THE SENSE- AND THOUGHT-SYSTEMS OF MAN
IN RELATION TO THE WORLD
When man first applies Imaginative Cognition to the contemplation of
his own human being, he begins by eliminating his own sense-system
from the field of vision. As he now observes himself, he becomes a
being without the system of senses. Not that he ceases to have before
his soul pictures such as were previously conveyed by the
sense-organs. But he ceases to feel himself connected with the outer
physical world through the sense-organs. The pictures of the outer
physical world which he now has before his soul are no longer conveyed
by the organs of sense. His very vision of them is proof of the fact
that even through the sense-connection with the outer world of Nature,
he has yet another connection with this world one that does not
depend on the senses. It is a connection with the Spirit that is
embodied in the world of Nature.
In such vision, therefore, the physical world falls away from man. It
is the earthly world that falls away. Man no longer feels this earthly
world upon him.
It might be imagined that he would in the same moment lose
self-consciousness. For this would seem to follow from our previous
studies, which showed self-consciousness to be an outcome of the
connection of man with the Earth-nature. But it is not so. Man
preserves what he has gained through the earthly nature, even when,
after having gained it, he divests himself of it in the
conscious activity of higher knowledge.
By the above-described, spiritually Imaginative vision, the fact is
revealed that man's sense-system is not, fundamentally speaking, at
all intensely connected with his being. It is not really he who
lives in this sense-system, but his environment. It is the outer world
with its nature which has built itself into the
sense-organisation of man.
Therefore, when he becomes an Imaginative seer, man really regards his
sense-system as a portion of the outer world.
It is indeed closer to his being than the world of Nature around him;
but still, it belongs to the outer world. It is only distinguished
from the remaining outer world in this, that man can dive down into
the latter with activity of knowledge through sense-perception and in
no other way. Into his own sense-system, on the other hand, he dives
down with conscious inner experience. The sense-system is a part of
the outer world; but into this outer world man penetrates with his own
being of soul-and-spirit, which he brings with him as he descends from
the Spirit-world and enters Earth-existence.
Except for this fact that he fills it with his own being of
soul-and-spirit, man's sense-system is of the outer world, just as is
the plant kingdom that is spread around him. The eye in the last
resort belongs to the world and not to man, just as the rose which man
perceives belongs not to him, but to the world.
In the age of cosmic evolution that man has just passed through,
thinkers arose who declared that colour, sound, warmth-impressions and
the like were not really in the world, but in the human being. The
red colour, they say, is not anything at all out there in
the world-environment of man; it is but the effect of an unknown
reality upon him. But the very opposite of this conception is the
truth. It is not the colour which, with the eye, belongs to man; it is
the eye that with the colour belongs to the world. During his life on
Earth man does not let the Earth-environment pour in upon himself, but
grows outward from birth to death into this outer
It is significant that at the end of the Age of Darkness, when men
stared out into the world without even dimly experiencing the light of
the Spirit, the true idea of man's relationship to his environment was
replaced by its very opposite.
When, in Imaginative Cognition, man has eliminated that environment in
which he lives by means of his sense-system, there enters into the
sphere of conscious experience another system namely, that
which is the bearer of his Thought, even as the sense-system is the
bearer of his picture-world of sense-perception.
And now man knows himself to be connected through his thinking system
with the cosmic environment of the stars, even as he previously knew
himself to be connected through his sense-system with the
Earth-environment. He now recognises himself as a cosmic being. His
thoughts are no longer phantom-shadow pictures. They are saturated
with reality, as sense-pictures are in the act of sense-perception.
And if at this stage the knower passes on to Inspiration, he becomes
aware that he can cast aside this world of which the thinking system
is the bearer, just as he can cast aside the earthly. He sees that
with his thinking system, too, he belongs, not to his own being, but
to the world. He realises how the world thoughts hold sway in him by
means of his own thinking system. Here again he becomes aware that he
thinks, not by receiving images of the world into himself, but by
growing outward with his own thinking Organisation into the
Thinking of the world.
Both with respect to his sense-system and his thinking system, man is
world. The world builds itself into him. In sense-perception
and in thought, he is not he himself, but part of the contents of the
Now into his thinking system man penetrates with his own being of
soul-and-spirit, which belongs neither to the earthly world nor to the
world of stars, but is of a wholly spiritual nature and thrives in man
from life to life on Earth. This being of soul-and-spirit is
accessible only to Inspiration.
Thus man steps out of the earthly and cosmic systems of his nature, to
stand before himself as a being of pure soul-and-spirit through
And in this being of pure soul-and-spirit he meets the life and law of
his own destiny.
With the sense-system man lives in his physical body, with the
thinking system in his etheric body. Both systems having been cast
aside in living activity of knowledge, he finds himself in his astral
Every time man casts aside a portion of the nature which he has
assumed, the content of his soul is indeed impoverished on the one
hand; and yet on the other hand it is enriched. The physical body
being eliminated, the beauty of the plant world as the senses see it
is before him no longer, save in a far paler form; but on the other
hand the whole world of elemental beings dwelling in the plant-kingdom
rises up before his soul.
Because this is so, the man of true spiritual knowledge has no ascetic
attitude to what the senses can perceive. In the very spiritual
experience, there remains alive in him the inner need to perceive once
more through the senses what he now experiences in the Spirit. In the
full human being, seeking as he does to experience the whole reality,
sense perception awakens the longing for its counterpart the
world of elemental beings. Likewise the vision of the elemental beings
kindles the longing for the content of sense-perception once again.
Thus in the fullness of the life of man, Spirit longs for sense and
sense for Spirit. There would be emptiness in spiritual existence, if
the experiences of the conscious life in the senses were not there as
a memory. There would be darkness in the life of sense-experience, if
it were not for the active force of the Spirit which lights into it,
albeit subconsciously at first.
Hence, when man will have made himself ripe to experience the activity
of Michael, it will not mean that souls become impoverished in their
experience of Nature. On the contrary, they will be enriched in this
respect. And in the life of feeling, too, man will not tend to
withdraw from sense experience, but will be glad and eager to receive
the wonders of this world of the senses more fully yet into his soul.
Further Leading Thoughts, issued from the Goetheanum (with regard to the foregoing study: The Sense- and Thought-Systems of Man, in relation to the World)
171. The Organisation of the human senses belongs not to man's own
nature, but is built into it by the outer world during his earthly
life. Spatially though it is in man, in its real essence the
perceiving eye is in the World. Man with his soul and spirit
reaches out into that which the World is experiencing in him through
his senses. He does not receive the physical environment into himself
during his life on Earth, but grows out into it with his own soul and
172. Likewise his thinking Organisation: through this he grows out
into the existence of the stars. He knows himself as a world of stars;
he lives and moves in the Cosmic Thoughts, when in the living
experience of Knowledge he has put away the Organisation of the
173. When both are put away-the earthly world and the world of the
stars as well-man stands before himself as a Being of soul, and
spirit. Here at length he is no longer of the World; here he is
truly man. To become aware of what he experiences here, is
Self-knowledge; even as it is World-knowledge to become
aware in the Organisation of the senses and of thought.