, for they think that at each stage they reach they can comprehend everything, without any regard for the fact that man needs first to have a certain experience before he can comprehend this or that. It is really essential to be inwardly sustained and upheld all the time by the consciousness that with all one's strict and precise thinking one can, as a matter of fact, get nowhere at all in the domain of reality. This realisation belongs to the third condition of soul which we are now describing.

Use all the efforts we may to judge correctly of something, error can always creep in. A true judgment can only result when we have attained a certain maturity, when we have waited for the judgment to “jump” to us, not when we put ourselves about to find it, but when we take pains to make ourselves ripe for it to come to us. Then the judgment we form will belong to reality. The man who exerts himself ever so strenuously to hit upon a correct judgment can never expect by such exertion to arrive at a judgment that is in any way conclusive or satisfactory. He alone can hope to come to a true judgment of a matter who applies all his care and thought to making himself riper and riper to receive the right judgments from the revelations which will then stream into him, because he has grown ripe to receive them. It is possible to have quite strange experiences in this connection. A man who is quickly on the spot with his ready-made judgment will naturally think that if someone has fallen into the water and is pulled out dead he has been drowned. But a man who has learnt wisdom, who has grown mature in the experience of life, will know that a general correctness of thought is of no significance at all, but that in each single case one has to give oneself up to the facts as they present themselves and let them form the judgment. You may constantly see the truth of this confirmed in life.

Take an instance. Somebody makes a statement. Well and good. You yourself may have another view of the matter. You may say: What he says is quite false. You have yourself an altogether different opinion. Now it can very well be that what he says and what you say are both false, in a certain respect both judgments can be right and both false. At this third stage of the soul you will not see anything conclusive in the fact that one person has a different view of a matter from another person; that tells nothing at all. It merely says that each of these stands on the pinnacle of his own opinion. Whereas he who has learnt wisdom always reserves his judgment, and in order not to be involved in any way with his judgment he will wait with it even when he is conscious that he may be right. He holds back, putting his opinion to the test, as it were. But suppose someone makes a statement to-day and then two months later says the very opposite. In such a case you can completely exclude yourself, you have nothing whatever to do with the two facts. And when you look at these two facts and let them make their own impression upon you, you do not need to oppose either of them, they contradict each other mutually. The judgment is made by the external world, not by you. Then, and then only, does the wise man begin to form a judgment. It is an interesting fact that one will never understand how Goethe pursued his study of natural science unless one has this conception of wisdom, where one has to let the objects themselves do the judging. Therefore did Goethe make the following interesting observation — you will find it in my Introduction to Goethe's Natural Scientific Works. He said: We ought really never to make judgments or hypotheses concerning external phenomena; for the phenomena are the theories, they themselves express their ideas, if only we have grown mature to receive impressions from them in the right way. It is not a question of sitting down in a corner and puzzling out in one's own mind something that one then considers correct, it is a question rather of making oneself ripe and letting the true judgment spring to meet one out of the facts themselves. Our relation to thinking must not be that we make thinking sit in judgment upon objects but rather that we make it an instrument whereby the objects can express themselves. This is what placing oneself in harmony with objects means.

When this third stage has been experienced, even then the thinking cannot be allowed to stand on its own feet. Then comes what is in a sense the very highest condition of soul to which man has to attain if he would arrive at truth. And that is the condition to which we may give the name devotion or self-surrender. Wonder, reverence, wisdom-filled harmony with the phenomena of the world, surrender to the course of the world — these are the stages through which we have to pass and which must always run parallel with thinking, never deserting it; otherwise thinking arrives at what is merely correct and not at what is true.

We will here make a pause at the point to which we have come, rising from wonder through reverence and wisdom-filled harmony with world phenomena to the stage we have named “surrender” but have not yet explained. To-morrow we will speak further about it. Let us hold all this well in mind, and on the other hand let us also remember the question we threw out at the beginning, namely, why it is one only needs to make oneself intellectual in order to be able to refute spiritual science. Let us consider that we end our lecture to-day on these two questions, which to-morrow we will proceed to answer.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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