[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib



The Path of Spiritual Knowledge

Pythic, Prophetic and Spiritual-Scientific Clairvoyance (edited)

Schmidt Number: S-2572

On-line since: 27th October, 2012

Pythic, Prophetic and Spiritual-Scientific Clairvoyance

Rudolf Steiner Archive Document

Lectures Section

The following lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach on the 4th of January, 1915. It is a previously unpublished, typewritten transcription of a lecture that is included in Bn/GA 275. It is lecture 8 of 8 in the series entitled, Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom, published in German as, Kunst im Lichte der Mysterienweisheit. It is also known as, Working with Sculptural Architecture - 2.

A Lecture given by
Rudolf Steiner
Dornach, January 4, 1915
Bn/GA 275

The following lecture was given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach on the 4th of January, 1915. It is a previously unpublished, typewritten transcription of a lecture that is included in Bn/GA 275.

It is lecture 8 of 8 in the series entitled, Art in the Light of Mystery Wisdom, published in German as, Kunst im Lichte der Mysterienweisheit. It is also known as, Working with Sculptural Architecture — 2.

This lecture was translated from shorthand reports, unrevised by the lecturer, by an unknown translator. And, it was transcribed by an unknown typist! This version has been edited and amended by Martha Keltz. It is presented here with the kind permission of the Rudolf Steiner Nachlassverwaltung, Dornach, Switzerland.

This e.Text edition is provided through the wonderful work of:
Various e.Text Transcribers
Book Cover Image

Search for related titles available for purchase at Amazon.com!


Be sure to compare this version with these other versions of this Lecture,


Donated by the Los Angeles Steiner Library, this lecture has been made available to everyone.

The Path of Spiritual Knowledge

Pythic, Prophetic and Spiritual-Scientific

Schmidt #3002

4th January, 1915

Bn/GA 275

To the impulses necessary for the transformation of the present age belongs an ever wider and more comprehensive understanding of the processes of the human soul in those regions which open to Imaginative, Inspired and Intuitive observation. For what first makes our world into a whole, raising us above Maya and leading us into true reality, lies within those spheres which open to this observation. It must be emphasized again and again that what we are striving towards as a new spiritual knowledge cannot consist in any warming-up of the results of an earlier clairvoyance. It is true that many people aspire to such a warming-up of an earlier clairvoyance, but the time for this clairvoyance is past, and only atavistic echoes of it can appear in certain individuals. However, the stages of human existence that we must surmount do not disclose themselves through a revival of old clairvoyance, and thus we will endeavor to consider once again that which must lie at the basis of the new clairvoyance. We have often spoken of the principle of this, and today we shall try to do this again, but from another side.

Let us start once more from something we all know, from the fact that, during daytime waking consciousness, man lives with his ego and astral body in his physical and etheric body. During the last few days I have emphasized that this waking state of man, from waking until falling asleep, is not a fully-awake condition, because there is still something asleep in man. What we experience as our will is really only partially awake. Our thoughts are awake from waking until falling asleep, but the will is something which we exercise quite dreamily. On this account much of the pondering on the freedom of the will, and on freedom in general, is in vain, because people have not noticed that what they know of the will in waking daily life is really only a dream or a tale of will impulses. When they will, and represent something to themselves concerning it, they are of course awake. But how the will arises and passes over into action, of this man can only dream in daily waking life.

If you lift a piece of chalk and then think about this action, then you have of course an idea of it in your mind. But without clairvoyance, how the ego and astral body flow into the hand — how the will spreads out there — you can know nothing more of this in ordinary day consciousness than you know of a dream while you are dreaming. Man only dreams of real willing during ordinary waking life, and in most things we do not even dream, we sleep. You can clearly conceive of how you put a morsel of food on a fork; you can also conceive to a certain extent of how you bite this morsel; but how you swallow the morsel, this you do not even dream. For the most part you are quite unconscious of it, just as you are unconscious of your thoughts when you are asleep. A great part of the activity of will while man is awake is similarly performed in a half-sleeping condition.

For instance, if we were not asleep as regards our powers of desire and the feeling impulses connected with them, we would develop an extraordinary activity. We would follow the actions we perform right into the body; everything we fulfilled as will impulse we would follow inwardly — into our blood, and into all the blood vessels. This means that if you could follow the lifting of a piece of chalk with reference to the will impulse, you would be able to follow what takes place in your hand, right into all the blood vessels. You would see from within the activity of the blood and the feelings attached to it, for example, the gravity of the particles of chalk, and things of that nature, and would thereby become aware that you were following your nerve-paths and the etheric fluidity found therein. You would inwardly experience yourself, along with the activity of blood and nerves. This would be an inner enjoyment of your own blood and nerve activity. But during our life on earth this inner enjoyment of our own blood and nerve activity must be withheld from us, otherwise we would go through life in such a way that in everything we did we would experience this inner self enjoyment. But man, as he has become, may not have this enjoyment, and the secret of why he may not we again find expressed in a part of the Bible towards which we should always feel the greatest reverence.

After those things had taken place which are expressed in the Paradise-Myth, man was permitted to eat of the Tree of Knowledge but not of the Tree of Life. Eating of the Tree of Life would mean this inner gratification, and this must not happen to man. I cannot develop this motif further here today because it would us lead too far, but through your own meditation on the motif here touched upon you will be able to make further discoveries for yourselves. However, starting from this point, there is something else you can keep in mind which can be of essential importance for you: we are unable to eat of the Tree of Life, i.e., enjoy within our inner being our own blood and nerve activity — we cannot do this — yet something happens, especially when observing the world through our senses and our intellect, which is closely connected with such an inner enjoyment. In the perception of any object in the outer world, and in pondering over any object in the outer world, we follow the senses, that is, when we follow the eyes, nose, ears and taste nerves, we follow the path of the blood vessels. And when we think, we follow the path of the nerves. But we cannot perceive what else might have been perceived along the path of the blood and the nerves. What we might have perceived in the blood is reflected through the senses; it is as it were thrown back, and from this, sense impressions arise. And that which is conducted along the path of the nerves is also reflected and brought to where the nerve paths reach their end, and is then reflected as our thoughts.

Just suppose for once that a man appeared who was in a position not merely to follow along the path of his blood under the influence of the outer world, and then to receive reflection of what his blood does; not merely to follow his nerves, and receive reflected back what his nerves do, but to experience inwardly what is denied us in regard to the blood and sense nerves, to experience inwardly what leads to the eye, to experience inwardly the blood as it tends towards the nerves and the eyes. This he would enjoy inwardly, at least in regard to those parts of the blood and nerves. It was in this way that those forms arose that belong to the old clairvoyance. For what is reflected back for us are but images, finely filtrated images, as it were, of what is contained in the blood and nerves. Cosmic mysteries are contained in our blood and nerves, but such cosmic mysteries as are already exhausted, because we have developed beyond them. We only learn to know ourselves when we learn to know the Imaginations which are revealed to us when we experience ourselves within the blood extending to the senses; and we only learn to know those Inspirations destined to up-build us when we live within the nerves extending to our senses.

A whole inner world is thus built up. This inner world can consist of a sum of Imaginations, whereas in perceiving the outer physical world in a way fitted to our earth evolution we perceive reflections and reflected images of what takes place in blood and nerves. We are unable, when deeply sunk in the inner enjoyment of ourselves, to get beyond the senses, but only reach the point where the blood streams enter the senses. Man then experiences the Imaginative world so that he seems as it were to swim in the blood as a fish in water. But this Imaginative world is in truth no outer world, but a world which lives in our blood. When a man lives in the nerves which extend to the senses, he experiences an Inspired world, a world of sphere-tones, and a world of inward pictures. This is also cosmic, but it is nothing new, it is merely something which has completed its task in that it has streamed into our nerve and blood system.

The clairvoyance which thus arises, and which does not lead man beyond himself, but leads him rather deeper into himself, is a self-enjoyment, truly a real self-enjoyment. This is why in a certain sense it produces a higher bliss in people when they become clairvoyant in this way, that is, when they experience a new world. This way of becoming clairvoyant is on the whole a falling back to an earlier stage of evolution. For what I have just described, the life within ones own sense organs and blood, did not exist at that time in the form it does now, although the nervous system was already foreshadowed.

This kind of perception was the normal kind of perception on the Old Moon, and in what existed at that time in the tendencies toward the formation of nerves, a man was inwardly aware of himself. Blood was not yet developed within him, it was more something which came to him from outside like a warm breath, as the sun's rays come to us. Therefore what now on earth is a conscious perception of the inner blood system was on the Moon the normal perception of the outer world.

If therefore the nerve is here the boundary between the human inner and outer world, then what is now nerve was already foreshadowed on the Moon. While following the nerves a man was able to perceive what revealed itself to him as an inner, Imaginative world, which was a part of himself. He perceived how he himself is included in the cosmos. He also was aware Imaginatively of what came to him as a breath from outside… not from within. This perception has now fallen from him, what was outside him on the old Moon has become inward, as the circulation of the blood in earthly evolution. The old perception is therefore a going-back to the Old Moon evolution.

It is well to know of such things, because again and again things arise that are of this kind of clairvoyance. What appears clairvoyantly in this way has no need of being developed by those difficult paths of meditation and concentration described in How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. This clairvoyance, which arises through learning to live inwardly in ones nerves and blood — to feel satisfaction in oneself — is in general but a finer development of the organic life, a refinement of what a man experiences when he eats and drinks. When all is said such clairvoyance is not the task set before man today, but is rather something that arises as a hothouse plant through our bringing to a more refined existence that self-enjoyment afforded us by eating, drinking and similar things. Just as an inner after-effect arises in an epicure when he has drunk Rhinewine or Mosel, which of course rises only to an Imagination of taste but does not work formatively, so in many people a refined inner enjoyment arises, and this is their clairvoyance.

A great deal of clairvoyance is nothing else but a refined, rarified, hothouse-like after-enjoyment of life. Attention must frequently be drawn to these things in our day. For I may tell you that the last time the secrets concerning these things were still known, when people still spoke of them in literature, was really the first half of the 19th century. Then came the second half of the 19th century, with its so highly-rated discoveries — highly-rated from their point of view — when all understanding for these things and for the finer connections of existence was lost. It may be added parenthetically that people have not yet lost the enjoyment experienced under the influence of the coarser, let us say more selfish enjoyment; they can still live with the after-pleasure of eating and drinking, in fact these have even been developed to a certain high degree in this materialistic age.

But in such things, man lives in a cyclic, rhythmic movement. And the materialistic age, because it has extinguished what was formerly a general feeling — the passing of self-enjoyment into the senses, nerves, and blood-circulation — can therefore give itself up ever more thoroughly to the impressions of eating and drinking. We can easily observe the complete “volt face” and transformation which has taken place in this connection within a relatively short time. We have but to look at a hotel menu card from the 70's, and compare it with one of today, and we see what strides life has made in refined enjoyment, in the self-gratification of our own bodies. But such things also progress in cycles, for everything can only be reached to a certain degree, and just as a pendulum can only rise to a certain point and must then return, so mere physical enjoyment must recede when it has reached a certain point. It will then come to pass that when the keenest epicures, those who have the greatest longing for enjoyment, stand before the most daintily prepared repast, they will not yearn for it, but will say: “Ah! I cannot. All that is finished for me.” This also will come in time, for it is a necessity of evolution. Everything passes in cycles.

The other side of life is that which man experiences during sleep. His life of thought is asleep, and naturally, entirely different connections make their appearance. I have already said that in the first half of the 19th century people still had insight into these things. The clairvoyance which arises through following ones own blood and nerve paths was still called, in accord with certain memories, the Pythic clairvoyance, because it was in fact related to what lay at the root of the pythic clairvoyance of antiquity.

Other connections are present during the life of sleep. Man with his ego and astral body is then outside the physical and etheric body. Ideas from ordinary life are then suppressed and weakened, but man lives continually from falling asleep till waking in a state of longing for his physical body. Sleeping consists essentially in this, that man, from the moment he begins to sleep, develops longings for his physical body. These longings increase until a climax is reached when he is forced back more and more towards his physical body. The longing for ones physical body becomes ever greater and greater in the state of sleep. And because longing fills the ego and astral body like a cloud, the life of thought is dimmed. Perceptions become dim because desire for the physical body pervades the ego and astral body like a cloud. Just as we cannot see the trees in a wood if mist spreads over everything, neither can we ask variance of our inward life of perception if the mist of our desire spreads over it.

But it may happen that this life of desire becomes so strong during sleep that man not merely develops this desire when outside his physical and etheric body, but he becomes greedy to such an extent that he partially seizes on this inner part of his physical and etheric body so that he reaches with his desire to the furthest limits of his blood and nerve paths, he sinks through as it were from outside into the extremities of the senses of circulation, and into the ultimate ends of the nerve paths.

In ancient times, when the Gods still helped man with such experiences, they were entirely regular and good. The ancient Hebrew Prophets, for example, who did such great things for their people, performed what they did and received their prophetic gifts because they applied such infinite love to the blood and nerve structure of their people, and even in the sleeping state they did not entirely absent themselves from what lived physically in this people. These ancient Hebrew prophets were seized by such longing, filled with such love, that they remained united even in sleep with the blood of the people to whom they belonged. It was because of this that they received their prophetic gifts.

This is the physiological origin of these gifts, and most beautiful and splendid results came from what has just been told you. The prophets of different peoples were of such significance to these peoples just because, while outside the physical body, they still lived with this physical body in the way described.

As explained, a certain consciousness of this still existed up to the first half of the 19th century in the life of mankind. As the first clairvoyance described here was called Pythic clairvoyance, so the clairvoyance of which I have just spoken, in which a man dives down into the blood and nerve paths of the physical body with what otherwise lives outside the physical and etheric body during sleep, was called Prophetic clairvoyance.

If you pursue the literature of the first half of the 19th Century — even if it cannot be described with the exactitude and precision of modern spiritual science — you still find descriptions of pythic and prophetic clairvoyance. The distinction between them is not recognized today, because people can no longer understand what they read of pythic and prophetic clairvoyance.

Neither kind of clairvoyance is that which is really capable of advancing mankind at the present time. These are the kinds of clairvoyance that were valid for ancient times. The modern clairvoyance, which must develop more and more towards the future, can come neither by enjoying what penetrates our body from within during waking conditions, nor by diving down into this body from outside in a state of sleep, but from love — not for ourselves, but for that portion of mankind to which our body belongs. The earlier forms are stages of development which have been outgrown.

Modern clairvoyance must develop as a third kind of clairvoyance that does not involve desire for laying hold of the physical body from without, nor as enjoyment of the physical body from within.

That which lives within and is capable of penetrating our body, enjoying it inwardly, and that  which can seize the body from without, must be detached from the body if modern clairvoyance is to arise. Neither must enter into any further connection with the body other than in the [normal] incarnation between birth and death, so that blood and nerves can be enjoyed neither from within nor from without; but each must remain connected with the body in pure renunciation of such self-enjoyment and such self-love. A connection with the body must nevertheless remain, for otherwise, death would take place. Man must remain united with the body which belongs to him during his physical incarnation on earth, remain united with it through those members which in a sense stand far, or at least relatively far, from the activity of blood and nerve. A release from blood and nerve activity must be attained.

When man no longer finds inward enjoyment along the paths which lead to his senses, or penetrates his own being from outside as far as to the senses, but when he can enter into such union with himself both from within and from without so as to really lay hold in a living way of that which in physical existence is the symbol of death, and can unite himself with that which gives the expectancy of physical death, the condition we are considering is then reached. For considered physiologically, we really die because we are capable of developing a bony system — a skeleton. When we are capable of comprehending our bones, which through a wonderful intuition people recognize as the symbol of death — the bony skeleton — and which is so far removed from the blood and nervous systems, we then attain to something which is higher than pythic and prophetic clairvoyance, we come to what we can call the Clairvoyance of Spiritual Science.

In this spiritual scientific clairvoyance, we no longer grasp only a part of human nature, we grasp the whole man. And fundamentally, it is all one whether we grasp it from within or from without, because this kind of clairvoyance can no longer be an “enjoyment,” it is no longer a refined pleasure, but a going forth into the divinely spiritual forces of the All. It is a becoming-one with the cosmos, an experience no longer of man and of what is secreted in man, but an experience that is a living within the deeds of the Beings of the higher Hierarchies, a real raising of oneself above self-enjoyment and self-love. Just as our thoughts are members of our souls, so man must become, as it were, a thought, a member of the higher Hierarchies. To allow oneself to be thought, pictured, perceived by the higher hierarchies, this is the principle of the clairvoyance of spiritual science. It is being taken up, not taking up.

I hope that what I am now saying may very definitely become the subject of your further meditations, for precisely those things that I have explained today are capable of stimulating very much in all of you, and this can serve toward an ever deeper and more comprehensive penetration to the real impulses of our spiritual scientific stream. How much earnestness is necessary for this penetration into our spiritual scientific stream has been spoken of often in these past days. Something might be realized of what is — I do not say willed, but what must be willed — within this spiritual stream, if as many as possible would resolve to ponder in a living way this threefold form of knowledge of higher worlds, so that clearer and ever clearer ideas might arise concerning what we all desire at bottom, and which is so easily confused with what is far easier and more comfortable to acquire.

We have in fact worked from cycle to cycle of lectures for no other purpose than to bring together, ever more and more, ideas and concepts. It is necessary to study these ideas and concepts, and in this way we prepare in ourselves those impulses of soul which lead to real spiritual scientific clairvoyance. Often because one has sipped a little here or there of what is imparted within our spiritual scientific stream, and thereby given some part of our human nature to pythic or prophetic clairvoyance — because of this one may perhaps become proud and haughty. When this is the case opinions arise as are often heard when one or another says: I need not study every detail, I do not require what is said in this cycle. What I hear I already know, and so on. The principle of living in a few Imaginations which might be called blood and nerve Imaginations, still exists in many. Many think they possess something quite special if they have a few blood and nerve Imaginations. But this is not what leads us to selfless labor for human evolution; such a tarrying in blood and nerve imaginations leads only to a heightening of self-enjoyment, to a refined egoism. In this event, it may be that a more refined egoism is cultivated through the pursuit of spiritual science than exists even in the outside world.

Naturally, in referring to such things, one never speaks of these matters to those who are present, and never of the members of the anthroposophical society who are present. Yet it may be mentioned that societies exist in which people are to be found who, according to the principles of these societies, bring themselves to co-operate, not with true selflessness, but to undertake preferably that which kindles the blood or nerve Imaginations. They then think they can be excused from anything else. They attain to such an atavistic clairvoyance — or perhaps they do not attain to it, but merely to the feelings which are held to be an accompaniment of the phenomenon of such Imaginative clairvoyance. These feelings are not a conquest of egoism, but only a higher blossoming of it. One finds within such societies — the anthroposophical society being excepted from politeness — that although their duty is to develop love and esteem, harmony and compassion, at the profoundest depths of their souls one finds disharmony, quarrelsomeness, mutual calumniation, etc, growing more and more from member to member. I venture to express myself thus, because, as I have said, I always exclude the members of the anthroposophical. society.

We then see how, that where an especially strong light should arise, deep shadows are also cast. It is not so much as if I wished to place blame on such things, or believed they could be rooted out at once, between today and tomorrow. That is impossible because they arise naturally. However, each one can at least work on himself. And it is not good if the consciousness is not at least directed to such matters.

One can thoroughly understand that just because a certain stress must be worked out within such societies, the shadow-sides also make themselves felt, and that what flourishes outside in life often flourishes all the more vigorously within such societies. Nevertheless a certain bitter feeling is evoked when this appears in societies that should naturally (otherwise the society would have no meaning) develop a certain brotherliness and unity, and when, with this closer contact, certain qualities that exist but fleetingly outside are developed with all the greater intensity. Since the Anthroposophical Society — being present — is excepted, it is all the more possible for us to think over these things objectively, as non-participators, so that we can learn to know them more intimately. And if we find such things anywhere in the world, we do not regard them as anything other than what they are. We believe — if anyone thinks he understands anthroposophy with especial depth, yet reveals certain qualities which not only show themselves in him as they do in the world, but more intensely — that these things are not incomprehensible, but realize that they are comprehensible, yet as matters we must fight. We can frequently only fight them when we have really understood them.

This is also something which shows us how life is connected with the spiritual scientific view, and can only reach its goal when it is understood as acceptance of life, as an art of life; when it is carried into all life. How beautiful it would be if each single relationship of life, let us now say of the Anthroposophical Society, showed itself to be in such mutual harmony as is attempted in the forms of our building, where the separate forms pass over into each other, and all are in harmony one with another; if it could be in life as it is in the building, if the whole life of our society could be as we would have it through the beautiful co-operation of those who are active on the building; so that this labor which is already something harmonious and noble, might be a copy of that which finds expression in the building itself.

Thus the inner meaning of the life-principle of our building, and the inner meaning of the co-operation of the souls should ... no, would rather not say that. Thus the inner meaning of the co-operation in the forms of our building should find a path outwards into each separate relationship of the life of our Society — should in its inward construction stand before us as an ideal. I should like to assure you that I did not make a slip when I omitted a sentence just now. I left it out with full intention, and many a time that also is said which one did not say.

Summing up, what I have put before you during the last few days is a theme varying in the most diverse manner, and what I would fain lay on your hearts especially is this: that you not only place the thoughts and ideas of spiritual science, the results of spiritual investigation, before your intellect, before your reason, but that you receive that which lives in spiritual science into your hearts. For the salvation of the future progress of mankind really depends upon this. I say this without presumption, and anyone who attempts to study but a little the impulses of our evolution and the signs of our time can recognize this for himself.

With this the series of lectures, what I have permitted myself to give you at this turning point of the year is concluded.




Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]