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Truths and Errors of Spiritual Research

Schmidt Number: S-2719

On-line since: 30th June, 2017

Errors of Spiritual Research

Part 1

Munich, 27 November 1912

It is not only desirable indeed in every area of thinking and life but also necessary to get to know the sources of error beside those of truth. Since one can only shelter from all obstacles which oppose the quest for truth by the knowledge of the sources of error. However, the knowledge of the sources of error is particularly necessary in the area of spiritual research because there the error lies in wait for you everywhere, so to speak. However, it is disguised in most cases so that you can hardly recognise it. In many cases it is in such a way that one can get to truth only on the paths of spiritual research if you can really defeat the error like an adversary.

I have explained the day before yesterday that the human being has no other means on the path of spiritual research than the human soul that can mediate between the human knowledge and the supersensible worlds. The usual science produces its outer instruments with which it observes its experiments. The spiritual researcher has as an instrument only what he can make of his soul, while he gets out soul forces, which are not necessary for the usual physical life and cognition, but are cognitive forces slumbering there, and enters with these cognitive forces into the supersensible world.

I have also shown that the soul — if it applies the characterised means to itself — advances first to the so-called Imaginative knowledge and how already there an error lies in wait for you against which the spiritual researcher must fight, namely the error to consider this imagery as something objective that exists outside of you in the world.

I have already said that any self-education of the spiritual researcher must tend to a strong willpower so that the pictures emerging in the soul are considered as nothing but reflections of own soul experiences. I have also said that one has to erase this Imaginative world from the soul, has to descend to unfathomable depths, and that only thereby the soul becomes able to feel the supersensible facts and beings objectively.

As a counter-image of the Imaginative knowledge, I have put the mediumship. Of course, it is not possible to repeat everything that I have said the day before yesterday; I want only to remember that I have drawn your attention to some doubtful aspects of mediumship. If I do not mention them today, you must not conclude that these doubtful aspects were not enough taken into consideration. I have already said what mediumship consists of. While with the Imaginative knowledge the inner vitality of the soul is strengthened, the consciousness is more strengthened than, otherwise, in the usual life, the ego; the usual consciousness of the medium is diminished, so that with the medium the usual thinking and feeling stop and an unconscious state takes place. Because the consciousness is expelled from the medium as it were. The forces that exist except the consciousness in the human nature are brought into the universal world being, and this world being with its spiritual subsoil and processes works immediately into the medium. The medium can thereby reveal itself, but not as an individuality, the interplaying forces and processes of the world reveal themselves. The medium becomes the revelator of the spiritual work and actions of beings of the world. Thus, the Imaginative knowledge with the strengthening of consciousness confronts mediumship where the consciousness is extinguished more or less.

Let us go first into the sources of error of mediumship. Those people who like to get knowledge by the revelations of media reject as a rule that the medium takes up some spiritual-scientific teachings, concepts, or ideas in its consciousness. That is, such researchers who want to recognise objective truth by mediumship do not like that the medium has learnt ideas of the spiritual world. From their viewpoint, they are right because the knowledge of spiritual science uses the consciousness strongly, and pushes its way into the human consciousness. Then it is difficult to blank out this consciousness of the medium, to quieten these strong forces really. Then one can experience that the medium instead of making known that which is independent of its own individuality reveals that only which has worked before as spiritual science. The investigators of this field are very much anxious as a rule to keep their media away from the influence of spiritual research.

A strong imagination of the medium is also not appropriate because it can describe various things in the world. Since every strong imagination works substantially on the individuality and pushes its way through if the consciousness is diminished. Thus, one may say, any active and creative content of the consciousness disturbs the manifestations of the medium. Yes, everybody knows who has experience in that field that people with strong imagination are just bad media. If a personality has taken up, for example, that which you can read in my Occult Science about the evolution of the planetary system, and can induce her/him to make manifestations, you will find out that that which the medium has learnt this way is mixed in her/his manifestations, while one can get, otherwise, the strangest results which are grotesque now and again. If one gets over the grotesque expression, it appears just with media of certain kind how cosmic connections of the evolution can be expressed. It is necessary for that who wants to investigate with the help of a medium above all to appropriate a certain experience to distinguish the subjective, individual consciousness contents of the medium from that which the medium cannot know and still manifests itself by it. Hence, for more trivial investigations one has to consider those manifestations of media in particular with which one knows for sure that the medium makes known something that he/she could not at all make known with her/his full consciousness.

I bring in things only which are exactly verified which everybody knows who has experience in this field, as one knows any scientific facts. If one receives a communication from a medium, for example, in a language which the medium has not learnt, then one knows that here something speaks through the medium that cannot be associated with the individuality; one knows that the medium unveils objective world contents.

Thus, everywhere we recognise the source of error by the peculiarity of the medium that the practical person has to avoid in this field. In particular, one has to consider this source of error if one deals with the observation of somnambulistic persons who make known something of the spiritual world by those methods, those manifestations to which they are enabled. There one will always find that something subjective is largely mixed in the manifestation. Someone who has experience in this area knows that a medium that is for example a Protestant receives her/his manifestations quite different from a medium that is a Catholic. One can experience that a Catholic medium whose emotional life is penetrated with Catholic views beholds certain beings in the spiritual world that appear, however, in such a way, as the person concerned imagines it, for instance, as an angel. What can be the case with such a Catholic medium will not be the case with the Protestant one. Hence, it is again urgently necessary, beside the observation of that which makes known itself by the medium to envisage the individuality of the medium exactly. Here we get to an area that can light up the sources of error to a great extent.

That who is a sceptic in this area or regards the whole story as folly will say, there you have it, there that makes known itself by such a person what he/she thinks, what he/she has in his/her consciousness. — Indeed, if one looks above all at that in its totality what the media unveil, then one will almost never escape the errors unscathed. However, the objective beholder of these things considers the contents of the manifestations less and less but it comes more into consideration that even such things can be experienced with diminished consciousness. The experience is considered.

If one appropriates the practice to ignore the contents of the manifestation and observes which processes happen in the human soul as results of this coherence of the human nature with the universal forces, then you realise why it is possible that once the manifestation is coloured Catholic and the other time Protestant. Since the experience of spiritual forces and beings matters that dress only in the described way. The error originates if one considers the sheaths as the essentials. You find truth if you can ignore the disguise and look at the fact that generally such a process takes place — no matter if and how the experience is coloured by the individuality. Since the experience is not an angel or anything else, but these are spiritual forces which you can behold only with careful investigations, but whose existence the medium can prove and express.

One cannot say easily where in the described area error stops and truth begins because really the one changes into the other. One has to characterise the matter rather in such a way that one takes a way where one approaches truth more and more if one acquires the practice to exclude the sources of error, so that probably someone who looks for truth in this area conscientiously can be very misunderstood in our present where one does not like such matters. One believes that that which he wants to tell as experiences is anyhow contestable. However, the conscientious researchers in this area, actually, do not at all mean that; they only mean the description of something that has appeared, and if they are conscientious, they themselves indicate where the sources of error are. However, it is sufficient to be able to show a path to attain knowledge of a spiritual world that is threatened by error, indeed, with every step you do. However, you can thrust aside the error, the further you advance. Hence, it is not a matter of answering the question: what is truth what is error? — but the matter is that there is a way to overcome the error gradually and get to the area of truth, so that truth is as it were like something that you approach as a distant aim. These are the essentials in this field.

Then it depends with the progress on this way whether one gets more and more to such experiments — if we like to call it so — in which the individual of the consciousness is extinguished, and that that which still remains intervenes only in the objective world processes. Thus, it is a question of decreasing the consciousness in mediumship. The more one succeeds in diminishing this consciousness and making the medium only an instrument for supersensible world processes taking place without her/him, the more one attains truth in this area. Besides, I have to call attention to one thing: if you are concerned with such a somnambulistic person who gets either by her/his nature at certain times or by certain, often rather doubtful means to such a state, you get principles of the supersensible world in their manifestations. Principles of the world express themselves; this comes strongly to light in the manifestations of the person concerned. Should beings of the supersensible world reveal themselves this way, they must take possession of the medium first, and one must have the possibility to look through the medium at the real beings that makes known itself. A trained view of such things belongs to it, which you can only acquire on one side by practice, on the other side by insight into that which spiritual science can give generally.

The Imaginative knowledge is the complete counter-image of that which I have just described. Today I tried to point sketchily to that which spiritual science has to say about mediumship, while I do not consider this, otherwise, as my task. However, that which I represent here should come from the counter-image of mediumship, from that which the human soul can explore which has made itself a tool by developing forces that are slumbering in it to behold into the Imaginative world. I have already spoken the day before yesterday, to what extent this Imaginative world is radically different from the pathological, fantastic world of hallucinations, visions, and delusions and so on. Now you may ask, do any errors ambush the esoteric also in this area like adversaries? Are there also sources of error? — This is absolutely the case. You can already receive, even before you enter into the supersensible world, an idea to what extent errors may generally originate if the soul is left to its own resources, as I have described it the day before yesterday, and takes the way into the spiritual worlds.

We have all possible worldviews or viewpoints in the usual world. There one has materialism, positivism, individualism, spiritualism and so on. Try only once to listen objectively to another person who feels pressured into alleging all logical and other reasons for materialism or spiritualism and so on by his whole education, by his whole life. Then you will convince yourself that it is never quite entitled, actually, to feel as an opponent of materialism or spiritualism and so on. You will realise that for all these viewpoints numerous reasonable arguments can be brought forward. You may mostly completely agree — if you are unbiased — with a representative of the concerning viewpoint. Even if you do not stand at all on the materialist viewpoint, you may say if you listen to a reasonable materialist: yes, nevertheless, it is well founded what he brings forward for his viewpoint. The uncomfortable begins where people are committed to any viewpoint unilaterally and attack and reject another viewpoint to the point of intolerability sometimes. It would be very well conceivable that somebody says who has experiences in this area: yes, I can be a materialist rather well, where materialism is entitled, and a spiritualist where spiritualism is entitled and so on. This possibility absolutely exists.

I wanted to give a sample in two talks that I have held here in last winter about the subjects: How Does One Disprove Theosophy? and How Does One Justify Theosophy? — a sample of how one can bring forward something positive for contrary standpoints. Reasonable people have always pointed to the fact that — considered unilaterally — no point of view shows the truth really. People, who get a feeling of this fact, often say, truth is between the contrary points of view in the middle. — However, this statement seems to someone who goes deeper into this matter in such a way, as if anybody said, if I have two chairs, I sit down not on the one or the other, but between them. — Goethe who had good experiences in this area said rightly, truth is not between two contrary opinions but there is the task in between which should lead us only to the facts. — As a rule, truth is to be found neither in the one nor in the other one-sidedness. This already becomes obvious if we have not yet entered into the supersensible world. This fact could work quite stupefying on someone who takes the knowledge seriously to whom knowledge is really a matter of life. Since you can describe everything unilaterally from a viewpoint and bring good reasons forward, and one can prove the same thing with maybe equally good reasons from the other side. This can lead in many cases to a kind of doubt about truth. However, it will not lead that who is strong enough to a doubt about truth but to an investigation about how the human being gets generally to a viewpoint.

If anybody is not committed only to materialism, but has saved so much freedom for himself to refrain from his approach and to exert some self-knowledge, then he can ask himself, how has my present life proceeded, actually? How have my habitual ways of thinking developed, what has induced me, for example, to follow more the material coherences? Thus, a follower of materialism may ask. The follower of a more spiritual view can also do that. There you already find in the usual life that one creates a subjective viewpoint. Thereby one gets to know the logical value of a viewpoint that one knows how one has got it how a certain life direction has induced one to think just in such a way. Not because one looks for truth in the middle between the different viewpoints, but because one recognises how this viewpoint has originated and why one judges in such a way, one becomes fair towards the other, and one gets around to acknowledging the value of the other viewpoint. The different viewpoints compensate each other if the followers of these different viewpoints practise self-knowledge.

Imagine once that some people of contrary viewpoints meet like in a board and quarrel about their different viewpoints. Somebody who has taken part in such a thing knows that, besides, normally nothing results. If people rise after hours-long discussion, everybody is normally still convinced fanatically of his viewpoint as before. If the attempt were done that such a board were quiet one hour and everybody checked during one hour only how he has got to his viewpoint, and if they started talking only then again, they would not start quarrelling. This possibility is imaginable. Since one would find understanding for the other viewpoint by self-knowledge, by investigation of the way which one has done to get to his viewpoint. Already in the usual life, it is obvious that self-knowledge is the way to approach truth gradually, and that then the truth positions itself in the middle that one, however, must not put his opinion between the contrary viewpoints.

This self-knowledge must take place to a much greater extent with that who wants to avoid the sources of error in the supersensible area. Here I have to say that the spiritual researcher can approach truth only if he begins to practise self-knowledge in the area of the supersensible in the extreme. He has enough opportunity if he does not surrender to that which appears as pictures in his soul at first, but if he can say to himself, you yourself are the pictures in your soul; even if they are maybe wonderful — this is no supersensible world; you yourself are all that, projected onto space.

Thus, the first step on the way to spiritual research already gives him the possibility of self-knowledge. Because you become acquainted with yourself this way, you learn only to eliminate yourself from that which can be then considered as objective. There is in the field of spiritual research no other way to avoid errors than to get to the full self-knowledge first, so that you can remove that which you yourself are from that which is left over. Here the spiritual researcher can recognise by a particular step, which he has to do, that he has advanced enough in self-knowledge. If this were not the case, one should not at all venture into the supersensible area. Since it is nothing as difficult for the human being as self-knowledge, because all interests, all inclinations, all sympathies that you have for yourself put themselves in the way and deceive us as it were while they lead us to believe that they are something real, whereas they are only reflections of our being.

One calls the step by which the spiritual researcher can know that he has the necessary self-knowledge “encounter with the guardian of the threshold.” What is this so-called guardian of the threshold? You can get an image of him only gradually. We suppose once that at a certain age we intensely look back at our development, at our favourite opinions, at everything that we have learnt, how we have felt up to now concerning sensory and extrasensory. Even if these things are very difficult — it is important to know that you have to put just such questions to yourself and to consider them as meditations beside the other exercises. This evokes the forces slumbering in the soul of which you can say that you get away by them as it were from your own being that you face yourself.

Single symptoms show this clearly in the Imaginative world at first. If you do such exercises of self-knowledge, you feel a certain change in the soul that is rather awkward at first. It consists of the fact that you grow tired of your own being in many respects. Someone is not yet a right spiritual researcher who has not strongly felt this weariness of the own being. Since strictly speaking you are everything that you have formed up to now as opinions, feelings and sensations, you hardly are something else in your consciousness. That all has now become something external to you. You are estranged from yourself. What you once regarded as your peculiarity becomes anything external to you; you feel empty, as nothing compared to that which you really are and which does no longer appear to you as something valuable as it used to be.

These feelings can be experienced so subtly that your soul life does not at all experience any danger if in so careful way the path is searched to the spiritual world, as I have described it in my book How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds?.

With somebody who wants to reach higher levels of spiritual knowledge the described sensations must strongly appear so that his soul is transformed quite considerably and he feels as if he has everything that he had in himself now beside himself, and, hence, feels as if he faces an abyss. What he had up to now appears to him as something that he should no longer use. If you have intensely done such an experience, you feel another experience emerging in the Imaginative knowledge very soon that consists of the fact that you become acquainted with yourself in a new way. You get to know that which you have released as your own being as it were from yourself with all possible, mostly unpleasant qualities. Besides pictures of beings appear, and now they become critics of that which you really are. You see yourself surrounded by nothing but pictures of other beings that stalk you that judge everything that is good or bad in you.

Briefly, you feel your being as it were allocated to other beings. It is really something that is well met with the picture of Dionysus whose being is split and divided. Any training as it is described in How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds? aims at the fact that you know how to behave in the right way at the moment when the just described occurs when, so to speak, not the own individuality perceives, but when the world perceives and judges you. However, for this moment you have to be trained first, so that you are not shocked. The fact that the human being does not behold and that he lives, actually, in a glass house and everywhere world forces and beings are there that see through him until his most secret depths would interfere in the usual life everywhere. One denotes the fact that he does not behold them that he is protected against them the encounter with the guardian of the threshold that leads into the supersensible world.

In detailed way, I tried to represent that in my mystery drama The Guardian of the Threshold where I tried to turn the truth described more theoretically into action. Now you get to know when you have experienced this encounter with the guardian of the threshold that everywhere not only the error of knowledge but also the real error lies in wait for you and that you have to take care of yourself everywhere and find the right possibility to look at the things as they are in truth.

Because self-knowledge is difficult, the risk of a substantial error arises that the spiritual researcher does not reach the point where he can place himself, so to speak, beside himself. However, you cannot say, here is truth, here is error, but only that you can wend your way to truth. The more you are able to consider yourself as an objective being, the more you approach truth. While the consciousness of a medium has to be diminished, it has to be strengthened with the spiritual researcher just in such a way that he is not mistaken about himself and about what he has in himself. While entering the spiritual world you have to target the fact as sharply as possible that you face your concentrated own self. Thus, you eliminate everything personal from the supersensible percipience.

Let us assume that a person wends his esoteric way honestly and conscientiously, he can maybe get to a certain point, then he loses his courage or desire, and he does not go further. Of course, you can suppress everything that you have experienced up to now. The spiritual researcher is not always a spiritual researcher but only at certain moments. If he were always in such a soul state, he would appear like a crazy person. That who has already transformed his soul to a certain degree and gives up the thing again can experience that he now mixes that which he has recognised up to now in the spiritual world chaotically with that which the sensory world gives him. The things intermingle, and then you are confused. The ears hear, but also something supersensible interferes, and you are confused. This can happen of course only, if you do not take the instructions into consideration which I have given in my book How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds?. Wrong application of the methods may appear in any science. That, however, who has got to a certain end of this way will experience the following:

He not only surveys the qualities of his mind, his prejudices et cetera and does not involve them in his objective knowledge, but also never mixes pictures of that which the senses perceive which the physical reason invents in the objective knowledge. Since he will not be able to eliminate his personality. Now here we can get to a kind of definition of error in the supersensible world. This error consists of the fact that one has insufficiently cast off the own subjectivity, and, therefore, always the own individuality intermingles in the pictures of objective reality. It is quite natural on one side if one often says that everybody portrays that somewhat different which the seer perceives, and, hence, one can count on nothing at all. One can concede such a fact, but stressing this is trivial, it is just a self-evident fact. It is natural that the ideal of the spiritual researcher can hardly completely attained and that, hence, everywhere in that which the spiritual researcher describes a subjective, individual element intermingles. He, who can compare, however, will find that if one does not only look at the pictures, but at the experiences they are more or less similar.

Concerning the moral qualities that are necessary for the seer one has to emphasise that he must be conscientious that he must practise all those qualities that I have already mentioned the day before yesterday. It is correct that one can look into the spiritual world, indeed, only by the described processes that, however, the research results of the spiritual world are to be transferred to the concepts of the physical reason. You have to search them in the supersensible world; you can understand them with common sense. It is true that someone who can think well can also properly judge that which he experiences in the spiritual world. Someone who is a fool in the sensory world and cannot think logically describes everything that he beholds wrong and caricatured. That also applies to the moral qualities of the person concerned. Somebody who wants to get with immoral attitude to the spiritual world will just get in the spiritual world to the disturbing and hampering things and beings and he recognises them distorted and caricatured because of his immoral attitude. However, someone who enters with moral attitude finds the beings of the spiritual world that show the things in their right mutual arrangement and weightiness.

Thus, the determinative of truth or error in spiritual research is not anything that you acquire to yourself as a seer only, but something that you have already acquired before in intellectual and moral respects. In particular, moral things are strongly involved in how one interprets the supersensible phenomena. Someone who is prejudiced in a certain belief who has sympathies and prejudices for the fact that something certain should be true, brings this disposition, this prejudice into the supersensible world; he interprets the phenomena after it. Everything that he fathomed and announced of the spiritual world can be an error because it is coloured with his subjective belief.

Here is the area where I have to point — after we have discussed the sources of error of spiritual research — to the sources of error by the dissemination of spiritual science. In a way, the dissemination of spiritual research resembles the dissemination of any other research. As for example not everybody can be a chemist, but everybody can accept and figure that out what the chemists have investigated in the laboratories about the substances, everybody can judge, even if he is not a spiritual researcher, what the spiritual researcher announces, namely not only up to a certain degree but to its full extent. In this respect, the things are similar; in other regard, they are dissimilar. They are dissimilar because chemistry, mathematics, or any other science is something that one can face cool and objectively if researchers announce it, even if with true thirst for knowledge.

This is not the case with spiritual research. Spiritual research touches the most intimate of our hearts, the big questions of life. As the researcher carries his prejudices, his belief, his sympathies and antipathies into the spiritual world and thereby distorts the things and beholds wrong, the audience, the confessors — let me use the term — meet the spiritual researcher with certain beliefs, certain sympathies, or antipathies. Something develops that does not lead to an objective judgement, but that is associated with all possible things which take effect from human being to human being. As strongly as the soul longs for experiencing something about these things, as the human soul is careless now and again to apply the unbiased reason to judge what the spiritual researcher brings forward, although it could be judged completely. Then belief often replaces an unbiased judgement because one likes that which the one or the other says maybe only because he brings it forward emphatically or because one finds him pleasant. The belief replaces the objective, conscientious verification; one accepts the things trusting in authority. The worst is if authority mania interposes itself between the spiritual researcher and his audience. Therefore, as with all things about which we have heard today that the spiritual researcher should follow them he keeps guard as it were beside his own self. The confessor, who listens to the spiritual researcher, should pay attention to his common sense and repeatedly carry out a kind of self-inspection to realise how much belief, prejudice, and sympathy intermingles in the facts that he accepts with the messages of the spiritual researcher.

Since in double respect accepting at mere belief causes big damage is a source of error just with the dissemination of spiritual science. The one is that the confessor does not develop healthy judgement what is the most necessary. Because common sense can be practised best of all if the results of spiritual research are thought through; you deprive yourself of the best opportunity if you accept these results at mere belief. The second one is: because the things are important which the spiritual researcher has to say, he may exercise an incorrect influence over his supporters — if the listener does not constantly keep his common sense in readiness — because one believes him because one takes up that prejudiced what one should check, actually. Thereby the spiritual researcher tries — instead of exercising an entitled influence, while he is convincing and the listeners realise what he says —, to persuade while he overpowers their common sense. Even if this ideal condition cannot yet be reached today, one has to say that if truth should prevail the confessors should make it to the spiritual researcher as difficult as possible to spread his truths and should impose the highest requirements on him if he expresses his knowledge in concepts and ideas of common sense. Then one counteracts what, unfortunately, is a fact and a forever returning source of error with the dissemination of spiritual truths that charlatanism and all possible similar mingles so easily with spiritual research. Unless just common sense is applied permanently, one does no longer know where conscientious spiritual research and where charlatanism and humbug is, and everything is thrown together.

Two oppose soul directions will throw charlatanism and conscientious spiritual research together. One soul direction is that of those who are prejudiced in authority mania, who make themselves confessors of spiritual science light-heartedly because of their sympathies and prejudices. They mingle everything and often accept the one as well as the other. There is for this kind of people who are oriented in such a way no other remedy than that there are conscientious spiritual researchers who position themselves conscientiously on the ground of truth. Only experience can teach us whether this is the case. The different people who may hardly differentiate charlatanism and conscientiousness and jumble everything up are those who do not at all want to go into the matter who judge about the matter cursorily with some concepts they have knocked together, and who — because they often succeed in uncovering fraud — not only label everything with this name, but lump everything together. The direction of the religious confessors often regards the biggest charlatanism as irrefutable highest truth, the other kind of human beings, the biased ones, the non-experts, even regards conscientious spiritual research as charlatanism and error sometimes, and one cannot bear a grudge against them because they do not better understand what they say.

Thus, it will be necessary above all, so that truth and not error can prevail with the dissemination of spiritual research, that in particular with the confessors of spiritual research critical reason, critical judgement, and common sense and not belief in authority develop. This belief in authority will already wither away if a knowledge spreads among those who like and need spiritual research, a knowledge that is not common, unfortunately, among the confessors of spiritual science that a seer is no higher animal because he can behold in the supersensible world. He does not differ from other human beings, just as little as a chemist, a botanist, a machinist, or a tailor. The possession of spiritual knowledge does not really determine the value of the human being but only that he can investigate this area and bring the acquired knowledge to his fellow men. Only his common sense determines the value of the human being, his power of judgement and his moral qualities. Just spiritual research could prove that intellectual and moral qualities of the human being already determine his value, before he enters into the spiritual world, and that if he is inferior there the results of his research will be inferior. It is exceptionally necessary to realise this. Even more than the opponents of spiritual science, its supporters should take stock of themselves in this field.

Thus, I tried today to describe not only the possibilities of error finding spiritual truth, but also the possibility of error with the dissemination of spiritual truths. I tried to evoke a sensation that conscientious spiritual research acknowledges that its opponents can often argue this or that rightly and that conscientious spiritual research can and has to argue in the same way because it is just important in this area to face the error to recognise the truth. For the confessors of spiritual science has that who wants to be conscientious, as a rule, only one consolation: truth has a strong power, and, even if error slips in because of the belief in authority, by the self-correction of truth those are cured who were supporters of this or that for a while at mere belief in authority. In most cases, such a cure takes place because one has to pay the price as it were to have had such a blind belief in authority. Often it just happened that because one did not observe the details sharply, but took one's word for it that then with a radical case it appears how little conscientiously one has gone forward. If then pain and disappointment are the more significant, the cure is just successful.

For those, however, who throw together spiritual research and charlatanism benevolently or malevolently, for those the today's consideration may offer another consolation that people can have always if they generally face truth. The truths of spiritual research if they appear as new are much more exposed to those destinies to which, however, also the other truths are exposed which appear gradually in the evolution of humanity. How, for example, did one accept the Copernican worldview! How did one treat Galilei! How did the whole world defend itself when Francesco Redi spread the truth that earthworms do not originate from river mud and other lifeless matter, but that any life arises from a living zygote! How academic organisations rose when the truth was pronounced that iron stones can fall from the air onto earth — the meteorites! How did people defend themselves against an apparently so unimportant thing like the post stamp. At that time, an authoritative person said, if really the correspondences increased to such an extent, the post-office buildings would no longer be sufficient! - I could bring in numerous other examples that truth when it entered into the world was regarded as paradoxical and was rejected.

The sight of these destinies of truth can give us the consolation and the confidence towards all those who reject spiritual science and throw it together with charlatanism, the consolation which one just had compared with truth generally in all ages and which one can dress in the words of someone who was often mistaken who tried, however, to look for truth. I am allowed to summarise just both talks that dealt with the interrelation of truth and error in spiritual research with words of the vigorous truth seeker Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) who said in his writing The Fundamentals of Moral (1839):

“During all centuries the poor truth had to blush about the fact that she was paradoxical, and, nevertheless, it is not her guilt. She cannot accept the figure of the sitting enthroned general error. There she looks up sighing to her tutelary deity, the time, that shows victory and fame to her, but her wing beats are so big and slow that the individual dies away in the meantime.”

Answer-to-Questions

Question: Some persons get a peculiar feeling sometimes, mostly after long straining thinking, as if they stood beside themselves, with a dreadful emptiness around themselves, and then the body appears as something very strange. Then one must only force himself to feel again as a body, as with E.T.A. Hoffmann. What is to be done there?

Rudolf Steiner: Above all, one has to consider that everything that appears of this kind in the world has different degrees. What I have described in the talk today shows only a more significant degree of the phenomena that can appear in weaker degrees always in the human being. The way to get away from the instrument of the body is just the way of meditation and concentration. If the interrogator says “mostly after long straining thinking” — meditation and concentration is a quite intensive degree of concentrated thinking, feeling, maybe also of willing. Hence, such phenomena are definitely possible which take place in an extraordinary measure with meditation and concentration if the single members of the human nature are in a looser balance — with every human being they are, by the way, in another balance. This was described, for example, belletristically very appropriately. Somebody errs who supposes that with a belletristic portrayal of such things always only imagination forms the basis. The serious artist describes, even if he takes unusual matters as objects, from experience. This applies to E.T.A. Hoffmann (Ernst Theodor Amadeus H., 1776-1822, jurist, poet, and composer) to a great extent. Many people would experience this if they had always observed themselves, but the degree of attention does not always reach the events, and thereby such facts remain often unnoticed. Strictly speaking, spiritual research is not something special, but only an increase of that which also appears in the usual life everywhere and always.

Question: In which regard is the knowledge of higher worlds worthwhile — apart from curiosity —, because it is dependent on common sense?

Rudolf Steiner: For someone who does not long for the answer of the higher questions of existence, spiritual science will be superfluous. However, to someone who longs for the answer of such questions one has to say: as well as the body hungers for food, the soul hungers for the answer of the big questions of life. As I have already said in the talk, you can probably take truth away from the soul, but not the hunger for truth. Its effects will become more prominent that at first the soul experiences all possible states of disorder, even of desperation that a matter of knowledge changes into a question of health. Here I only point to the close coherence of nervousness and indifference to spiritual truths. They are just a necessity of human nature.

You can learn from this question again, what I have already often touched, that people do not listen exactly enough to these things which can be presented so difficultly. If one had listened to that precisely which I have said in the talk, such a question would not have been put. One would have also heard, for example, that the value of the human being depends on the soul condition, on moral and intellectual qualities, and not on the contents of the truths, because one has to find them only by supersensible research. One will find the intellectual in the higher knowledge if one is intellectually minded and the moral if one is morally minded that you have to bring, however, your intellectual and moral abilities with you into the supersensible world.

Question: It is a fact that one can give the functions of the soul another direction by mental work. Where are guarantees, however, of the absolute validity of the immutability of our soul?

Rudolf Steiner: I have said twice in the talks that one cannot say, here truth stops and here error begins — that there is, however, the possibility of entering the ways to truth. Of course, it would be best if one could write all truths on a small piece of paper; one could put it into the vest pocket and look at it if necessary. However, truth is not this way. You have gradually to work your way upward. Is the question generally entitled to demand guarantees that anything is objectively valid?

Question: Is intellectual soul and mind soul the same in theosophy?

Rudolf Steiner: No, but these are two sides of one and the same being, so that one soul member is called intellectual soul once if it turns outwardly and judges the things, and the other time the same being is called mind soul if it experiences its own inside.

Question: Is there any particular moral of the spiritual researcher?

Rudolf Steiner: No other than the generally human moral which can be refined, however, as I have described it in How Does One Attain Knowledge of Higher Worlds?. However, as morality does not have double-entry accounting in other ways as well, I have to say that also the spiritual researcher is not allowed to have double-entry moral accounting. However, as I have said, he must practise certain moral qualities more intimately.

Question: Does spiritual science have the right to reveal holy laws?

Rudolf Steiner: These are just the laws of nature.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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