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

The Human Soul and the Human Body

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document




Highlight Words

The Human Soul and the Human Body

Schmidt Number: S-3351

On-line since: 31st December, 2018

RIDDLES OF THE SOUL AND RIDDLES OF THE UNIVERSE

Berlin, March 17, 1917

In the last lecture I sought to show how in the spiritual culture of the present day, it is due to misunderstandings when there is so little understanding between those who direct their research to the soul and to the processes within the soul's realm and those who direct their attention to the material processes in the human organism which run their course — however one wishes to call it — as accompanying phenomena, or also, as materialism maintains, as the necessary causes of soul phenomena. And I sought to show what the causes are of such misunderstandings. Today I should, above all, like to draw attention to the fact that such misunderstandings — as well as misunderstandings in other regards — necessarily arise in the search for real, for genuine insight when one fails to take one aspect into consideration, in the cognitive process itself, an aspect which forcefully reveals itself to the spiritual investigator. This aspect reveals itself more and more as an immediate perception during the course of further, extensive spiritual-scientific research. This is something which at first appears very odd when one expresses it: In the sphere in which world conceptions arise, that is in the sphere of insight into spiritual reality, when, I would like to say, one ties oneself down to certain points of view, there necessarily arises a way of regarding the human soul which can both be unequivocally refuted and can just as well be proven correct.

Therefore, the spiritual-scientific researcher more and more tends to abandon the habit of reinforcing one or the other conception by bringing to bear what, in ordinary life would be called a proof, or a refutation. For, in this sphere, as has been said, everything can be proved with certain reasons and everything can, also with certain reasons, be contradicted. Materialism, in its totality, can indeed be strictly proved correct, and, when it addresses itself to single questions about life or about existence can also equally well be shown to be correct. And one will not necessarily find it easy to refute this or that argument which the materialist brings forward in support of his views by merely seeking to refute his conclusion by bringing forward opposing points of view. The same thing holds true for the one whose point of view is a spiritual view of existence. Therefore, the one who truly wishes to conduct research in spiritual fields must, in regard to any world conception know not only all that which speaks for the point of view, but also all that speaks against it. For the remarkable fact arises that the actual truth only becomes evident when one allows to work upon the soul that which speaks for a certain thing, as well as that which speaks against it. And the one who allows his spirit to stare in fixation upon any constellation of concepts or mental representations of a one-sided world view, such a one will always be closed to the fact that just the opposite can appear to be valid to the soul, indeed the opposite must appear to be correct up to a certain point. And such a person can be compared with someone who might insist that human life can only be sustained by breathing in. Breathing in assumes breathing out, both belong together. So also, our concepts, our representations, relate to one another in questions concerning world conceptions. We are able to put forward, in regard to any matter, a concept which confirms it and we are able to put forward a concept which refutes it; one way demands the other, just as inbreathing requires outbreathing, and vice versa. And thus, just as real life can only reveal itself through breathing out and breathing in — when both are present — so, also, the spiritual can only manifest itself within the soul when one is able to enter in an equally positive manner into the pro as well as the con of a particular matter. The supportive, confirming concept is like a breathing out, within the living wholeness of the soul, the reflecting, denying concept like a breathing in, and only in their living working together does that element reveal itself which is rooted in the spiritual reality. It is for this reason that spiritual science is not concerned to apply the methods, to which one is so accustomed in current literature, where this or that is proved or is refuted. The spiritual scientist realizes that that which is brought forward in a positive form concerning world conceptions, can always in a certain sense be justified, but, equally so, what appears to contradict it. When one moves forward in world conception questions to that immediate life which is present in positive and negative concepts, just as bodily life lives in outbreathing and breathing in, then one comes to concepts which truly are able to take in the spirit; one comes to concepts which are equal to reality. However, in doing so, one must often express oneself quite differently than when one expresses oneself according to the habits of thought of ordinary life. But the way in which one expresses oneself arises from the livingly active inner experience of the spirit. And the spirit can only be inwardly experienced, not, in the manner of material existence, be outwardly perceived.

Now, you know, that one of the principal world conception questions is that which I dealt with in the first lectures which I held here this winter, namely, the question concerning matter, concerning physical substance. And I shall touch on this question by way of introduction from the points of view which I have indicated.

One cannot come successfully to terms with the question about substance or about matter if one attempts, again and again, to form mental images or concepts about what matter actually is; when one tries to understand — in other words — what actually is matter, what is substance. One who has truly wrestled in his soul with such riddles — which are very far from the beaten track for many people — such a one knows what is involved in questions of this kind. For, if he has wrestled for a time without yielding to this or that prejudice, he comes to a very different point of view in relation to such a question. He comes to a point of view which allows him to consider as more important the inner attitude of the soul when one forms such a concept as the concept of matter. It is this wrestling of the soul itself which is raised to consciousness. And one then comes to a way of looking at these riddles, which I might characterize in the following way.

He who wishes to understand matter in the way in which it is usually conceived resembles a person who says; I now wish to form an impression of darkness, of a dark room. What does he do? He turns on the light and regards this as the correct method to gain an impression of a dark room. Now, you will agree, this is just the opposite of the right way to go about it. And, it is in the same way, the opposite of the right way — only one has to come to realize this through the inner wrestling which I have pointed to — if one believes that one will ever come to know the nature of matter in setting the spirit into motion in order to illuminate matter, to illuminate substance, by means of spirit. The one and only place where the spirit within the body can silence itself is where an outer process penetrates into our inner life, that is in sense perception, in sensation, where the life of representation, of forming mental images, ceases. It is just by letting the spirit come to silence and by our experiencing this silence of the spirit that we can allow matter, substance, truly to represent itself within our soul.

One does not come to such concepts through ordinary logic; or, I would say, if one does come to them through ordinary logic, then the concepts are much too thin to call forth a genuine power of conviction. Only when one wrestles within the soul with certain concepts, in the way which has been indicated, will they lead to the kind of result which I have pointed toward.

Now, the opposite is also the case. Let us assume, someone wants to comprehend spirit. If he seeks it, for example, in the purely material outward formation of the human body, he is similar to someone who extinguishes the light in order to comprehend it. For it is the secret in this matter, that outer, sense-perceptible nature contradicts the spirit, extinguishes the spirit. Nature builds the reflected image of the spirit, in the same way that an illuminated object throws back, reflects, the light. But nowhere can we find the spirit, in whatever material processes, if we do not grasp the spirit in living activity. Because that is just the essential nature of material processes that the spirit has transformed itself into them; that spirit has incorporated itself into them. And if we then try to come to know the spirit out of them, we misunderstand ourselves.

I wanted to give this as a preface, in order that ever greater clarity can be brought to bear on what the actual cognitive attitude of heart and mind of the spiritual researcher is, and how it is that he needs a certain width and mobility in his life of forming mental images, to be able to penetrate into those things which require penetration. With such concepts it then becomes possible to illuminate the important questions on which I touched last time and which I will briefly indicate in order to move on to our considerations for today.

I said: as things have developed in recent spiritual education and culture, one has come ever more and more to a one-sided way of looking at the relationships of the soul-spiritual to the bodily-physical; a way of looking which expresses itself in the fact that one actually only seeks for the soul- spiritual within that part of the human bodily constitution which lies in the nervous system, that is to say within the brain. One assigns the soul- spiritual exclusively to the brain and nervous system, and one regards the remaining organism, when one speaks of the soul-spiritual, more or less as a kind of incidental supplement to the brain and nervous system. Now, I tried to make clear the results of spiritual research in this field by drawing attention to the fact that one only comes to a true insight about the relationship of the human soul with the human body when one sees the relationship of the entire human soul to the entire bodily constitution. But there it became clear that the matter has yet a deeper background, that is the membering of the entirety of the human soul into the actual representational thought life, into the life of feeling and the life of will. For only the actual representational life of the soul is bound to the nervous organism in the way in which it is assumed by more recent physiological psychology. In contrast, the life of feeling — let it be rightly noted, not in so far as it is represented mentally, but in so far as it arises — is related with the human breathing organism, with everything which is breathing, and which is connected with breathing, as the life of mental representation is related with the nervous system. Thus, one must assign the life of feeling of the soul to the breathing organism. Then further: that which we designate as the life of will, is in a similar relationship with that which in the physical body we must designate as the metabolism, of course into its finest ramifications. And in as much as one takes into consideration that the single systems within the organism interact and interweave — metabolism, of course, also occurs in the nerves — they interpenetrate, I would say, the three systems interpenetrate at the outermost periphery. But a correct understanding, however, is only possible when one regards matters in such a way that one knows: will impulses belong with the metabolism in the same way that the experiences of forming mental images belong with the human nervous system, that is to say, with the brain.

Matters of this kind can, of course, only be indicated to begin with. And just for this reason, objection after objection is possible. But I know quite definitely: when one no longer approaches that which has just been presented out of merely partial aspects of today's natural scientific research but rather out of the whole spectrum of anatomical, physiological research, then the result will be a complete harmony between the assertions which I have made from the spiritual scientific point of view and the assertions of natural science. Regarded superficially — allow me to cite the following objection only as a characteristic example — objection after objection can be brought forward against so comprehensive a truth. Someone could say: Let us agree that certain feelings are connected with the breathing organism; for no one can really doubt that for certain feelings this can be very convincingly demonstrated. But someone could also say: Yes, but what do you have to say to the fact that we perceive certain melodies, that melodies arise in our consciousness; and the feeling of an aesthetic pleasure connects itself with melodies. Can one, in this case, speak of any kind of connection of the breathing organism to this which quite evidently arises in the head, and so obviously is connected with the nervous organism according to the results of physiological research? The moment one considers the matter rightly, the correctness of my assertion becomes evident with complete clarity. Namely, one must take into consideration that with every outbreath an important parallel process occurs in the brain: the brain would rise with the outbreath if it were not prevented from rising by top of the skull — the breathing carries forward into the brain — and in reverse, the brain sinks with the inbreath. And since it cannot rise or fall because of the skull, there arises, what is well known to physiology: there arises the change in the blood stream, there occurs what physiology knows as brain-breathing, that is to say, certain processes which occur in the surrounding of the nerves run parallel with the process of breathing. And in the meeting of the breathing process with that which lives in us as tone through the ear there occurs what points to the fact that feeling, also in this realm, is connected with the breathing organism, just as the life of mental representations is connected with the nervous organism.

I want to indicate this because it is a relatively remote example and can, therefore, provide a ready objection. If one could come to an understanding with someone concerning all the details given by physiological research, one would find that none of these details contradicts what was presented here last time and has been brought forward again today.

It should now be my task to extend our considerations in a similar way as was done in the last lecture. And, to do so, I must enter more closely into the manner in which the human being unfolds the life of sense perception, in order to show the actual relationship between the capacity for sense perception, which leads to representations, and the life of feeling and of will, indeed, altogether, the life of the human being as soul, as body, and as spirit.

Through our sense life we come into connection with the sense- perceptible environment. Within this sense-perceptible environment natural science distinguishes certain substances, let us rather say, substance-forms - - because it is on these that the matter depends; if I wished to discuss this with the physicist I would have to say aggregate-conditions — solid, fluid, gaseous. Now, however, as you all know, natural scientific research comes to assume — in addition to the above-mentioned form in which physical substance appears — also another condition. When natural science wants to explain light, it is not satisfied only to recognize the existence of these substance- forms, which I have just mentioned, but science reaches out to include that which at first appears to be finer than these sorts of substance; it reaches out to that which one usually calls ether. The idea of ether is an extraordinarily difficult one, and one can say: the various thoughts which have been developed about the ether, what can be said about it, are as different, as manifold as one can imagine. It is, of course, not possible to go into all these details. Attention should only be drawn to the fact that natural science feels impelled to postulate the concept of the ether, which means thinking about the world not only as filled with the immediate sense perception of the more solid substances, but to think of it as filled with ether. What is characteristic is that natural science with its current methods fails to ascend to an understanding of what the ether actually is. Natural research for its real activity always requires material bases. But the ether itself always escapes, in a certain sense, from the material foundations. The ether appears in union with material processes, it calls forth material processes; but it is not to be grasped, so to speak, with those means which are bound to the material foundations. There has, therefore, developed in recent times a strange ether-concept, which, basically, is extraordinarily interesting. The concept of the ether which one can already find today among physicists, goes in the direction of saying: the ether must be — whatever else it may be — something which at any rate has no attributes such as ordinary matter has. And in this way, natural scientific research points toward the recognition of something beyond its own material basis, when it says of the ether, it possesses aspects which research, with its methods, cannot find. Natural scientific research comes to the acceptance of an ether, but with its methods is unable to come to fill out this representation of the ether with any content.

Spiritual science yields the following. Natural scientific research proceeds from the material foundation; spiritual research from the spirit-soul basis. The spiritual researcher — if he does not arbitrarily remain within a certain limit — is also, like the natural scientist, driven to the concept of ether, only from the other side. The spiritual investigator attempts to come to know what is active and effective within the interior of the soul. If he were to remain standing at the point where he is able to experience inwardly only what takes place in the ordinary life of the soul, he would actually in this field not even advance as far as the natural scientist who postulates the concept of an ether. For the natural scientist at least forms the concept of an ether; he accepts it for consideration. The soul researcher, if he fails to come to a concept of ether, resembles a natural scientist who says: Why should I trouble myself about what else lives? I accept the three basic forms: solid, fluid, gaseous bodies; what is finer than that, about that I do not concern myself. This is, for the most part, just what the teachings of psychology in fact do.

However, not everyone who has been active in the realm of soul research acts in this way; and one finds especially within that extraordinarily significant scientific development which is based on the foundation laid in the first third of the nineteenth century by German Idealism — not in this Idealism itself, but in that which then evolved out of this Idealism — one finds the first beginnings leading toward the concept of the ether from the other side, from the spiritual-soul side, just as nature research ascends to the idea of ether from the material side. And, if one truly wishes to have the concept of the ether, one must approach it from two sides. Otherwise, one will not come rightly to terms with this concept. What is interesting is that the great German philosophical Idealists, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, despite their penetrating power of thinking — an ability which I have often characterized here — despite this, they did not form the concept of the ether. They were unable to so enstrengthen, to empower, their inner soul life in order to conceive of the ether. Instead, there arose within those who allowed themselves to be fructified by this Idealism, who, in a sense, allowed the thoughts which had been brought forth to work further within their souls - - despite the fact that they were not as great geniuses as their Idealist predecessors — this concept of the ether arose out of their research into the soul's realm. We first find this ether concept in the work of Immanuel Hermann Fichte, the son of the great Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who was also his father's pupil. He allowed that to continue to work within his soul which Johann Gottlieb Fichte and his successors, Schelling and Hegel, had accomplished. Immanuel Hermann Fichte, allowing this thought to become condensed to an even greater effectiveness within him, came to say: When one contemplates the life of soul and spirit, when one so to speak, traverses it in all directions, one comes to say: This soul-spiritual life must flow down into the ether, just as the solid, fluid, gaseous states flow up into the ether. So must, in a sense, the lowest element of the soul flow into the ether, just as the highest element of matter flows into the ether above. Characteristic also are certain thoughts which Immanuel Hermann Fichte formed about this matter, by means of which he, indeed, penetrated from the spirit- soul realm and came to the boundary of the ether. You will find this passage from his book Anthropology, 1860, quoted in my most recent book, Of the Human Riddle:


“One cannot find, within the material elements of substance ... that which truly endures, that uniting formative principle of the body, which reveals itself as operative during our entire life.” “Thus, we are directed to a second, essentially different causative principle in the body.” “Inasmuch” as this “contains that which actually persists, endures in the metabolism, it is the true, inner, invisible, but in all visible substantiality present body. That other, the outward manifestation of it, built up out of incessantly active metabolism, may from now on be designated ‘body,’ which is, in fact, not that which persists and is not the enduring whole, and which is the mere result or the after-image of that inner bodily presence, which casts him into the constantly changing world of substance, in a way similar to the way the magnetic force prepares an apparently solid body out of the particles of the iron filings, but which dissolves in all directions when the force which unites them is withdrawn.”


For I. H. Fichte there lived within the ordinary body, consisting of outer material substance, an invisible body, and this invisible body we might also call the etheric body; an etheric body which brings the single substantial particles of this visible body into their form, which sculpts them, forms them. And I. H. Fichte is so clear about the fact that this ether body, to which he descends out of the soul realm, is not subject to the processes of the physical body, that the insight into the existence of such an etheric body suffices to enable him to transcend the riddle of death. In this context I. H. Fichte says in his Anthropology:


“It is hardly necessary still to ask, how the human being finds himself in the process of death. The human being remains after this last, for us still visible act of the living process, he remains in his essential being entirely the same in spirit and in organizing power as he formerly was. His integrity is preserved; for he has indeed lost nothing of that which was his and belonged to his substance during his visible life. He only returns in death into the invisible world, or better said, as he never left this world, as it is that which actually endures within all that is visible — he has simply stripped off a particular form of the visible. ‘To be dead’ only signifies, to be no longer perceptible to the usual comprehension by the senses, just as in the same way, that which is actually real, the final ground of bodily manifestation is imperceptible to the senses.”


I have shown in the case of I. H. Fichte how he advances from the soul realm to such an invisible body. It is interesting to note that in a number of instances in the after-glow of the spiritual life of German Idealism, the same thing appears. Some time ago I also drew attention to a lonely thinker, who was a school director in Bromberg, who had occupied himself with the question of immortality, Johann Heinrich Deinhardt, who died in the sixties of the nineteenth century. At first, he concerned himself with the question of immortality as others had also done, seeking to penetrate the question of immortality through thoughts and concepts. But more resulted for him than for those who merely live in concepts. And it was there possible for the publisher of the treatise about immortality which J. H. Deinhardt had written to quote a passage from a letter which the author had written him, in which J. H. Deinhardt says, that, although he had not come so far as to publish it in a book, his inner research had, nevertheless, resulted clearly in the recognition that the human being, during his entire life between birth and death, works on the formation of an invisible body which is released into the spiritual world at death.

Thus, one could draw attention to a variety of other instances within German spiritual life of such a direction of research and of a way of seeing and comprehending the world. They would all show that in this direction of research there lay an urge not to remain limited by mere philosophical speculation, which results in a mere life in concepts, but rather to so enstrengthen the inner life of the soul that it presses forward to that degree of concentration that reaches through to the etheric.

Along the paths on which these researchers entered, the real riddle of the etheric cannot yet be resolved from within, but one can, in a certain sense say: these researchers are on the way to spiritual science. For this riddle concerning the etheric will be resolved when the human soul undergoes those inner processes of practical exercise which I have frequently characterized here, and which are described more exactly in my book How to Attain Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. The human being, when he undergoes these inner soul processes, does indeed gradually attain to the etheric from within. Then the etheric will be directly present for him. Only then, however, is he really in the position to understand what a sense perception is, to understand what actually occurs in the perception by the senses.

In order to characterize this today, I must seek access to this question, in a certain sense, from another side. Let us approach that which actually occurs in the metabolic processes for the human being. Simply expressed, we can think of the metabolic processes in the human organism as occurring in such a way that, essentially, they have to do with the fluid material element. This can be easily understood if one acquaints oneself, even only to a limited extent, with the most easily accessible natural scientific ideas in this field. What constitutes a metabolic process lives, one can say, in the fluid element. That which is breathing lives in the airy, gaseous element; in breathing we have an interchange between inner and outer processes in the air, just as in the metabolism we have an interchange between substance processes which have occurred outside of our body, and such which occur within our body. What happens then when we perceive with our senses and then proceed to form mental representations? What corresponds to this actually? In just the same way that the fluid processes correspond to the metabolism, and the airy processes correspond to breathing — what corresponds to perception? What corresponds to perception are etheric processes. Just as we in a sense live with our metabolism in the fluid, and live with our breathing in the air, we live with our perceiving in the ether. And inner ether processes, inner etheric processes, which occur in the invisible body, about which we have just been speaking, occur, come into contact with external etheric processes in sense perception. When it is objected: Yes, but certain sense perceptions are self-evidently metabolic processes! — this is especially obvious for those sense perceptions which correspond with the so- called lower senses, smell, taste. A more accurate consideration shows that along with that which is substantial, that belongs directly to the metabolism, along with every such process, also with tasting, for example, an etheric process occurs, by means of which we enter into relation with the external ether, just as we enter into relation with the air with our physical body when we breathe. Without the understanding of the etheric world, an understanding of sense perception and sensation is impossible.

What is it that actually happens? Well, one can only really know what happens there when one has gone far enough in the inner soul process that the inner etheric-bodily element has become a reality for one. This will happen when one has achieved what I called imaginative thinking in lectures which I recently gave here. When one's thinking has been so strengthened, by means of the exercises given in the book already mentioned, that they are no longer abstract concepts, such as we normally have, but are thoughts and mental representations filled with life, then one can call them imaginations. When these representations have become so alive that they are, in fact, imaginations, then they live directly in the etheric, whereas, if they are abstract representations, they live only in the soul. They grasp the etheric. And then, if one has progressed far enough, one might say, in an inward experimentation that one experiences within oneself the ether as living reality, then one can know, through experience, what happens in sense perception, in sensation. Sensation as it arises through sense perception — 1 can only present this today in the form of results — consists in the fact that the outer environment sends the etheric from the material surroundings into our sense organs, thus making those gulfs, about which I spoke the day before yesterday, so that that which is outside also becomes inward within the sphere of our senses. We have, for instance, a tone between the life of the senses and the outer world. As a result of the fact that the external ether penetrates into our sense organs, this external ether is deadened. And as the outer deadened ether enters our sense organs, it is brought to life again through the fact that the inner ether from the etheric body works towards the deadened etheric coming from outside. Herein we have the essential being of sense perception and sensation. Just as the death process and enlivening arise in the breathing process, when we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, so also a process of exchange takes place between the dead ether and enlivened ether in our sense experience.

This is an extraordinarily important fact which can be found through spiritual science. For that which no philosophical speculations can find, and on which the philosophical speculation of the last centuries has ship-wrecked countless times, can only be found along the path of spiritual scientific research. Sense perception can thus be recognized to be a fine process of exchange between the outer and the inner ether; to be the enlivening of the ether that is deadened in the sense organ by the forces of the inner etheric body. So that that which the senses kill for us out of the environment, is inwardly made alive again through the etheric body, and we come, thereby, to that which is indeed the perception of the outer world.

This is extraordinarily important, because it shows how the human being when he devotes himself to the sensations arising from sense perception, does not only live in the physical organism, but rather in the supersensible etheric, and shows how the entire life within the senses is a living and weaving in the invisible etheric. It is this which, in the time mentioned above, the more deeply insightful researchers have always sensed, have inwardly divined, but which will be raised to certainty through spiritual science. Among those who recognized this significant truth, I would like still to mention the almost totally forgotten J. P. V. Troxler. I have mentioned him here in earlier lectures, in earlier years. He said in his Lectures about Philosophy:


“Already in earlier times the philosophers have differentiated a finer, purer soul organism from the coarser body. ... a soul, carrying a picture of the bodily organism, which they called Schema, and which was for them the higher, inner human being. ... In recent times, even Kant in his Dreams of a Spiritual Seer, dreams earnestly, but jokingly, a whole inward soul man, who bears all the limbs of the outer body in his spirit body; Lavater composes poetically and thinks in a similar vein. …”


These investigators were also clear, however, that in the moment when one ascends out of the usual materialistic way of seeing things to the perception of this supersensible organism in us, one has to move from the usual anthropology to a way of recognition of such a kind that it achieves its results through an intensification of our inner capacities. It is, therefore, interesting how, for example, both I. H. Fichte as well as Troxler are clear that anthropology must ascend to something different, if it wishes to comprehend the whole human being. I. H. Fichte says in his Anthropology:


“Consciousness based in sense perception ... together with the whole, human life of the senses, has no other significance than to provide a place in which that supersensible life of the spirit occurs, by introducing — through a free, conscious deed of one's own — the spiritual content of the ideas (which lives beyond ordinary consciousness) into the world of the senses ... The fundamental comprehension of the being of man in this way thus raises ‘Anthropology’ in its final result to ‘Anthroposophy.’”


We see within this stream of German spiritual life which tends to drive idealism out of its abstraction toward reality, the premonition of Anthroposophy. And Troxler says, that one must assume a super-spiritual sense in union with a super-sensible spirit, and that, thereby, one can grasp the human being in such a way that one no longer has to do with a usual anthropology, but with something higher:


“If it is indeed highly welcome that the most recent philosophy, which ... in every Anthroposophy ... must reveal itself, climbs upward, it is, nevertheless, not to be overlooked that this idea cannot be the fruit of speculation, and the true ... individuality of the human being may not be confused, either with that which it postulates as subjective spirit or as finite I, nor confused also with that which it places in opposition with it as absolute spirit or as absolute personality.”


What is brought forward as Anthroposophy in no sense arises arbitrarily. Spiritual life leads to it with necessity, when concepts and mental pictures are not experienced as mere concepts and mental pictures, but rather are — I once again wish to use the expression — condensed to the point where they lead into reality, where they become saturated with reality.

One does not, however — and this is the weakness, the lack, in this research — if one merely raises oneself from the physical to the etheric body, one does not really find one's way; rather one comes to a certain boundary, which must, however, be transcended; for only beyond the etheric lies the soul-spiritual. And the essential thing is, that this soul-spiritual can only come into a relationship with the physical through the mediation of the etheric. We thus have to seek the actual soul element of the human being, working and impulsating within the etheric in a fully super-etheric way; working in such a way that the etheric, in its turn, forms the physical, just as it (the etheric) is itself formed, impulsated, enlivened by the element of the soul.

Let us now try to understand the human being from the other pole, the pole of will. We have said that the will-life is directly connected with the metabolism. In as much as the will impulse lives in the metabolism, it not only lives in the external, physical metabolic processes, but as the entire human being is everywhere present within the limits of his being, so the etheric also lives in that which is active as metabolism when an impulse of will occurs. Spiritual science shows that what lives in the will impulse is exactly the opposite of that which is present in sense perception. In the case of sense perception, the etheric outside of us is, in a certain sense, enlivened by the etheric within us. That is to say, the inner etheric pours itself into the dead etheric from outside. In the case of an impulse of will the situation is such that when the will impulse arises from the soul- spiritual, the etheric body is loosened, is expelled out of the physical body in those areas in which the metabolism occurs, through the activity of the metabolism and everything which is connected with it. As a result, we have here the exact opposite: the etheric body in a certain sense pulls back from the physical processes. And it is just in this that the essential element in will actions lies. In such actions of the will the etheric body draws back from the physical body.

Those among my audience who have heard the earlier lectures will remember that, in addition to imaginative cognition, I have also distinguished inspiration and, finally, actual intuitive cognition. Just as imaginative cognition is an intensification and a strengthening of the soul's life, which enables one to attain to the life of the etheric, in the way I have indicated, so is intuitive cognition achieved through the soul's learning by mighty impulses of will to participate — indeed, actually herself to call forth — what one can call: the pulling back, the withdrawing, of the etheric body from the physical processes. Thus, in this realm, the soul-spiritual penetrates into the bodily-physical. If an impulse of will arises originally from the soul-spiritual, it unites itself with the etheric and the consequence is that this etheric is withdrawn, pulled back, from one or the other area of metabolic activity of the physical-bodily organism. And by means of this working of the soul-spiritual, through the etheric, upon the bodily organism, there arises that which one can designate as the transition of a will impulse into a bodily movement, into a bodily action. But it is just here, when in this way, one takes the whole human being into consideration, that one attains to one's actual immortal part. For as soon as one learns how the spirit-soul weaves in the etheric it becomes clear to one that this weaving of the spirit- soul in the etheric is independent also of those processes of the physical organism that are encompassed by birth, conception and death. Thus, along this path it becomes possible to truly raise oneself to the immortal in the human being, to raise oneself to that which unites itself with the body, received through the stream of inheritance, and which continues when one passes through the portal of death. For the eternal spirit is connected through the mediation of the etheric with that which is here born and dies.

The mental pictures, the ideas, to which spiritual science comes, are powerfully rejected by the habits of thought of the present day and human beings, as a result, have great difficulty in finding their way into an understanding of them. One can say that one of the hindrances which make it difficult to find one's way into this understanding — along with other difficulties — is that one makes so little effort to seek the real connection of the soul-spiritual with the bodily organism in the way which has been indicated. Most people long for something quite different from that which spiritual science can offer. What actually happens in the human being when he or she forms mental pictures, forms representations? An etheric process occurs, which only interacts with an external etheric process. What is necessary, however, in order that the human being remains healthy in soul and body in this regard, is that he or she becomes aware where the boundary lies in which the inner etheric and the outer etheric come into contact with each other. This occurs in most cases unconsciously. It becomes conscious when the human being ascends to imaginative cognition, when he inwardly experiences the stirring and the motion of the etheric and its encounter with the external ether, which dies into the sense organ. In this interaction between the inner and outer etheric, we have, in a sense, the furthest boundary of the effectiveness of the etheric on the human organism. For that which is at work in our etheric body affects the organism primarily, for example, in its growth. In growth it forms the organism from within. It gradually organizes our organism so that the organism adapts itself to the outer world, in the way in which we see it, as the child develops. But this inner formative grasping of the physical body by the etheric must come up against a certain limit or boundary. When it passes this boundary, as a result of some process of illness, the following occurs: that which lives and weaves within the etheric and which should remain contained within the etheric, overreaches and lays hold on the organism so that, as a result, the organism is permeated by that which ought to remain a movement within the etheric. What happens as a result? That which should only be experienced inwardly as mental representation now occurs as a process within the physical body. This is what one calls a hallucination. When the etheric activity crosses its boundary towards the bodily — because the body is unable to resist it in the right way, due to a condition of illness — then there arises what one calls a hallucination. Very many people who want to penetrate into the spiritual world wish, above all, to have hallucinations. This is, of course, something which the spiritual researcher cannot offer them; for a hallucination is nothing other than a reflection of a purely material process, of a process which from the viewpoint of the soul occurs beyond the boundary of the physical body, that is it occurs within the body. In contrast, what leads into the spiritual world consists in the fact that one turns back from this boundary, returning into the realm of the soul, attaining to imagination instead of to hallucination, and imagination is a pure soul experience. And inasmuch as it is a pure soul experience, the soul lives in imagination within the spiritual world. Thus, the soul penetrates the imagination in the fully conscious way. And it is important that one understands that imagination — that is the justified way to achieve spiritual cognition — and hallucinations are the direct opposite of each other, and, indeed destroy each other. He who experiences hallucinations, due to a condition of organic illness, puts obstacles in the way to achieving genuine imagination, and he who attains true imagination protects himself in the surest way from all hallucination. Hallucinations and imagination are mutually exclusive, destroy each other mutually.

The situation is similar also at the other pole of the human being. Just as the etheric body can overreach into the bodily organism, sinking its formative forces into the body, thereby calling forth hallucinations, that is calling forth purely organic processes, so, on the other side the etheric can be drawn out of the organism — as was characterized in relation with the action of the will — in an irregular way. This can happen as the result of certain pathological formations of the organism or also as a result of exhaustion or similar bodily conditions. Instead of the etheric being drawn out of the physical metabolism in a certain area of the body, as in a normal, healthy action of the will, it remains stuck within it and the physical metabolic activity in that area — as a purely physical activity — reaches into the etheric. In this case, the etheric becomes dependent on the physical, whereas in the normal unfolding of the will the physical is dependent on the etheric, which, in its turn, is determined by the soul- spiritual. Should this occur, as a result of such processes as I have indicated, there then arises — I would say, like the pathological counter picture of a hallucination — a compulsive action; which consists in the fact that the physical body, with its metabolic activities, penetrates into the etheric, more or less forces its way into the etheric. And if a compulsive action is called forth as a pathological manifestation, one can say: compulsive action excludes that which, in spiritual science, one calls intuition. Intuition and compulsive action are mutually exclusive, just as hallucination and imagination exclude each other. Therefore, there is nothing more empty of soul than — on the one hand — a hallucinating human being, for hallucinations are indications of bodily conditions which should not be; and, on the other hand, for instance, one can have the whirling dervishes. The dance of the dervish arises through the fact that the bodily-physical forces itself into the etheric so that the etheric is not effective out of its connection with the spiritual-soul element, but rather those characteristic compulsive actions occur. And he who believes that revelations of a soul nature manifest in the dance of the whirling dervish, such an one should consult spiritual science in order to become clear that the whirling dervish is evidence that the spirit, the spirit-soul, has left the body and he, therefore, dances in this way.

And, I should like to say, that for instance automatic writing, mediumistic writing, is only a somewhat more comprehensive example of the same phenomenon as that of the dervish dance. Mediumistic writing consists in nothing else than that the spirit-soul nature has been completely driven out of the human organism and that the physical body has been forced into the etheric body and has there been allowed to unfold; to unfold itself after being emptied of the inner etheric under the sway of the outer etheric which surrounds it. These realms lead away from spiritual science, they do not lead towards the science of the spirit, although no objection should certainly be raised from those points of view from which generally so many objections are raised against these things. Just in relation to the whirling dervish one can study what a truly artistic dance should be. The art of dance should consist just in the fact that every single movement corresponds to an impulse of will which can fully rise into the consciousness of the individual involved, so that she or he never is engaged in a mere intrusion of physical processes into processes of the etheric. Artistic dance is only achieved when it is spiritually permeated by mental pictures. The dance of the dervish is a denial of spirituality. Many, however, may object: But it just reveals the spirit! — That it does, but how? Well, you can study a mussel shell by taking up the living mussel and observing it; but you can also study it when the living mussel has left, and you study its shell: the form of the mussel is reproduced in the mussel shell, this form is born out of the life of the organism. Thus, one might say, one also has an after-image of the spirit, a dead after-image of the spirit, when one has to do with automatic writing or with the whirling dervish. For this reason, it resembles the spirit as closely as the mussel shell resembles the living mussel, and, therefore, can also so easily be confused with it. But only when one really penetrates inwardly into the genuine spirit, can one achieve a true understanding for these matters.

When we take our start from the bodily, ascend through sense perception and sensation to the activity of forming representations, to thinking, which then carries over into the soul-spiritual, we come along this path to the spiritual-scientific recognition that that which is stimulated through sense perception and sensation, at a certain point is brought to an end and becomes memory. Memory arises as the sense impression continues on its way into the body, so that the etheric is not only effective within the sense impressions themselves, but also engages itself with what is left behind in the body by the sense impression. Thus, that which has entered into memory is again called up out of memory.

It is of course not possible to go into more detail concerning these matters in an hour's lecture. But one will never come to a true understanding of the reality of mental representation and of memory and how they are related to the soul-spiritual if one does not proceed along the spiritual-scientific path here indicated.

At the other pole there is the whole stream which flows from the spirit- soul life of our will impulses into the bodily physical, as the result of which outer actions are brought about. In ordinary human life the situation is that the life of the senses goes as far as memory and comes to a halt with memory. Memory places itself, so to speak, in front of the spirit-soul so that spirit-soul is not aware of itself and how it works when it receives sense impressions. Only an indication, a confused indication that the soul weaves and lives in the etheric, arises when the soul — living and weaving in the etheric — is not yet so strongly impelled in its etheric weaving that all of this ether weaving breaks against the boundary of the bodily-physical. When the soul-spiritual weaves within the etheric in such a way that that which it forms within the etheric does not immediately break against the physical body, but rather so restrains itself in the etheric that it is as if it came to the boundary of the physical body, but remains perceptible in the etheric, there dream arises. When dream life is really studied it will prove itself to be the lowest form of supersensible experience for the human being. For the human being experiences in his dreams that his soul-spiritual cannot unfold itself as will impulses within that which appears as dream pictures because, within the dream life, it lacks strength and forcefulness in its working. And inasmuch as the will impulses are lacking, inasmuch as dreaming spirit and soul do not penetrate the etheric sufficiently for the soul herself to become aware of these will impulses, there arises this chaotic tapestry of dreams.

What on one hand the dreams are, on the other hand are those phenomena in which the will — which comes out of the spirit-soul realm — takes hold of the outer world through the etheric-bodily nature. But, in doing so, the will is as little aware of what actually is going on, as one is aware in the dream — because of the weak effect of the spirit-soul — that the human being weaves and lives in the spirit. Just as the dream is in a way the weakened sense perception, so something else occurs as the intensified effect of the spirit-soul element, the strengthened effect of the will impulses; and this is what we call destiny.

In destiny we have no insight into the connections, just as in the dream we have no insight into what actually weaves and lives there as reality. Just as material processes which flow up into the etheric are always present as the underlying ground in dreams so there storms up against the outer world the spirit-soul element which is anchored in the will. But the spirit-soul element in ordinary life is not so organized that it is possible to perceive the spirit in its effective working in what unfolds before us as the sequence of the so-called experiences of destiny. In the moment in which we grasp this sequence, we learn to know the fabric of destiny, we learn to know how, just as in ordinary life the soul conceals for itself the spirit through the mental representations, so also it conceals for itself the spirit active in destiny through the feelings, through the sympathy and antipathy with which it receives the events which approach it as the experiences of life. In the moment when one — with the help of spiritual scientific insight — sees through the veil of sympathy and antipathy, when one objectively takes hold of the course of life experiences with inner equanimity — in this moment one notices that everything which occurs as a matter of destiny in our life between birth and death is either the effect of earlier lives on earth or is the preparation for later earth lives. Just as, on one hand, outer natural science does not penetrate to spirit and soul, not even to the etheric, when it seeks for the connections between the material world and our mental representations, so also, in regard to the other pole, natural science today fails in its cognitive efforts. Just as, on one side, science remains bound to the material processes in the nervous organism in its attempts to explain the life of mental representations, so also, science remains caught at the other pole in unclarity, that, is, I would say, science teeters in a nebulous way between the physical and the realm of soul.

These are just the realms where one must become aware how concepts within world conceptions allow themselves to be proved as well as to be contradicted. And for the one who clings rigidly to the proof, the positive position has much to be said for it; but one must also — just as breathing in belongs necessarily with breathing out — be able to think one's way through to the experience of the negative. In recent times there arose what has come to be known as analytical psychology. This analytical psychology is, I would say, inspired by good intimations. For, what does she seek? This analytical psychology, or as it is generally known, psychoanalysis, seeks to descend from the ordinary level of the soul to that which is no longer contained in the generally present life of the soul, but which remains from the soul's earlier experiences. The psychoanalyst assumes that the soul's life is not exhausted with its present soul experiences, with that which is consciously experienced by the soul, but rather can dive down with consciousness into the subconscious. And in much that appears in the soul's life as disturbance, as confusion, as this or that one-sided lack, the psychoanalyst sees an effect of that which surges in the subconscious. But it is interesting to note what it is that the psychoanalyst sees in the subconscious. When one hears what he enumerates in this subconscious it is, to begin with, disappointed life expectations. The psychoanalyst encounters one or another human being who suffers from this or that depression. This depression need not have its origin in the current consciousness of the soul's life but may originate in the past. Something occurred in the soul's experience in this life. The human being has overcome the experience, but not completely; in the subconscious something is left over. For example, he or she has experienced disappointments. Through his education, or through other processes, he has transcended these disappointments in his conscious life of soul, but they live on in his subconsciousness. There these disappointments surge up, in a sense, to the boundary of consciousness. And there they then bring forth the indefinite soul depression. The psychoanalyst seeks, therefore, in all kinds of disappointments, in disappointed life hopes and expectations which have been drawn down into the subconsciousness, what determines conscious life in a dim, unclear way. He seeks this also in what colors the soul's life as temperament. In all of that which colors the soul's life out of certain rational impulses, the psychoanalyst seeks a subconsciousness which, in a certain sense, only strikes up against consciousness. But then he comes to a yet further realm — I am only reporting here — which the psychoanalyst seeks to grasp by saying: That which plays up into conscious life is the fundamental substratum, the primeval animalistic residual mud, of the soul. One can certainly not deny that this primeval mud is there. In these lectures I have already drawn attention to the fact that certain mystics have had experiences which result from the fact that certain things, for example, eroticism, are subtly refined and play up into consciousness in such a way that one believes that one has had especially lofty experiences, whereas actually only the erotic, “the primeval animalistic mud of the soul,” has surged up and has sometimes been interpreted in the sense of profound mysticism. One can document, even in the case of such a fine, poetic mystic as Mechthild von Magdeburg, how erotic sensibilities penetrate into even the single details of her mental representations, of her thoughts. One must grasp just these matters clearly, in order that one does not fall prey to errors in the sphere of spiritual scientific investigation. For it is just the one who wants to enter into the realm of the spirit for whom it is a special obligation to know all the possible paths of error — not in order to pursue them — but rather just in order to avoid them. But the one who speaks about this animalistic primeval mud of the soul, who only speaks about life's disappointed hopes and other similar matters, such a one does not go deep enough into the life of the soul; such a one is like a person who walks across a field in which there is nothing yet to be seen and believes that only the earth, or perhaps also the fertilizer is present in it, whereas this field already contains all the fruits which will soon spring forth from it as grain or as some other crop. When one speaks of the primeval mud of the soul, one should also speak of everything which is embedded in it. Certainly, there are disappointed hopes in this primeval mud; but in that which is embedded there is hidden also a germinating force which represents, at the same time, that which — when the human being will have passed through the gates of death into the life which runs its course between death and a new birth, and which then enters into a new life on earth — makes something very different out of the disappointed hopes than merely a depression. It makes something in the next life which leads, one might say, to an “appointment,” not to a “disappointment,” which leads to a strengthening of soul initiative. There lies in that which the psychoanalyst seeks in the disappointed life-hopes in the soul's deepest levels, there lies — if he only goes deeply enough into it — that which prepares itself in the present life to take hold in the next life according to the laws of destiny.

One thus finds everywhere, when one digs over the animalistic primeval mud — without thereby dirtying one's hands, as, regrettably so often happens with the psychoanalysts — the spiritual-soul weaving of destiny which extends beyond birth and death within the spiritual and psychic life of the soul. It is just in analytic psychology that we have a realm in which one can so well learn how everything can be right and everything can be wrong when it comes to questions of world conceptions, looked at from one point of view or from another. But there is a tremendous amount which can be brought forward in support of the one-sided assertions of the psychoanalysts, and, therefore, the disproving of these assertions will not greatly impress those who swear by these concepts. But if one learns to form one's judgments in accordance with the method of gaining knowledge which was characterized at the outset of this lecture, in which one recognizes both what speaks for a point of view and what speaks against it, then just out of this for and against the soul will experience what is truly at work. For, I would like to say, between that which one can only observe in the soul realm, as the psychologists do who only concern themselves with the conscious realm, and that which the psychoanalyst finds down below in the animalistic primeval mud of the soul, just between these two realms of research lies the sphere which belongs to the eternal spirit and soul and which goes through births and deaths.

The penetration of the whole human inner realm leads also to a right relationship with the outer world. More recent natural science not only speaks in vague, indefinite ways about the etheric, but also speaks about it in such a way that just the greatest world riddles lead one back to it. Out of etheric conditions there is thought to have formed itself what then took on fixed shapes and became planets, suns and moons, etc. That which occurs as the soul-spiritual in the human being is regarded, more or less, as a mere episode. Before and behind is dead ether. If one learns to know the ether only from one side then one can come to a hypothetical construction of world evolution about which the sensitive thinker Herman Grimm — I have frequently quoted his statement, but it is so significant that it may well be brought before the soul again and again — says the following. As he became acquainted with the train of thought which asserts that out of the dead cosmic etheric mist arose that wherein now life and spirit are unfolding, and as he measures this against Goethe's world conception, he comes to the following expression:


“Already in his (Goethe's) youth, the great Laplace-Kantian phantasy of the origin and the eventual destruction of the earth planet, had for a long time asserted itself. From the rotating cosmic mist — with which children already become familiar in school — the central gaseous drop forms itself, out of which the earth emerges, and undergoes, as a rigidifying sphere, in the course of unimaginable epochs of time, all those phases — including the episode of its habitation by the human race — in order, finally, to plunge back into the sun as a burned-out slag: a lengthy, but for the public in our (Goethe's) time an entirely comprehensible process, for whose origin no other outer intervention is needed than the effort of some external force, to maintain the sun at a steady temperature of heat. No more fruitless perspective for the future can be imagined than this which is to be forced upon us today in the expectation of its scientific inevitability. A bone of a carcass, around which even a hungry dog makes a detour, would be a refreshing, appetizing object in comparison with this ultimate excrement of creation, as which our earth would finally plunge back into the sun. The intellectual appetite with which our generation takes up something of this kind and feels impelled to believe it, is a sign of the sick phantasy, which learned scholars in future ages will need much cleverness to explain as an historical phenomenon of our time.”


What arises here once again within German spiritual life as a feeling born out of a healthy life of soul, just this is shown in a true light by spiritual science. For, if one learns to know how the dead etheric is enlivened through the soul element, through the living ether, then, through inner experience one distances oneself from the possibility that our universal structure could ever have arisen out of the dead etheric. And this world riddle takes quite another aspect if one becomes acquainted with the corresponding riddle of the soul. One comes to know the ether itself in its living form, one comes to know how the dead ether must first originate out of the living. Thus, as one returns to the origins of world evolution, one must return to the soul, and to the recognition that one must seek the origin of all that develops today in the realm of the spirit and the soul. The spiritual-soul will remain a mere hypothesis, something merely thought out, in relation with the outer world riddles as long as through spiritual science one does not learn to know the whole living and weaving of the etheric by experiencing how the living ether from within meets with the dead ether from without; only along the path of spiritual science the world mist itself will be recognized as being alive, as being of the nature of spirit and of soul.

So you see, also for the world riddles, a significant perspective is gained just through an understanding of the riddles of the soul. I must close today with this perspective. It is, you see, just through a genuine consideration of external and of inner life from the viewpoint of spiritual science that one is led by way of the etheric into the spirit and the soul, as well within the soul as within the outer world.

There stands in opposition to such a cognitive attitude of soul, indeed, the point of view expressed by a man to whom I referred last time and whom I named on that occasion. We can today at least have the feeling that from the way in which spiritual science thinks about the bodily nature of man, the bridge leads directly to the spirit-soul realm, in which ethics and morality are rooted and which stem from the spirit — just as the sense perceptible leads into the spirit. But in its preoccupation with the purely external material world, science has developed an attitude of mind which completely denies that ethics is anchored in the spirit. One still is embarrassed to deny ethics as such, but one today speaks about ethics in the following way, as it is expressed in the conclusion of the lecture by Jacques Loeb, which in reference to its beginning I brought forward last time. There he who comes through natural scientific research to a brutal disavowal of ethics says:


“If our existence depends on the blind play of forces and is only the work of chance; if we ourselves are only chemical mechanisms — how can there be for us an ethical reality? The answer to this is that our instincts form the roots of our ethical being, and our instincts are as subject to heredity as the constituent forms of our body. We eat and drink and reproduce ourselves, not because metaphysicians have attained the insight that this is desirable, but rather because we are mechanically predisposed to do so. We are active because we are forced mechanically to be so through the processes in our nervous system, and if human beings are not economic slaves, nevertheless it is instinct which determines the direction of their activity in regard to their successful triggering, or to their successful work. A mother loves her children and cares for them not because metaphysicians had the bright idea that this would be a lovely thing to do, but rather because the instinct to care for the offspring is as firmly implanted, presumably through the two sexual chromosomes, as is the morphological character of the female body. We enjoy the company of other human beings because we are compelled to do so by the conditions of our human inheritance. We fight for justice and truth, and are ready to make sacrifices for them, because, instinctively, we desire to see our fellow human beings happy. That we possess an ethical trait, for this we have solely to thank our instincts, which are determined for us chemically and through heredity in the same way as the form of our body.”


Ethical action leads us back to instinct! Instincts lead back to the effects of physical-chemical activity! This logic is indeed most threadbare. For, certainly as a matter of course, one can say, that one should not wait with ethical action for the metaphysicians, until they have spun out some metaphysical principles, but that is the same as if someone were to say: Should one wait with digestion until the metaphysicians or the physiologists have discovered the laws of digestion? I should once like to recommend to Professor Loeb that he not investigate the physiological laws of digestion as he storms with brutality against the metaphysical laws of ethical life. But one can say: One can be a significant investigator of nature today — but the habits of thought tend in the direction of cutting one off from all spiritual life, tend to prevent even a glance in the direction of the life of the spirit. But parallel with this there is always the fact that one can document a defect in thinking, so that one never has the full effectiveness which belongs to a thought.

One can have peculiar experiences in this regard. I recently brought forward such an experience; but I would like to present it once again because it links with the statements of a very significant natural scientist of the present time, who belongs with those whom I attack just because in one sphere I value them very highly. This natural scientist has earned great achievements in the field of astrophysics, as well as in certain other fields of natural scientific research. When, however, he came to write a comprehensive book about the present-day view of the universe and about the evolution of this world view, he comes, in his foreword, to a curious statement. He is, in a certain sense, delighted how wonderfully advanced we are in that we can now interpret all phenomena from a natural scientific perspective, and he points with a certain arrogance, as is customary in such circles, to earlier times, which had not yet advanced so far. And, in this regard, he calls upon Goethe, by saying: Whether one can truly say that we live in the best of times, that we cannot determine, but that we live in the best of times in regard to natural scientific knowledge in comparison with earlier times, in this regard we can call upon Goethe, who says:


Forgive! It does seem so sublime,
Entering into the spirit of the time
To see what wise men, who lived long ago, believed
Till we at last have all the highest aims achieved.
Faust, translated by Walter Kaufman


Therewith a distinguished natural scientist of the present day concludes his exposition by calling Goethe to witness. Only he forgot, in doing so, that it is Wagner who makes this assertion, and that Faust remarks to this assertion, after Wagner has left:


Hope never seems to leave those who affirm,
The shallow minds that stick to must and mold —
They dig with greedy hands for gold
And yet are happy if they find a worm.


To reflect on what Goethe actually says, the distinguished researcher neglected to do in the moment in which he called upon Wagner in order to lend expression to the thought of how splendidly advanced we are. In this, I should like to say, we can catch a glimpse of where it is that thinking fails in its pursuit of reality.

And we could cite many such examples if we were to explore, even a little, the scientific literature of the present day. It will surely not be held against me — as I have said that I greatly value the natural scientist whom I have just quoted — if, in relation with such natural scientific research, which prides itself on being able to impart information about the spirit, I seek to bring to expression the true Goethean attitude of mind and of heart. For, we can forgive one or another monistic thinker, when, out of the weakness of his thinking he fails to come to the spirit; it is dangerous, however, when the attitude of soul, which arises in Jacques Loeb and in the natural scientist just quoted, who presents himself as Wagner, while believing to characterize himself as Goethe, when this attitude of soul gains authority more and more in the uncritical acceptance of the widest circles. And this is what is happening. The one who penetrates into that which can arise as an attitude of mind and heart out of spiritual science, such a one, perhaps — even though it may not appear sufficiently respectful in the face of such a statement as that natural scientist made, in connection with Goethe — may come to the genuinely Goethean attitude, when he connects himself with those words of Goethe's which I would like to paraphrase in closing this lecture


Forgive! It is a shock indeed
Entering souls that in their greed
Cling to matter with all their might
And for the spirit have no sight.




Last Modified: 17-Apr-2019
The Rudolf Steiner Archive is maintained by:
The e.Librarian: elibrarian@elib.com
[Spacing]