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Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive

Wisdom of Man, of the Soul, and of the Spirit

Schmidt Number: S-2501

On-line since: 15th December, 2006



Imagination — ‘Imagination’;* Inspiration —
Self-fulfillment; Intuition — Conscience.

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Dr. Steiner could employ the non-German word Imagination in the sense familiar to students of anthroposophy, without much danger of confusion, because it is practically never used in German to mean ‘imagination’ in the common sense (that is Phantasie). In this lecture the two terms are offset, one against the other, and in translation a difficulty arises in our having but the one word in English: there is no synonym for ‘imagination’. The best solution available seems to be as follows: whenever ‘imagination’ is used in the ordinary sense (Phantasie) it will appear in inverted commas, but without these it has the technical meaning. If the reader will bear this purely arbitrary device in mind he should not be startled when he runs across something like “imagination leads to ‘imagination’.”


ESTERDAY we found that in a certain way there is, after all, something like proof of the existence of the spirit that will satisfy our personal consciousness, provided the latter is rightly understood. We maintained that error and the possibility of correcting it are evidence of the existence of the spirit, in so far as our personal consciousness is concerned, and in order to understand this we cited an attribute of the spirit that appears self-evident. That is, its supersensibility, as we call it, for we based our statement on the fact that the root of error must be sought in the super-sensible realm. I said that it would naturally be impossible to present all the arguments necessary to prove such a matter in full detail, but that it might be extremely interesting to show how the possibility of error appears only in that realm to which man raises himself by casting off the coercion of the outer physical world through all that he can learn through perception alone.

One fact suffices to indicate the method by which it could be shown that at bottom it is only through his own nature and being that man is exposed to the temptation to fall into error through a connection with the outer world. It has been repeatedly pointed out that modern science really gathers from all sides certain proofs of the conclusions arrived at by spiritual science, but the proponents of external science fail to interpret them with sufficient open-mindedness.

We will cite one of these facts, established by the naturalist, Huber, through the observation of caterpillars spinning a cocoon. There is a caterpillar that builds its web in successive phases or stages, so that one can describe the process as spinning in the first stage, second stage, and so forth, up to seven. Now, Huber took a caterpillar working on the third stage and set it on another web of which six stages were finished, and a strange thing happened. At first the caterpillar felt shocked, as one might interpret its behavior, but then it continued to spin, not the seventh stage, but the fourth, fifth, etc. It obeyed a sure inner life, following only its own dictates. When Huber took one of the caterpillars away from its own cocoon and put it in another that had also arrived at the third stage, it continued the work in the regular way. It was not reacting to an outer impression at all. It did not say to itself, “Now I must spin the fourth stage.” It was following an inner urge, and this it did even when the outer impression ema