18 May 1924
TO ALL MEMBERS • XIII
The pictorial Nature of Man*
It is most important that
it should be understood through Anthroposophy that the ideas which a
man gains by looking at outer Nature are inadequate for the
observation of Man. The ideas which have taken possession of men's
minds during the spiritual development of the last few centuries fail
to realise this fact. Through them men have grown accustomed to
thinking out natural laws, and to explaining by means of them the
phenomena which are perceived by the senses. They then turn their
attention to the human organism, and think that that too can be
explained through bringing the laws of Nature to bear upon it.
this is just as though, in considering a picture which a painter had
created, we only took into account the substance of the colours,
their power of adhering to the canvas, the way in which these colours
were applied, and similar things. But such a way of regarding the
picture does not reveal what is contained in it. Quite other laws are
active in the revelation contained in the picture than those which
can be perceived by considering such points as these.
is a question of realising that in the human being also something is
revealed which cannot be grasped from the standpoint of natural law.
If anyone has once thoroughly made this conception his own, then he
will be able to understand Man as a picture. A mineral is not
a picture in this sense. It reveals only what is directly evident to
certain extent when regarding a picture we look through what
the senses perceive to its spiritual content. And so is it also in
the observation of the human being. If we truly understand the human
being in the light of natural law, we do not feel that these laws
bring us into contact with the real man, but only with that through
which he reveals himself.
must experience spiritually that when we regard a man only from the
point of view of natural law, it is as if we stood before a picture
seeing only ‘blue’ and ‘red’, and quite
unable through an inner activity of the soul to relate the blue and
red to that which reveals itself through these colours.
viewing things from the standpoint of natural law we must perceive
the mineral in one way, the human being in another. In the case of
the mineral it is, for the spiritual understanding, as if we were in
immediate touch with what is perceived; but in the case of man it is
as though we could only come as near to him through natural laws as
to a picture which we do not see clearly with the eye of the soul but
only touch and feel.
once one has gained the perception that man is a ‘picture’
of something, one will be in the right mood of soul to progress to
that which manifests in this picture.
pictorial nature of man does not manifest in one way only. An organ
of sense is in its nature least of all a picture, and mostly a kind
of manifestation of itself like the mineral. The human organs of
sense approach nearest to natural laws. Let one but contemplate the
wonderful arrangement of the eye, which by natural laws one is able
to comprehend. It is the same with the other organs, though not often
so clearly evident. It is because the sense organs, in their
formation, show a certain compactness. They are arranged in the
organism as complete formations, and as such assist in the perception
of the outer world.
it is otherwise with the rhythmic actions in the organism. They are
not complete, but evanescent, the organism in them continually
forming and then declining. If the sense organs were like the
rhythmic system, we would perceive the outer world in a perpetual
sense organs are like a picture on the wall. The rhythmic system is
like the scene that unfolds itself if canvas and painter are imaged
by us at the conception of the picture. The picture is not yet there,
but it comes more and more into being. In studying the rhythmic
system, we have to do with a perpetual process of becoming. A thing
that has already come into existence remains in existence, for a time
at any rate. But when we study the human rhythmic system we find the
process of becoming, the upbuilding process, followed directly and
without a gap by the passing out of existence, the destructive
process. In the rhythmic system a picture manifests itself coming
into existence, but never finished or complete.
activity which the soul discharges in conscious devotion to what is
brought before it as the finished picture, may be styled
‘Imagination’. On the other hand ‘Inspiration’
is the experience that must be unfolded in order to comprehend a
this is different again in the contemplation of the metabolic and
limb system. Here it is as if one was before a bare canvas and unused
paints, and an artist not even painting. To get a perception of the
metabolic and limb system, one must get a perception that has as
little connection with the senses, as have the bare canvas and unused
paints with that which is afterwards the artist's picture. And the
activity that is developed by the soul in pure spirituality out of
the metabolic and limb system is as when, upon seeing the painter and
an empty canvas and unused paints, one experiences the picture to be
painted later. In order to understand the metabolic system and the
limbs the soul must exercise the power of ‘Intuition’.
is necessary that the active members of the Anthroposophical Society
should concentrate in this way on the essential and fundamental
nature of anthroposophical study. For it is not only the knowledge
one gains by study but the experience achieved thereby that matters.
* The asterisk denotes a title given by Frau Marie Steiner.