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

Highlight Words

Metamorphoses of the Soul
Paths of Experience Vol. 2

Schmidt Number: S-2219

On-line since: 31st January, 2008

Lecture 7

Error and Mental Disorder

Berlin, 28th April 1910

The cycle of lectures which I was permitted to hold this winter before you, had the task of illuminating from the point of view of spiritual science as characterised in the first lecture here, the most various manifestations of human soul-life and of life in a wider context. Today, let us observe an area of human life which can lead to misery, suffering and perhaps also to the loss of hope. To make up for this, in the next lecture we will touch on a field entitled “Human Conscience”, which will lead us back to the heights where human dignity and value, the power of human self-consciousness is revealed most. And then, this year's cycle will be concluded with a reflection on “The Mission of Art”, which will try to show the thoroughly healthy side of what might appear to us today from its most terrible, dark aspect of life.

When error and mental disorder are spoken of, images of deepest human suffering arise in every person's soul, and images, too, of deepest human sympathy. And everything which thereby arises in the soul can also be a challenge to illuminate a little this chasm in the human soul with the light which we hope to have gained in these lectures. Particularly the person who increasingly accustoms himself to proceed in the way of thinking which has passed before our soul here must have the hope that the spiritual-scientific method of observation can illuminate in certain respects this sad chapter of human life. For anyone with some knowledge of the literature, and I am now referring less to the rapidly expanding non-specialist literature than to the specialist one, will be able to note from the point of view of spiritual science that it reaches an extraordinarily long way in some respects and offers a wealth of material for the assessment of the relevant facts. But on the other hand in no literature does it become so clear how little the different theories, views and modes of thinking in our time are appropriate to providing a framework for the experiences and scientific observations which have been collected. In this field in particular it can be seen clearly how spiritual science is in harmony with true and genuine science, with everything which we come up against as scientific facts, results and experiences. But it can also be seen how at each stage it finds a contradiction between these experiences and the way that they are interpreted from the current scientific point of view. As in other fields, we will again only be able to deal with the subject in outline, but perhaps it will provide the stimulus to gain a relevant understanding which can also flow into our practical life, so that we are increasingly capable of orientating ourselves in respect of the sad condition which we are about to touch upon.

In using the words “error” and “mental disorder” we will be aware that the one is fundamentally different from the other. Nevertheless, the exact observer of a soul-life which can be described truly as mentally disordered will find expressions and appearances which only seem to be different in degree from error committed in some respect in a life which is otherwise regarded as normal. But such observations are liable to misinterpretation in so far as certain directions of thought have the tendency to blur the individual divisions and to state that in fact no firm line exists between a healthy normal soul-life and one which can be described with the words “mental disorder”.

Such statements contain a certain danger which must be emphasised when the occasion occurs. And the danger lies not in the fact that the statement is wrong, but that it is correct. This may sound paradoxical, but nevertheless it is true, that wrong statements are sometimes less dangerous than correct ones which can be interpreted and put into practice in a one-sided way because the danger inherent in their correctness is not noticed. It is often thought to be sufficient that if something can be proved in a certain context it is correct; but it should be realised that every matter which is correct also has its reverse aspect and that any truth which we discover is true only in respect of certain facts and experiences. The danger arises in the moment that it is extrapolated to cover other areas, when it is carried too far and becomes dogmatic belief. That is the reason why in general not much is achieved if we know that a truth exists; the important thing is that in true knowledge we should know the limits within which that knowledge is valid.

We can certainly observe phenomena in normal healthy soul-life which, if they go beyond a certain point, are also pathological symptoms. The full weight of this statement will be noticed only by someone who is properly accustomed to observe life on a more intimate level. Who would deny the pathological aspect which can be included under the heading of “mental disorder” when someone is incapable of linking one comprehended concept with a second one at the right moment, so that he applies the first one in a new and completely inappropriate situation and acts on the basis of an idea which was correct for an earlier situation but not for a later one. Who would deny that this borders on the pathological? If it happens beyond a certain degree it is directly a symptom for mental disorder. But on the other hand, who would deny that there are people who are unable to advance in their work because of their long-windedness, their laboriousness. Here there is a situation in normal soul-life — the impossibility of progressing from an idea — where the point is approached at which it is necessary to stop speaking of error and start speaking of pathological mental disorder.

Let us assume, for example, that someone is prone to the error — and this really does happen — that when someone in the vicinity clears their throat this does not sound to him like a normal cough but gives him the illusion that people are saying unkind things about him. If that person then adjusts his life and actions in response to this illusion he will be considered as someone who is mentally disordered. And yet there is a thin line between this and occurrences in normal life where it happens that someone has overheard something and interprets the meaning in such a way that he thinks he hears something completely different to what was actually said. One meets cases where someone says: “Some person or other said this or that about me” and no trace can be found that the other person actually said that. It is not very easy to determine where the normal soul-life turns from its healthy course into disorder of the soul.

This may seem paradoxical, and it may provoke some reflection in this field, if we imagine that someone in an avenue of trees has the quite normal perception of seeing the trees nearby at their proper distance whilst those further away appear to move closer together and, deciding to tie ropes between the trees, he thereupon makes the lengths of rope shorter the further the trees are away. There we have an example of a person drawing the wrong conclusions from a perfectly healthy observation. But healthy observation only comes about because there is illusion. The illusion is also an observation. The unhealthy, harmful aspect of illusion only comes about when it is considered to be the same reality as a table standing before one. Only when the observations cannot be interpreted in the correct way can it be described as pathological. Now we can compare the case that someone has a hallucination and considers it to be reality in the normal physical sense with the paradox that someone was going to tie the trees of an avenue together with pieces of rope which became shorter and shorter. Logically, in principle, there would be no difference between the two things. Nevertheless, how easily can an illusion lead us to make a wrong judgment and how rarely would we make a similar wrong judgment in observing an avenue! Some people might consider all this silly. But all the same it is necessary to take such particulars into account, for otherwise one can quickly become side-tracked and does not see how easily normal soul-life can become disordered.

Now we can give further examples of still more striking cases concerning people whose soul-life is considered healthy and clear-sighted to the highest degree. I want to mention a German philosopher who is currently considered among the foremost in his field by those who work in it. The philosopher told of his following experience:

He was once in conversation with a person and this conversation led them to talk about a scholar known to both of them. At the moment when the conversation turned to the scholar, the philosopher was reminded of an illustrated book on Paris and immediately following that of a photograph album of Rome. Meanwhile the conversation continued about the scholar. The philosopher reflected how it was possible that during the conversation the image of first the illustrated book on Paris and then the photograph album of Rome could appear. And, indeed, he managed to establish the correct connections. For the scholar about whom they were talking had a noteworthy goatee. This goatee immediately called forth in the subconscious of the philosopher the image of Napoleon III, who also had a goatee; and this idea of Napoleon III which had pushed its way into his consciousness led via France to the illustrated work about Paris. And now the image of another man appeared before him who also had a Van Dyke beard, the image of Victor Emanuel of Italy; and this image led via Italy to the photograph album of Rome. There we have an arbitrary, haphazard sequence of ideas which unfolds whilst something completely different is happening in the fully conscious soul-life. Let us assume, now, that a person reached the point where the illustrated work about Paris arose in him and he then could no longer keep hold of the thread of the conversation, and immediately afterwards he had the subsequent idea of the photograph album of Rome; he would be subject to a haphazard life of ideas; he would be unable to hold an orderly conversation with anyone but would be enmeshed in a pathological soul-life which would lead him without rhyme or reason from one set of ideas to the next.

But our philosopher proceeds further and contrasts this with another case by which he hopes to recognise how these things are related. Once he went to the tax office to pay his taxes. He had to pay 75 marks. And since, in spite of his philosophy, he was an orderly man, he had entered these 75 marks in his expenditure book and had then proceeded with his other work. Later he wanted to remember the amount of tax which he had paid. He could not remember. He thought; and, being a philosopher, went to work systematically. He tried to recall the amount by the association of ideas. He concentrated on his walk to the tax office and he recalled the picture of the four gold twenty mark pieces which he had in his purse and, further, the image of the five marks which had then been given to him as change. He recalled these two images and was now able to discover by a simple subtraction that he had paid 75 marks tax.

Here we have two completely different cases. In the first the soul-life acts of its own accord, as it were, without any kind of control by the conscious sequence of ideas; it produces the image of the illustrated work about Paris and the image of the photograph album of Rome. In the second case we see how the soul acts quite systematically, choosing every step it takes. There really is a considerable difference between the two soul processes. But the philosopher fails to draw attention to something which the spiritual researcher would immediately notice. For the essential thing in the first case is that his attention is fixed on the other person, that the whole of his conscious soul-life is taken up with holding the conversation with the other person and that the haphazard images surface as if on a different level of consciousness, left to themselves. In the second case, the philosopher turns the whole of his attention to determining the sequence of ideas. This explains why the images occur haphazardly in the first case, whilst in the second they are under the control of the conscious soul-life.

But why are there images in the first place? The philosopher fails to answer that. Those who observe life, who know similar cases and are in a position to take into account the nature of the philosopher concerned (I happen to know not only the case but also the man) will be able to set up the following hypothesis. The philosopher was talking of a man who did not particularly interest him. A certain effort was necessary to keep up the concentration on the conversation. Because of this he had a certain amount of soul-life to spare which was not engaged in the conversation and which turned inwards. But he did not have the strength to control the resultant sequence of images so that they occurred haphazardly because he had to give his attention to the uninteresting conversation. This gives an indication how such images occur in the background of conscious soul-life as shadows. Numerous other examples could be given. I chose this example because it is very characteristic and much can be learnt from it.

Now the question may be asked: does such an event not prompt us to investigate human soul-life more deeply? And also: how can such a split in the soul-life come about in the first place? And here we come to the realm where experience of that unhappy subject we are dealing with today can be fitted quite naturally into what we have dealt with so often this winter. The philosopher mentioned in the example is faced with a riddle when recounting his experiences. He does not like to continue once he has told the facts because our external science stops short of knowledge about the essence of things and the human being, however much it may be descriptive.

Our observation of the essential nature of the human being has demonstrated that man must be looked at in more ways than is done by external science, that we have to distinguish an outer and an inner human being. We have shown in numerous areas that sleep has to be regarded differently from the way it is understood in ordinary science. We have shown how what remains in bed of the sleeping human being is only the outer man and that ordinary consciousness cannot follow the invisible higher true inner human being who leaves the outer human being in sleep. Ordinary consciousness just does not see that something leaves the human being which is just as real as that part which remains in bed, that the inner human being is given over to his real home, the spiritual world, between going to sleep and waking up. And it also fails to recognise that he extracts from there what he needs between waking up and going to sleep in order to sustain the ordinary soul-life. That is why we have to regard separately and clearly differentiate the outer human being, who is present with his laws also in sleep, and the inner human being, who is only present in the outer human being in the waking states, but separates himself in sleep. As long as this distinction is not made we will not be able to understand the most important events in human life. Those, who for reasons of convenience see everything as a unity and without a second thought want to establish monism everywhere, will accuse us of being dualists because we divide the human being into two members — an inner and an outer one. But such people should also admit the horrible dualism of the chemist splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. It is not possible to be a monist in the higher sense if one does not recognise that the monon is something which lies much deeper. But those who see unity only in the most immediate things hinder themselves from being able to observe the manifold nature of life, from recognising those things which alone can explain life.

Now it was also shown that we have to distinguish individual members within the outer and the inner human being. In the outer human being we first distinguished the physical body which we can see and feel. Then there is another member which we call the ether body, which fashions and builds up the physical body. Physical body and ether body remain in bed during sleep. Then the parts which withdraw from the physical and ether bodies during sleep into the spiritual world were described in these lectures as the astral human body which, in turn, encloses the bearer of the ego. But we made still more subtle distinctions. In the astral body we distinguished three soul members, and a careful differentiation of these three members permitted an explanation of many occurrences in life.

We called the lowest soul member the sentient soul, the second member we noted as the intellectual or mind soul and the third one as the consciousness soul. Therefore, when we refer to the inner human being, we do not speak of a chaotic, undifferentiated intermingling of all kinds of will impulses, feelings, concepts and ideas, but we can carefully differentiate in the soul between these three members. Now in ordinary human life there is a certain interrelationship between the outer and the inner human being. The interrelationship can be characterised as follows: the sentient soul, our lowest soul member which contains our desires and passions to which we are slavishly subject if the higher soul members are little developed, is interrelated with the sentient body; this is similar to the sentient soul, but in the human being it is considered as belonging to the outer human being. The astral body has to be described separately from the sentient body here. For the three individual soul members are only modifications of the astral body, not only fashioned but also separated from it. In the waking state the sentient soul is in constant exchange with the sentient body. Similarly, the intellectual or mind soul is in constant interchange with the ether body, and the consciousness soul is in a certain sense intimately connected with the physical body. That is why we are dependent on waking consciousness as far as everything which is to enter the consciousness soul is concerned. The things transmitted by the physical body, the senses, the activity of the human brain, initially enter the consciousness soul.

Thus we have two three-membered sections of the human being which correspond to one another: the sentient soul and the sentient body, the intellectual or mind soul and the ether body, the consciousness soul and the physical body. This correspondence can help us to unravel the threads leading from the inner to the outer human being which can show us how man's normal soul-life may be disturbed if they fail to function in their normal way. Why does this happen?

The sentient soul is dependent on the effects of the sentient body, and when there is an incorrect correspondence between the sentient soul and the sentient body the healthy soul-life of the sentient soul is interrupted. A similar thing occurs when the intellectual soul cannot regulate the ether body in the correct way to make it a proper instrument for the intellectual soul. And the consciousness soul, too, will appear abnormal when the physical body is a hindrance and obstacle for the normal expression of the consciousness soul. If we divide the human being systematically in this way, an order of correspondence can be seen which is essential for a healthy soul-life. And it can also be understood that all sorts of interruptions can occur in the interrelationship between the sentient soul and the sentient body, the intellectual soul and the ether body, the consciousness soul and the physical body. And only the person who can recognise the threads running through this intricate organism and the irregularities which can arise will be able to recognise the disorder which can occur in the soul. Disorder only occurs when there is disharmony between the inner and the outer human being. Let us take the case of the philosopher once more.

The soul-life which takes place under the full control of the consciousness shows what is present in the consciousness soul on the one hand and in the intellectual soul on the other. But in the sentient soul the hardly noticed images follow one another: the illustrated work about Paris, the photograph album of Rome. This occurs because the philosopher brings about a split between his sentient soul and sentient body by diverting his attention whilst still relating to the person standing in front of him. The images of the illustrated work on Paris and the Rome photograph album must be sought in the sentient body; the uncontrolled process which was described takes place there. In the consciousness soul the conversation between the two people occurs; and the necessity of being forced to prevent attention from wandering from the conversation in this case causes a split between the sentient body and the sentient soul.

These are only passing states. For the least disturbance of our soul-life occurs when the sentient body alone becomes independent. We can still maintain reason and the inner thread of consciousness which preserves awareness: we are still present, too, beside the compulsive images which appear because of the sentient body which has become independent.

When such a split occurs in respect of the intellectual soul and the ether body, then the situation is a much more difficult one. Then we enter more deeply those states which verge on the pathological. Nevertheless, it is difficult to decide where the healthy state ends and the pathological one begins. An intricate example will make clear how difficult it is to maintain the experiences of the intellectual soul in complete independence when the ether body goes on strike, when it refuses to be merely a tool of our thinking. When the ether body goes independent and resists the intellectual soul it prevents the thought from coming to expression fully, so that the thought becomes stuck half way and cannot be completed. This can happen with the most clever people, so-called. Let us take a grotesque example.

Everyone will smile at and easily recognise the logical absurdity of the statement: it is a logical conclusion that you still possess what you have not lost. You did not lose big ears, therefore you still have big ears. The absurdity arises because the thought is not in accord with the facts. But on exactly the same pattern — that there is a preceding statement “what you have not lost” which make an unjustified assumption which goes unnoticed — the most unbelievable errors can be committed in the most important questions in life where the matter is a little more complicated. Thus there is a philosopher 44 ] who greatly emphasised a theory set up by him about the human ego. We have often mentioned here how even in its definition the ego is different from all experiences which we can have. Everyone can call a table “table”, a glass “glass” and a watch “watch”. Only the word “I” cannot be used by anyone else when it describes ourselves. This is indicative of a fundamental difference between the experience of the ego and all other experience. Such things can be observed; or they can be half observed. And they are only half observed when conclusions are drawn such as by the philosopher: “therefore the ego can never become object, therefore the ego can never be observed.” And it seems a clever view when he continues: if the attempt were made to grasp it, the ego would have to be present externally whilst at the same time being present within itself. That would be no different to someone running around a tree and saying if only he runs fast enough he can catch up with himself from behind. Who would not be convinced when the dogma that the ego can never be grasped in itself is backed by such an example! And yet: the whole thing is based on the fact that such a comparison is not valid. For it is based on the assumption that the ego cannot be observed. If the comparison with the tree were to be used, it would be possible to say only: the ego must not be compared with the person running round the tree but at most with a person who winds himself round a tree like a snake; then perhaps the feet could be held with the hands. Thus the ego is something quite different from everything else within our experience. It is a substance which we can grasp as the coincidence of subject and object. This has been hinted at by mystics at all times in the language of symbols, in the image of the snake biting its own tail. Those who used this symbol understood that they were observing themselves, as it were, in the image before them.

This example demonstrates how we advance from the feelings and perceptions of our immediate perception which can become disharmonious only with the sentient body, to those things which affect not only pure feeling, pure perception, but the intellectual or mind soul. Where we have to digest thoughts internally, which is already a much less arbitrary process, a hindrance is caused not only by the images themselves, but there is something which offers quite a different sort of resistance which cannot be recognised by a thinking which fails to pursue its processes rigorously to their conclusion. We had an example how the human being can enmesh himself in a logic whereof he does not notice that it is only his logic and not the logic of the facts. A logic of the facts is only present when we retain mastery over the link between the intellectual soul and the ether body, and thus the mastery over the ether body. Therefore those pathological expressions of our soul-life which are primarily the result of a breakdown in the link between our ideas turn out to be caused by the ether body not being able to serve as a healthy tool for the expressions of our intellectual soul.

But now the question is justified: if an ether body which creates a hindrance for our intellectual soul to unfold, is part of our nature, is there any choice but to say that the causes affecting the soul such that it passes from mere error to mental disorder lie in something over which we have no control? In a certain sense such an example, if it is truly understood, makes us aware of something which has been emphasised here repeatedly and which is considered to be nonsense by many of our contemporaries — even the most enlightened. We observe that our ether body throws obstacles in the way of our intellectual soul, thus not allowing it to finish any train of thought. So instead of admitting here that we are powerless and can go no further, we pass muddled and distorted judgment. Our judgment from the intellectual soul becomes mixed up with the intrusions of our ether body. A peculiar situation: we think that the ether body belongs to the outer human being and then it interferes with the activity of the intellectual soul as if it were on an equal level. How can this be explained?

Purely on a verbal level one can point to “inherited characteristics”, etc. That is done by those who, because of certain fixed patterns of thinking, are unable to reflect logically on matters concerning the soul. But the philosophers who are able to reflect on the soul say: the error, the chaotic confusion which enters the soul in such a case cannot be the result merely of physical heredity. In contrast, a well-known modern philosopher describes our internal processes which go beyond the purely physical with a remarkable phrase. It might be described as a pretty phrase, were we not dealing with a serious subject, when Wundt 45 ] says: “This leads us into the perpetual darkness of evolution!” A person used to rigorous thinking will find such a phrase by a world famous philosopher strange. Compare with this the truth of spiritual science which says: soul and spirit can only originate from soul and spirit — a statement on a higher level which we have often seen as comparable with another truth which the great natural scientist Francesco Redi voiced in the 17th century in a different field: living matter can only originate from living matter. Spiritual science not only reveals physical heredity, but shows that the spiritual element is active in everything physical. And in the situation where the contrary effect of our ether body on the intellectual soul becomes too great, it is plausible that something must have formed and prepared our ether body which is similar to our intellectual soul — only it has badly prepared it. If we therefore find such an error in our intellectual soul in the present, and if we are able to maintain our reason, we can correct the error in such a way that it does not penetrate as far as our corporeality. And one must not think that every emotion immediately results in sickness. No one is more rigorous than spiritual science in the view that it is nonsense to ascribe to external influences without a second thought when a person becomes mentally disordered. But on the other hand it must be understood, even if we have no power to change our ether body, that it is saturated and imbued with the same laws of error which exist when a mistake is made, but that we become sick when the error comes to expression in the ether body. Such error cannot normally take effect immediately in our present life between birth and death. This only happens if it becomes repeated and habitual. For it is another matter if we continually compound error upon error between birth and death in a specific case, if we regularly succumb to certain weaknesses of the thinking, feeling and willing and live with them between birth and death. The outer bodily nature can only change a limited amount between birth and death. When we pass through the gate of death the physical body with all the good and bad qualities is destroyed and we take with us in our thinking, feeling and willing everything good and bad which we have created. And in constructing our outer bodily nature in the next existence we transmit into it the errors and the chaos, our weaknesses in thinking, feeling and willing from our present existence.

Therefore, with reference to an ether body which holds us back, an error in our present soul-life cannot immediately take shape in our ether body, but the error which at present is only content if our soul participates in the organisation of our next existence. What appear in our ether body as causes and as certain characteristics will not be traced back to our present existence, but they can certainly be found if we return to an earlier incarnation.

This shows us that we can understand a wide field of mental disorder only if we grope not merely in the secret “perpetual darkness of evolution” but if we go to an earlier existence of the human being. Nevertheless, this truth also must not be taken to extremes; for we must be aware that the human being has within him besides the qualities from an earlier life also those which are inherited, and that certain qualities of our outer human being must be considered as hereditary. It is necessary to distinguish carefully between what the human being carries with him from one existence to the next and his characteristics as descendant of his ancestors.

Now a similar disharmony can arise between our consciousness soul, which forms the basis of our self-consciousness, and our physical body. Then not only do those characteristics appear in our physical body for which we are responsible from earlier incarnations, but also those which can be found in the line of descent. But here, too, the principle is the same. The work of the consciousness soul can find an obstacle in the active laws of the physical body. And when the consciousness soul meets these obstacles then all the things arise which appear so cruelly in certain symptoms of mental disorder. Similarly all the unhappy aspects of a particular organ appear when that organ is particularly prominent in our physical body. When the organs of our physical body work properly together and none of them is more developed than the others, our physical body is a proper instrument for our consciousness soul, just as a healthy eye presents no obstacle to seeing. In this context we can draw attention to a case told by an important scientist of our time. A person had impaired vision in one eye. As a result of this it seemed to him particularly at dusk, as if he saw something of the nature of apparitions. Because this impairment of the eye influenced his vision, he often felt as if someone was standing in his way. Where such an effect by the eye creates an obstacle normal sight is not possible. These partial defects can appear in all different forms.

When the consciousness soul finds an obstacle in the physical body, this is attributable to the special prominence of the one or the other organ. For when all the organs of the physical body are working together normally it causes no resistance to the consciousness soul and we can give expression to our self-consciousness in a regular way. An obstacle is noticed only when an organ gains special prominence, for then resistance is encountered, but if this free intercourse with the outside world is obstructed and we do not notice the obstacle in our consciousness, ideas of megalomania and paranoia appear as symptoms of the actual, more deeply seated sickness.

In thus observing man as a complex being, disharmony and harmony in life can be understood. It was not possible to indicate more than briefly how the various members interact and how spiritual science can bring order and clarification to the wonderful results which are presented in the relevant literature today.

If we understand this we will be able to gain further insights. Insights into the reality of the inner human being and the interaction of the outer and the inner human being from incarnation to incarnation; how in certain failings of the outer human being, in failings of the ether body for example, there appear the consequences of weaknesses and mistakes from earlier stages of existence. But this also shows us that we will not always manage to overcome them by an inner regulated, strong soul-life, if the obstacles are too great. But it is possible in many respects, because if in abnormal soul-life there is only the conflict between outer and inner human being, then we can also understand that it is important to strengthen the inner human being as much as possible. A weak person who does not like to pursue his thinking rigorously to its conclusion, who does not want to define his ideas clearly, who is not intent on developing his feelings in such a way that they are in accord with his experiences, such a person will be able to show only weak opposition to the resistance of the outer human being: and if he bears the seeds of illness within him he will succumb to mental disorder when the time comes. But the situation is different if we can oppose sickness of the outer human being with a strong inner being, because the stronger of the two will win! From this we can see that although we cannot always be assured of victory over our outer nature, we can do much to keep the upper hand over it by the development of a strong, regulated soul-life. And we can see the reason for trying to develop our feelings and emotions and our will in such a manner that we do not feel affected by every minor inconvenience; for trying to expand our thinking to encompass the greater context; for seeking to pursue with our thinking not only the most obvious threads but to pursue them to their most detailed entailments; for being concerned to develop our desires in such a way that we do not want the impossible but are in accord with the circumstances. If we develop a strong soul-life we may still encounter a limit, but we will have done the utmost to make our inner being predominate over all external resistance.

Thus we can see the significance for the human being to develop his soul-life correspondingly. In the present there is little understanding for what is meant by developing the soul-life. It has been mentioned on similar occasions before that much weight is given today to gymnastics, for example, going for walks, training the physical body. I do not want to comment on the principle contained therein; these things can be healthy. But they quite certainly do not lead to good results if only the outer human being is taken into consideration, as if he were a machine, when exercises are done which only aim to strengthen physiologically. In gymnastics such exercises should not be undertaken at all which are characterised by the view that this or that muscle should be strengthened in particular; but we should take care that we experience an inner joy with every exercise, that we fetch the impulse for every exercise from an inner feeling of well-being. The impulses for the exercises should come from the soul. The gym teacher, for example, should be able to put himself in a position emotionally of experiencing how the soul feels one or another sort of well-being when one or another exercise is undertaken. Then we strengthen the soul; otherwise we strengthen only the body, and the soul can remain as weak as ever. Those who know life will find that exercises which are undertaken from this point of view have a health-giving effect and make quite a different contribution to the well-being of the human being than the exercises which are undertaken merely as if the human being were an anatomical machine. The connection between the life of soul and the life of the physical body is only revealed by the exact investigation of spiritual science. Those who believe that the physical can balance spiritual effort are unaware of an essential element. The spiritual scientist knows that he can become extremely tired, for example, when he is required to communicate a truth to another person and then has to listen to the other speak who is not yet able to express himself properly about the subject, who cannot yet form proper images in his thinking — whilst for example he does not become exhausted however much he researches into the spiritual world; that could be continued indefinitely. The reason for this is that when one is listening to someone else one is dealing with physical communication whereby the physical brain is involved, whilst spiritual research still requires the physical organs to some extent on lower levels, but requires them less and less the higher it reaches and therefore becomes correspondingly less exhausting. When the outer human being no longer has to participate exhaustion and tiredness no longer arise. It can be seen that differentiation must be made in spiritual activity, that there are differences whether spiritual activity is given its impulse from the soul itself or whether it is prompted from the outside. That is something which should always be taken into account: in the various stages of the human being's development those events always take place which correspond to the inner impulses.

Let us take an example which has been emphasised before and which can be found in my little work The Education of the Child in the Light of Anthroposophy. 46 ] There it says that the child up to the seventh year of age primarily feels the impulse in all its actions to imitate. Then, between the changing of the teeth and puberty, its development is characterised by what might be called “orientating oneself according to an authority” or acting according to the impression made on us by another person. Let us assume that these two stages of imitation and bowing to authority are ignored. If no account is taken of them the outer body, instead of becoming an instrument of the soul, will develop irregularly and the soul will then no longer have the opportunity in the consecutive periods of human development to affect in the correct way the irregular nature of the outer human being and interact with it. Then, when the human being enters a new stage of development at significant periods in human life, we see that to a certain degree a member of his being may have fallen behind if these rules are not observed. Ignoring this law lies at the basis of schizophrenia, dementia praecox. By ignoring the correct processes in earlier periods dementia praecox can arise as disharmony between the inner and outer human being, a symptom of belated imitation. It is often the case that the disharmony of those things which are cleanly divided by spiritual science is in many cases the cause of abnormality in the soul. Similarly we can see in the appearance of senile dementia towards the end of life the disharmony between inner and outer human being, brought about because the human being did not live in such a manner that harmony could exist between inner and outer man in the period between puberty and the time when the astral body is fully developed.

This shows us that knowledge of the human being can illuminate the nature of error and mental disorder. And even if we find only a superficial link, if a person cannot say that error, in so far as it is part of normal soul-life, can affect our outer nature, it has to be said in contrast that the law according to which the development of a strong logic, a regulated soul-life harmonious in feeling and willing can strengthen us against the obstacles which arise from the outer human being is greatly encouraging. Thus spiritual science gives us the possibility, perhaps not always, but most of the time, of countering the superiority, the supremacy of the outer human being. It is important that when we strengthen and nurture the inner human being we strengthen and nurture it against the predominance of the outer human being. Spiritual science gives us the healing power to do this. It therefore always emphasises the importance of developing ordered thinking which avoids irrelevancies, not to stop with one's thoughts half-way but to pursue them consistently to the end. That is why spiritual science, with its strict demands to order our soul-life in such a manner that it appears internally disciplined and in harmony, is itself a medicine against the predominance of the pathological symptoms of our outward bodily nature. And the human being can be victorious over pathological pre-dispositions when he can envelop bodily weakness, bodily mis-formation with the light of a healthy willing, a healthy feeling and a self-disciplined thinking. That is something which is unpopular today, and yet it is important for an understanding of the present. Thus spiritual science even gives us some consolation, namely that in the spirit, if we truly strengthen it, we continue to have the best remedy for everything which can affect us in life. By means of spiritual science we learn not merely to theorise about the spirit, but we learn to turn it into a healing power within us when we make the effort to continue where philistines like to stop: the half-finished thought. For it is nothing but half-finished thinking when it is said: “Prove what you say about repeated earth lives and so on!” It cannot be proved to the person who refuses to lead his thoughts to their conclusion. Whole truths cannot be proved with half thoughts. They can only be proved to whole thinking, and whole thinking has to be developed by the human being within himself.

If the indications which have been given here are developed further, it will be seen that this is central to the evil of our time: the disbelief in the spirit, But it will also be seen that an indication has been given here where the means lie to transform disbelief into belief, into true strong spirituality. The belief in reason is lacking in large measure in mankind today. Therefore the reasoned objectivity which is necessary to understand the truths of spiritual science is not always present. It is not with ridicule and irony, but with a certain sadness that the lines in Faust about certain people might be applied to our present time.

“If they possessed the philosopher's stone,
The philosopher would not match the stone.” 47 ]

Reason can understand spiritual science and reasoned understanding of spiritual science can heal the furthest reaches of the bodily nature. That, by the way, is claimed by others than only by spiritual scientists today. This claim has also been made by those who tried to approach the spirit by other paths than modern spiritual science, but such people, too, are little understood in the present. Who would not ridicule Hegel today precisely because he emphasised the existence, the work and the necessity of reason everywhere? He emphasised it in such a manner that he thought of the work of reason in the human being today in the following way: “I imagine this human life as a cross”, and for Hegel the roses on the cross were equivalent to reason in the human being. That is why he prefaces one of his works with the motto: “Reason is the rose on the cross of the present”, 48 ] and belief in reason will make the cross victorious. Belief in reason and belief in disciplined thinking, in harmonious feeling and willing will attach the roses to the cross. We have the strength in us to counter what we call mental disorder, at least to a certain degree, when we have belief in harmonious feeling which can be developed, harmonious willing which can be developed and self-disciplined reason which can be developed and which must be developed. If we develop these three, then under all circumstances we will be more strong and triumphant in life. And because Hegel draws together in reason a harmonious feeling, willing and disciplined thinking, a reasoned intellectuality, he makes the statement which can serve as motto for us in developing our soul-life, that for the human being reason should be the rose on the cross of the present.

The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com