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Aspects of Human Evolution

Human Development, the Difficulty with Self Knowledge

Lecture VI

Berlin, July 10, 1917

Today I would like to continue looking at certain elementary issues on which to build the more comprehensive view to be discussed today and in the next lecture.

It is natural that a person, who during his life begins to sense his I, begins as it were to awaken consciously in his I, should want to reach insight and clarity about it and its relation to the world. There is at the present time a strong longing and also a widespread striving to attain such insight. As people experience this longing for clarity about their own self, they encounter the many pitfalls and hazards bound up with the quest for self-knowledge. People tend to assume that they are seeking a more or less simple entity. The assumption that the human I is fairly uncomplicated has caused much disillusionment and made people turn to the kind of guidance to be found in the writings of Ralph Waldo Trine and others, a guidance sought by many today because of the belief that by delving into their inner being they will come to know themselves better and gain more insight and security in life. [ Note 1 ] What they actually experience is that self-knowledge is diminished rather than enhanced by embarking on such a path. If they endure this disillusionment which is already hard to bear, the pitfalls and hazards become all the greater.

It is well to be clear, at least in principle, why self-knowledge is so difficult to attain. There is no simple straightforward path along which self-knowledge can be sought. The self, the I, can be discovered, or at least sought, through thinking, through feeling, and through the will. In each case something is discovered which one can claim as the I. Whether the attempt is made to reach the experience in the realm of thought, in the realm of feeling, or else to attempt it through the will, one always gets the impression that through these soul powers one must be approaching one's inner being.

A person may at first try a path by means of his life of thought, i.e., attempt to depict the I to himself. Especially people who are philosophically inclined have in recent years become convinced that this is a secure path. They will say: That which I look upon as I remains from birth to death the same entity. If I look back in memory over my life, I find that I am always the same. However, this statement is contradicted daily for every normal human being, as I have often pointed out. Between going to sleep and waking the ordinary person has no means of knowing how things concerning the I really are. He has no external observation of the I during sleep. The I he depicts to himself he can only relate to the times he was awake; during sleep the chain of his life's external events is broken. This is easy enough to see. Therefore, he who believes that the I lives in his thoughts, in such a way that he can actually find it there, must recognize that it is blotted out every time he sleeps, at least as far as his consciousness is concerned. Something which plunges into darkness and becomes imperceptible every night cannot be regarded as having a secure existence.

Thus the person who seeks his I along the path of thought may, in a philosophical sense, have a clear enough picture of his I, but it will not offer him much satisfaction. Even if he fails, through simple reflection, to recognize that the mental picture of his I vanishes every night, it cannot give him any feeling of real security. His inner being as a whole, appearing more substantial than mere ideation, soon makes him aware of the unsatisfactory nature of the merely depicted I. What is found along this path in one's search for the I is, so to speak, too rarefied. But why is that the case?

You must realize that it is by no means easy to find the kind of ideas that will truly express and illumine the facts of spiritual life. The reason is simply that our speech, our language causes the greatest difficulty. One often feels as if entangled in a linguistic web when pondering and struggling to find adequate words. The drawback of the merely philosophical approach is the difficulty one has in getting free of the restrictions imposed by language. And quite apart from that struggle there is the feeling of dissatisfaction with what speech is able to convey, particularly when seeking the I through the mental activity of forming thought pictures. You will soon experience this when you study philosophers who have much to say about the I. You get the feeling that their thoughts are too rarefied, too thin, and you are left with a feeling of unreality and insecurity. There are people who believe that because one is able to think the I, this thought is in itself a guarantee that the I will go through the portal of death into the spiritual world. But one's life of feeling tells one that if the I is extinguished every night, then it is feasible that it is also extinguished at death. This feeling is one of the pitfalls that leaves one feeling insecure. But what causes it?

One learns to know the true nature of the I that is merely glimpsed in ordinary thought life when one becomes able to compare it with the I that can be discovered through spiritual science. This I is not extinguished in sleep even if ordinary consciousness is. It must be conceded that from a certain aspect — please note, only from a certain aspect — there is a measure of truth in what is said by 'some philosophers such as Ernst Mach: that the I cannot be saved for it is something unreal. [ Note 2 ] They maintain that all the many experiences we have our whole life long string together like pearls, and because they do we derive from them the picture of the I, but this is not a reality. Such philosophers regard the I as a mere thought and see no reason why a thought should be regarded as having real existence. Yet in our mental life we know of no other I than the rarefied entity which is extinguished every time we fall asleep. This I is only like a picture in the mind. The question we must ask is: In the light of spiritual science just what is this mental picture of the I?

Spiritual science reveals that the mental picture we commonly have of our I is not at all identical with the one we find through spiritual science. This discovery is of the greatest significance. The I of which we form a mental picture is deprived in the present incarnation of inner effective life. Purely on the basis of this I we could not in truth say, I exist now, at this moment in time. The mental picture we have of our I is no guarantee that we exist now, in the present. There is a constant danger that somehow a combination of mental pictures is conjuring up the I. That is the uncertainty; that is why we feel that what we are faced with is a mere picture and no reality. Why do we experience our inner self in this way? Because the I of which we form a mental picture contains already forces for our next incarnation. In this life it must necessarily exist in the form in which we encounter it. When we depict the I, we are dealing with a force belonging not to this life, but a force that will only evolve in our next incarnation. It is comparable to a plant which, if it could sense the seed within would say, This seed is in reality not me; it is the plant that will grow only next spring. In a similar way there lives in what we depict as our I the force that will evolve in our next incarnation. It has to exist the way it does, for if we wanted it to become more in the present incarnation, then it would unfold too soon and could not remain seed-like till our next life. Thus, the I we depict in thoughts must remain weak; it cannot be active now, for it has to retain the seed-like forces for the next incarnation.

You will realize the significance of this fact. When spoken of in this abstract manner, its immense importance may not be immediately evident. What we are talking about is something shadowy, belonging to the next incarnation. While it cannot develop in this life, it can be enriched so that it loses its shadowy character; otherwise it remains unsatisfactory and is experienced as a mere point, as it were, beyond which no progress is possible. However, the problem is how one sets about enriching this I that is felt to be no more than a point.

Nothing is achieved by merely brooding within oneself, for all we arrive at is what in this incarnation is a mere point, a seed for the next life. No matter how forcefully, how mystically one broods inwardly, or what beautiful precepts one sets oneself, the I is not reached. In the way in which this I that we depict in thought lives within us in this incarnation, it does not really belong to us. For the duration of this incarnation it actually belongs to the world. From what we see inwardly as a thought picture of our I, the world will prepare for our next incarnation what will then be active within us. That is why this I can become enriched only through our experiences of the world. When asked by our friends to write something in their album, I have often, in cases where it was appropriate, written: “To find yourself, seek in the world; to find the world, seek in yourself.”

In order to find oneself; i.e., in order to provide one's thought life with a richer, more living content than is possible in ordinary life, one must widen one's observation, and deepen one's experience of the world. However, in this respect ordinary sensory observations are of no help, for they also belong to the present incarnation. They are also dependent on the physical body whiCh is laid aside at death. We must make observations of a different kind, must become able to enter into the. more subtle aspects of life. We can enrich the thought picture of our I only by being aware of more than the obvious aspects of life. We must cease to think in the abstract manner so much preferred nowadays. To enrich the I one must make efforts to seek out the more hidden connections in life. I beg you not to misunderstand this remark. To seek out life's hidden connections would today be regarded as a useless pursuit because people are not striving to enrich the I. All modern people are concerned about are the kinds of thoughts that either depict external events or are useful for some action. But these things have a connection only with the present incarnation. In order to enrich the I we must make it an end in itself to seek out life's hidden connections. It must become an intimate pursuit of which we expect no other result than that it should enrich our inner life; i.e., enrich the thought picture of our I.

Certain things are expected of man at the present time and it is important that he should concern himself with events in life which, though seemingly remote and unconnected, nevertheless belong together. It is important that we ponder the kind of deeper connections that must be sought, as it were, beneath the surface of life's events. To someone who is concerned only with superficial aspects, such connections will seem strange. Yet it will be found that we enrich the thought picture of our I the more we succeed in discovering riddles in life which, though remote, speak strongly to our life of soul. Such connections are not as easy to explain or point out as it is to point out and explain the obvious reason a stone becomes warm when a sunbeam falls on it. But the more we contemplate life's hidden connections, the stronger becomes the feeling that we are growing together with the thought picture of our I, that we are growing together with the inner life that will carry it over to the next incarnation.

What kind of connections do I mean? I mean quite real, concrete ones, except that we normally pay them no attention. I will give you an example: A clergyman once met a gypsy woman with her child, which was dirty and unkempt. Since the outbreak of the World War gypsies have practically disappeared but those who know them will also know that they are people who care very little about many things, one of which is cleanliness. Gypsy children are usually covered in layers of dirt, but apart from cleanliness these children are deprived of a great many other things. The clergyman, being a kind person, wanted to save this forlorn child. He told the mother that he would set aside a sum of money for the child's care and education so that he could grow up into a respectable person. The clergyman's intention was really the very best. The gypsy woman, whose normal life was one of beggary, would naturally gladly have accepted a gift. Nevertheless, her answer was not only significant but a refusal. Her exact words were that she would neither educate her child nor allow him to be educated, because her way of life made for more happiness than all scientific knowledge, all the repute and mutual esteem and all other so-called advantages of culture. This incident was reported by the man who met the gypsy woman himself, Fercher von Steinwand. [ Note 3 ] You will know of him from my book The Riddle of Man. [ Note 4 ] In his fine article about gypsies he describes the event. And it is something which those who like myself know gypsies and how they live can well believe. Many gypsies do hold such views. They really are convinced, as the gypsy woman said, that all culture, all education and learning, all the respect and esteem sought by other people, make one far less happy than the basic elementary life of the gypsy, the life of a child of nature.

The gypsy woman's answer is most revealing. One can, of course, accept it as simply a fact of life; most people do. But one can also discover in such opinions the kind of hidden connections in life of which I spoke. It may occur to someone — as it did to Fercher von Steinwand — that someone else's opinion is in a strange way related to that of the gypsy woman. This someone is a man from a background of culture and learning who nevertheless posed the question whether culture makes human beings happy or less happy in life. He submitted his answer in a long, learned treatise, but in essence it was the same as the one given by the gypsy. The man was Rousseau and the treatise in which he voices the same opinion as the gypsy was awarded a prize by the Academy of Science in Paris. [ Note 5 ] Here you see a strange connection between widely disparate phenomena. The conviction felt by the gypsy Rousseau elaborates in a scientific paper that made him famous and influential. The sentiment, the viewpoint, was the same in both cases, the only difference being that the gypsy woman did not write a scientific treatise about it and was not awarded a prize by the Academy of Science.

This kind of thing happens quite often in life but is not noticed. If a habit is made of examining, from different points of view, issues normally looked at from one standpoint only, one discovers surprising points of reference as in the case of Rousseau and the gypsy. Life is extraordinarily many-sided, and entering into its various aspects means enrichment and strength for the I, in the sense that has been explained. If one seeks out such connections which are not normally noticed, then the I which we have only as a picture grows stronger. To be aware of this fact is of immense importance. In one's search for such hidden connections in life one is contemplating the world rather than brooding within oneself. Furthermore, it will be discovered that one's thinking, i.e., forming mental pictures — an activity connected with the I — becomes more mobile, more alive. As a consequence many more things occur to one than before, which is of great importance, because much dissatisfaction with life, and even ill health, is caused by the fact that so few things occur to us. We draw our thoughts as it were into a rather narrow circle, whereas if we attain the ability to view our experiences in life from many vantage points, seeking connecting threads between distant events, we strengthen our I and become better able to cope with life. That is why all education that introduces only one-sided thoughts and views is harmful. I will give you an example which comes into the same category as the previous one.

Many people embrace so-called pantheism, which as you know I have always rejected. Such people will say: We seek the spirit everywhere. Spirit! Spirit! Everything is spirit and with that they are satisfied. Nowadays this is often called panpsychism because people will have nothing to do with theism. I have often commented on it by pointing out that one would not get very far if this approach was applied to the physical world. It corresponds to someone walking through a meadow and instead of naming the individual flowers as lilies or tulips and so on, just saying “flowers, flowers,” which is an abstraction of them all. So too is it an abstraction to speak of nothing but spirit, spirit and ever more spirit, and yet reject knowledge of real individual spirits. When one speaks about Angels, Archangels and Archai as of individual beings with their own defined spiritual existence just as one speaks of individual beings in the physical world, it is rejected. However, there is a tendency in man to think in a pantheistic way, to simplify everything, always to seek abstractions. That is why the example connected with the gypsy is so interesting, for it illustrates that looking everywhere for abstractions is in a way a gypsy-like trait.

The person who had the experience with the gypsy woman came across another gypsy who, with good appetite, was eating meat from an animal he had found lying dead in a field. Gypsies think nothing of eating dead animals they happen to find, nor do they suffer any ill effects. The person who found the gypsy eating, wanted to impress upon him that one does not eat animals that are found dead, only animals that have been slaughtered. And here the gypsy showed his inclination for abstractions saying: Well, the animal I am eating was slaughtered by God. — So you see, like pantheists he applies the concept of God to everything. Naturally if one's view, one's thinking is pantheistic it must be assumed that an animal found dead must have been slaughtered by God, and there can be no objection to eating what God has slaughtered.

Wider, less obvious connections can be found between one's experiences in life; they vitalize the thought picture of our I. There are, of course, those who will say: Surely, all that is required is the ability to combine facts. Yet, that is very abstract. What I mean is something much more alive, something that relates to the ability to combine facts as a living organism relates to a machine.

When we make the effort to enrich our I by bringing together and relating disparate events, we become aware of a force which lives in us already but belongs to our next incarnation. It is easy to be deluded into thinking that the I is enriched by brooding within oneself. That is an illusion. We enrich it by entering into aspects of life that lie beneath the surface, and by truly fostering the ability to ponder and reflect about life, instead of being merely engrossed in ourselves. One must take hold of life lovingly and be willing to seek out the relation between remote events for no other purpose than to enrich the I and make it stronger. The attempt can be made with the most ordinary situations in life; opportunities are there all the time. Try to let everyday experiences reverberate in such hidden connections. One must of course remain realistic and not read into such connections things they do not contain or try to become more knowledgeable through them. That is not the purpose; what matters is their effect on us, enabling us to experience a force which lives in us in this life in the form of a thought, whose reality will become evident only in our next incarnation.

When we become conscious of such hidden connections the possibility arises for us to become aware not only of the fact that the thought picture of our I is the foundation of our next incarnation, but also of how it exists between death and new birth. This requires a greater awareness of how we adapt to life, indeed of how people in general adapt to and deal with life. Here again, the more obvious aspects are not the most important for the attainment of the inner sensitivity that enables us to become aware of the way we exist between death and new birth. The insight one seeks to attain of the beings and events of the spiritual world must be sought in subtler ways than is customary today. Life in the physical world is completely different from life in the spiritual world. It is not really surprising that, just as they are, our ordinary thoughts, feelings and will impulses cannot be applied to the spiritual world, which requires a much more delicate approach.

To strengthen and enrich our life of thought, efforts must be made to discover hidden connections between events, as I have described. But for the awareness of the I as it lives between death and new birth; in fact, for awareness of the realm in which we are between death and new birth, it is necessary that these connections are related to human beings themselves. Indeed, life provides plenty of opportunity for such hidden connections to be discovered. And if they are noticed and treated with the necessary sensitivity, one will soon find one is on the right path. Unfortunately, because the words one must of necessity use are too often taken in a materialistic sense, a certain difficulty arises when the attempt is made to explain things of this nature. I shall illustrate what is meant by an example.

What I want to explain can best be observed in the case of people who through their whole disposition have what could be said to be a dreamlike inner life; not that they are complete dreamers, but their soul life has a dreamlike quality. This quality is more pronounced in people living in countries towards the eastern hemisphere. The further west one goes, the less do human beings reveal in themselves those subtle connections which point to the hidden spiritual realm I have indicated. That is why the Western Europeans, who have to resort to connections of a cruder nature, find it so extraordinarily difficult to understand the soul characteristics of the Russians. And such understanding is more essential now than ever before. It could be said that Russians are a fraction less awake than Western or even Central Europeans. That is why what we are now speaking about is easier to relate to the inner life of a Russian than to the inner life of a Western European. It does of course relate to people in the West, but it is not so easy to detect there. [ Note 6 ]

A German writer, Eduard Bernstein, has an interesting description of an incident which I would like to use as an example of what I want to illustrate. [ Note 7 ] He will surely not be pleased to know that I regard the experience he describes as mystical. Nevertheless it is a good example of those hidden connections in life which materialists regard as mere chance. Eduard Bernstein relates that, in London, he used to be a frequent guest at the house of Engels, the friend of Karl Marx. [ Note 8 ] Engels' household was a hospitable one, where many people often met, where in fact an international group would frequently gather. It was here that Bernstein met Sergius Kratschinsky, a writer who had adopted the name Stepniak, by which he is quite well known. Bernstein's description of Stepniak is most interesting; to begin with, he mainly describes the more external aspects saying that Stepniak was

a powerfully built man with an impressive head; in looks he corresponded exactly to the picture we normally have of a Slay. He was sensitive, of a somewhat dreamy disposition. Yet in Russia he had been very much a man of action, not only prominently involved in the liberation from prison of Peter Krapotkius, but also in the successful attack on Msenzow, the police dictator of St. Petersburg. In England he was the soul of the society “Free Russia,” founded for the purpose of collecting money to support Russian freedom fighters. On their behalf, he had repeatedly undertaken lecture tours in England and one across America, where he had been particularly befriended by the American humorist Mark Twain. Stepniak was a respected figure in certain literary circles in England having made a name also as a novelist.

At Engels' parties or at any other gathering he was usually quiet and seldom spoke unless one addressed him directly. However, it was obvious that he greatly appreciated his friendship with Engels and like coming to his parties. A friendship also sprang up between Stepniak and myself.

It so happened that at a meeting of the society “Free Russia,” attended by both Bernstein and Stepniak, a quarrel broke out. It was one of those quarrels that easily breaks out among people with a deep emotional commitment to life's greater issues. The quarrel concerned the relationship between Russians and Poles. In such a situation it is a safe bet that the average Central European will side with the Poles. A fierce disagreement ensued in which Bernstein and others spoke up for the Poles, Bernstein defending them against the Russians. As a consequence of this quarrel Stepniak no longer came to the society. And for many years Bernstein heard nothing of Stepniak, who had severed all connection with people in the society. Then after a long time Bernstein received a letter from someone not connected with the society, inviting him to a party on one of the following evenings. The writer of the invitation said he was aware that Bernstein was not on good terms with Stepniak, so he was to come only if he did not mind meeting the latter. Bernstein did not mind; in fact, he welcomed the opportunity to meet Stepniak again. And so the two men met once more.

One may, of course, not find it so remarkable that two people who used to like seeing one another meet again after several years. It may be regarded as a mere chance meeting, and it is only natural that materialists should do so. However, Bernstein's whole description of the mood in which the meeting took place that evening makes it clear that, especially for Stepniak, it was an occasion of very great significance. They spent the evening in a happy mood. Before parting Stepniak said how pleased he was that they had found one another again and how much he looked forward to them spending time together. Two days later Bernstein read in the paper that Stepniak was dead. It appeared that on the day after their meeting he had been reading a book while out walking, had crossed a railway line and been hit by a train. It was absolutely clear that it was an accident; there was no question of suicide.

Thus another chance! But you see, such events are in reality no mere chance. I have chosen a striking example to illustrate the kind of connection one must look for in life. If one is to discover links that are less obvious, one must seek the kind of event in which connections are hidden and which involved the inner life of human beings. Once it has been recognized that there is a deeper aspect of our life of soul which is prophetic, then one can no longer consider such events as mere chance. This aspect comes to expression chiefly in our mental life when tinged with feeling, and when it is somewhat dreamy. In such instances it points to the future to a remarkable degree. All dreams are in fact prophetic; when you dream you always dream the future. But because you cannot formulate mental pictures of future events you clothe the dream in pictures of past ones, and draw them like a veil over the inner experience. There is a deep connection between what we dream of the future and the clothes we put on it when we awake. This is because of karma, and because the future is linked to the past. What we become conscious of, we clothe in pictures from the past, i.e., in images with which we are familiar. Though we are aware of only a fraction of our dreams, we dream the whole time between falling asleep and waking. When someone is in a dreamy state during waking life, it is not without effect on his karma.

Anyone who really understands what I have indicated concerning life's hidden connections will recognize in this incidence a definite picture of how karma works. Had Stepniak not been the sensitive and dreamy person he was, then the effect produced by the connection between his conscious life and the hidden current of his karma would have been less effective. It would not have been strong enough to bring about, on the last evening, practically at the last hour, the meeting I have described. The more our ordinary abstract mental pictures are obscured by a state of dreaminess the stronger our power to attract karmic connections. Naturally, it is also possible in ordinary life to take note of things and adjust one's actions accordingly. But here we are concerned with a person of a dreamy disposition who, not in full consciousness, but while in a dreamy state brings about — just before going through the portal of death — the opportunity that enables him to meet the other person once more.

Such fine, more delicate connections must be recognized for what they are — namely, a source of enrichment for man's inner life, an enrichment that provides the striving human being with a perspective on life between death and new birth. One must become more attentive to finer details in the present life and seek out threads between events in which human beings themselves are involved. Certainly these things must not be understood materialistically. What I have said must not be taken to mean that Stepniak brought about the meeting with Bernstein through some kind of inner force of attraction. That would be a materialistic and completely wrong interpretation. These things must not be regarded in such a crude manner as though they could be proved by natural-scientific means. When dealing with such delicate issues one must not expect to be able to pin them down as if they were something material, but be satisfied if one thing or another becomes clearer through the description of such hidden connections. To become accustomed to observe life in accordance with such delicate relationships is to enrich the life of soul. All relationships dealt with in spiritual science are basically of this delicate nature. That is why the study of spiritual science enriches life.

Thus, when we seek out the kind of connections I described earlier, in which human beings are less directly involved, we enrich and strengthen the shadow-like I, which we bear within us as a seed that will evolve only in our next incarnation, whereas connections in which human beings are directly involved, enrich life by awakening sensitivity and awareness for the region we pass through between death and new birth. It is a strange fact that many a person who is well able to seek out such connections fails to notice them because they are interpreted materialistically. Many important passages in Goethe's works can be understood only if it is recognized that Goethe does not want to be pinned down in a materialistic sense. One has to realize that his style when writing such passages was his way of describing events which, as it were, take their course beneath the surface of life.

It is a mistake to believe that the I can be enriched in a way that leads to enhanced self-knowledge by delving into oneself in the crude manner described, for example, by Waldo Trine. The opposite is true; to become strong one must strive to become free from oneself. That is why those who advise people to seek within themselves instead of leading them away from themselves are basically bad guides to self-knowledge. The aim should rather be to seek within the world those hidden connections between events which must be sought with effort, as they are not the kind one is apt to stumble across.

Just as one encounters pitfalls in regard to the I that lives in us as thought picture, so are there pitfalls in regard to the I that lives in the will. In ordinary life we know it no better than the I we depict in our thinking. That such is the case is shown by the fact that people, for example Theodor Ziehen, to whom I referred recently, simply ignore the will. [ Note 9 ] They cannot discover the will in modern man, and this has a certain justification in the sense I have indicated in public lectures at various places. Franz Brentano ruled out the will altogether and differentiated in the soul the activity of forming mental pictures, the making of judgments, and the feelings fluctuating between love and hate. [ Note 10 ] Consequently he did not deal with the will, not even in his work on psychology. And it is true to say that when one looks at the human being as he is in his present incarnation, one does not find the will as such. According to the modern view the will is what brings man satisfaction or disappointment, pleasure or pain and so on. In other words, all that one finds in place of the will are moods and feelings; the will itself remains hidden.

Let us say you lift your hand; you may be aware of a certain mental picture or a feeling in so doing, but what actually occurs within the body when the hand lifts, of that you are completely unaware. Nowhere can one find the will in man today. But why? Because the will is not in him. The I that lives in the will is not within present-day man. What is effective in him is something that works across from his previous incarnation. What comes from the I of his previous life acts in him now, as will. When I say, I am, I live within the seed of my next incarnation; when I say, I will, I live in what acts across from my previous incarnation.

It is of great importance to become aware of these facts, not least because they explain why it is so easy to be misled in this area. When a person says, I will this or that, and carries out an action, will flows into him from his previous incarnation, whereas his satisfaction or dissatisfaction in life depend upon himself as he is now, and the circumstances of his present incarnation. You will realize what mysterious connections we are dealing with. However, in ordinary life they are felt as if they were jumbled together. People believe the I is a kind of substantial something hidden in their inner being and that they express this something at different times variously as: “I think,” “I was,” “I am,” “I will.” But things are not like that. When I say, “I am,” I rely on a force which I have within me, the way this year's plant has within it the seed that will develop only next year. Thus when I say, “I am,” I am within a force which becomes a human being in a future incarnation. When I say, “I will,” I act out of a force that was in me in a former life on earth.

When this has been grasped one realizes that it is only as far as our life of feeling is concerned that we are — as the philosophers express it — in modus praesens, in the actual present. The only soul force that is fully real in our present life is that of feeling. Our being is interwoven with time in a threefold manner; there exists in us something that works across from the previous incarnation, what we feel now, and something whose effect carries over into the next incarnation. Just as this year's plant grows from the dried seed of the previous year, so does our will, which gradually flows into the world, issue from the I that was the dried seed in the previous incarnation, whereas the seed for the incarnation to come is what we now think of as the I. That is why I could write in the article that appeared in the April 1916 issue of the Bern periodical The Realm: “Our path through the spiritual world can be traversed when we discover what thinking and willing encompass,” because neither thinking nor willing live in us as something belonging exclusively to the present life. [ Note 11 ] Rather, they point through their spiritual connection from a former life on earth across to a future one. Feeling, on the other hand, we experience now directly in its spiritual reality, which is why feeling cannot be developed through inner initiative; we can only guide it, whereas thinking and will can be transformed through concentration and meditation.

Many people will ask: How do I attain a closer relationship with the being we speak of as the Christ? One cannot give a simple formula as answer. The whole of spiritual science deals with issues which, through their very nature, lead to the realm in which Christ lives. As you all know, only once, at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, did Christ walk on the earth as a physical human being. Only then was it possible to know Him as one can know a physical person in physical surroundings. If today one wants to draw near to Christ one must seek Him in the form in which He now lives within the earthly sphere. He must be sought in life's finer, more intimate connections like those of which we have spoken today. Schooling oneself to seek out such delicate connections between remote events enables one to raise oneself into that region of consciousness in which the Christ can be truly experienced. What I have just said can of course also be taken in a crude materialistic sense. Someone could say I am implying that one cannot comprehend the Christ with the ordinary thinking that one applies to physical objects. People who speak like that are really expressing the opinion that things only qualify if they can be depicted in one's mind the way one depicts natural objects. This is the attitude of the materialist; no possibility exists to kindle in him awareness of the spiritual.

Let us for a moment imagine a being so constituted that it could be detected only in dreams. No physical sense could perceive it, nor could it be grasped by ordinary thinking. A person who wanted to gain knowledge of such a being would have to develop the art of dreaming, otherwise the being would not exist for him. It would not be the being's fault if he could not perceive it but his own, due to his inability to do so. People make arbitrary demands concerning the qualities something should possess, and if they are lacking, it is dismissed as unreal. It must be realized that in order to be able to be aware of and perceive things which are not of the same nature as external objects, a different thinking must be developed; in fact, an altogether different inner attitude. The important thing is to recognize that we must adapt ourselves to approach such beings, not the other way round.

One could wish that the words could be found which would enable people to overcome their materialistic outlook and discover the subtler aspect of life. Even the most worthwhile people do not find it easy to enter into the kinds of things I have explained today. Such matters are ridiculed and regarded as the product of fantasy, to which we could reply, Very well, regard it as fantasy, but the point is that the beings and things of which we are talking are so constituted that, unless you have the power of fantasy, you cannot become aware of them. They reveal their true reality only to those who possess fantasy. As I said one wishes the words could be found that make clear how necessary it is, especially in our time, to entertain such subtle thoughts in one's mind. Such concepts may be subtle, but they make the soul strong, so strong that it becomes able to comprehend the true essence of things. The soul discovers that it can penetrate far deeper into the real connections of things than is possible with a thinking that is schooled solely on the mental pictures derived from today's materialistic, natural-scientific outlook.

Today one finds that even those with eminent minds have forgotten how to engender the necessary subtlety. In the last lecture I made it clear that I have the highest regard for Franz Brentano, not least because he did, through his study of Aristotle, develop subtlety of thinking up to a point. As I said he could not accept spiritual science. This was due to many things, but principally it was because he still lacked the necessary mobility of thinking to penetrate to the spiritual aspect of things. One must at least strive to attain it. When people read my Theosophy or the second part of Occult Science, one can often discover from what emerges just why their thinking stumbles. [ Note 12 ] [ Note 13 ] The same can be said in regard to Brentano. I would indeed have found it incomprehensible that a sensitive and astute thinker like Brentano should be unable to find the way, had I not succeeded in discovering an exact instance that reveals just where the difficulty lies. There are others, of course, but let me give you an example.

Brentano said: Whatever the soul consists of, as far as the substance in which it lives is concerned, it must be capable of individualization, for one can divide certain lower creatures, and each part will continue life with the same characteristics the creature had before being divided. You will know that this is possible with certain lower worms; they are unaffected if divided, and live on as two separate worms. From this Brentano concluded that an independent soul must be present in each separate piece. In other words, if a worm is divided in two and both parts continue to live, there must be a soul in each. He further concluded from this that the soul and the body must be one unity. He made a comparison which convinced him that his view was right. He compared the event of the worm with a triangle saying that the triangle divides into two triangles if a line is drawn through it. So he compared two concepts: that of dividing a worm in two and that of dividing a triangle in two, and let one explain the other. He considered the two concepts to be of equal simplicity and able to explain one another. But is it a valid comparison? For Brentano it was an important issue. But does it stand up to scrutiny? It does not. Let us say you have here a triangle; if you draw a line through it in a certain way, it does indeed divide into two triangles. Each half is a triangle just as the worm when divided becomes two worms. However, if you divide the, triangle differently, one of the parts becomes not a triangle but a quadrangle. In other words, only under certain circumstances do you get two triangles.

Diagram 2

An intelligent, astute man makes a comparison, but it is invalid; his thinking is not sufficiently mobile, not sufficiently alive to find a valid one; he stumbles, with serious consequence. Had he not been misled into thinking that dividing a worm in two could be compared to dividing a triangle in two, he would have stayed on the right course. Dividing a worm into two parts has nothing whatever to do with two souls. One and the same group is effective in both parts. One could compare it with someone looking at his image in a mirror. If the mirror is broken in two, he has two images; yet he himself remains whole. Not the person but the mirror has become divided. Likewise the worm soul cannot be divided; it endures as does the person who sees two images of himself in the mirrors. Thus one and the same soul is present in the two parts of the worm; that is the true concept corresponding to the reality. That concept Brentano could not reach; his thinking was not mobile enough and had become deluded by a false comparison. Had he made the comparison correctly, he would have noticed as he divided the triangle that the mere act of dividing does not guarantee that the result will be two triangles. In order to get that result something else must be added, namely, the concept triangle, which is to be applicable to both parts after the division. Without the concept the result may require two different concepts; i.e., that of quadrangle as well as that of triangle. The comparison could have been valid if it had occurred to him that he had to use one and the same concept for both parts, and that it was this concept that guaranteed the division would result in two triangles. It did not occur to him, consequently he did not recognize that one and the same worm soul was effective in both pieces of worm, effective in the sense that it looked into the parts from outside, like someone looking into two mirrors.

The need for greater subtlety of thinking is evident in all spheres of life. We shall not progress unless thinking becomes more alive and mobile so that it will cease to cling to crude externalities. There never have been more obstacles to making thinking more alive. For that very reason it is all the more necessary to promote science of one spirit. Only by working with subtler concepts does thinking become active and mobile. Through their very nature, the concepts of spiritual science have the power to strengthen the human I. What is longed for today may be satisfied by other means. But only spiritual science can give the human being real inner strength by awakening in him lucid concepts that are not so readily available, concepts which, just because they do not depict life's external aspects, make us inwardly strong, which means capable of recognizing the reality, the essence of things.

We shall continue next time to look at important issues from a wider perspective.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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