Berlin, November 1–4, 1910
The Elements of the Soul Life
TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: A transcription by Dr. Steiner of Goethe's youthful poem. The Wandering Jew, referred to by Frau Marie Steiner toward the end of her Preface, was recited at the beginning of this lecture, following a few explanatory remarks. The original is little known in Germany and entirely unfamiliar to American or English readers, and it is unthinkable that Dr. Steiner's transcription of it could have any meaning for those unacquainted with the original. The extraordinary experiment, however, is so fully explained in the course of the lecture that both the object and the method are wholly clear, even without a knowledge of the poem in either version. Since Frau Marie Steiner was herself in doubt about the advisability of having it appear in the published version of the cycle, she would surely approve of omitting it in the translation.
Psychosophy is intended as a study of the human soul starting with what it can itself experience here in the physical world, but then ascending to higher realms in order to show that the life we encounter and can observe in the physical world leads up to glimpses of a higher soul life, from which the light of theosophy will come to meet us, as it were. A variety of considerations will occupy us during these lectures. Beginning with apparently simple matters, we will ascend to a contemplation of those phenomena of the soul life that we call attention, memory, passions, emotions. We will consider the realms of the true, the good and. the beautiful. Then we will examine the phenomena that affect human life beneficially or harmfully, out of which arise actual causes of sickness that at the present time intervene and influence our soul lives. This will bring us to the point where the psychic element enters our physical life, our daily work. We shall have to study the interaction of bodily weal and woe, and the forms of the soul life. Our observations will lead us up to the high ideals of human society, and we will consider phenomena of our daily life, such as the origin of means for passing the time and how these, in turn, affect the soul life and reveal themselves in manifold concatenations. Then the curious effects of boredom and much else will be presented, as well as remedies for poor memory, lack of forceful thinking, and the like.
You will readily understand that a detailed exposition of the soul life calls for consideration of the adjacent realms. Theosophy, of course, has provided you with ready mental images for relating the soul life of man to other realms. You are familiar with the organization of the nature of man as body, soul, and spirit, from which it is natural to infer that the soul life comes in contact on the one side with the bodily life and on the other with the spiritual life. This is the step that leads up from anthroposophy to psychosophy, and at some future time we must ascend from psychosophy to pneumatosophy.
If we would study this soul life by itself, within its two boundaries, we must ask what it is. Well, all that we are accustomed to call the outer world, all that we see before and about us — animals, plants, minerals, clouds, rivers — whatever we encounter on the physical plane, we do not include in our soul life, no matter what mental pictures we may add to our perceptions.
A rose, when encountered on the physical plane, is not a part of our soul life, but when the rose gives us pleasure, when it stimulates something like gratification in our soul, this fact then pertains to our soul life. To meet a person and to form a conception of his hair, his expression, etc., is not a function of the soul life, but to take an interest in him, to feel love or antipathy for him, that is an experience of the soul. That is the way in which matters pertaining to the soul must be characterized.
Now let us turn to something different. Suppose we are watching a man carrying out some action that induces the feeling in us of a good deed, morally laudable. A psychic experience of that sort comprises something more. Here it is not a question of how the action arose, nor even of whether we were moved by love or hate in estimating it; we find something beyond what has thus far been characterized. As soon as we judge an act to be good or bad, higher interests play a part. When we call an act good, we know that it would be wrong for this quality to depend upon our verdict. We must dissociate our personality from the question of whether an act is good or bad. True, the verdict must arise in us, but independent of ourselves. Nothing in the outer world can tell us that the act is a good one; the verdict must come about within ourselves, but uninfluenced by love or hate. In all such inner experiences that nevertheless have a significance independent of our inner frame of mind, so that it is immaterial whether we pass judgment or not — in all such experiences the spirit plays a part in the human soul. Thus we have characterized the relation of the soul to the outer world by reviewing these three cases precisely from the outer world.
Summing up, first, we observe something as pertaining to the outer world: the rose. Second, we experience something in connection with it: pleasure. Third, something arises in us, but something that must be independent of us: judgment (good or evil). The outer world must reveal itself to the soul by way of the body. Soul experiences take place wholly within us, and the spirit declares itself within the soul. The point is to keep firmly in mind that the soul flows and ebbs in inner facts.
It now remains to find something through which the character of our soul life is brought to our consciousness from within as well. Thus far we have considered the soul life as it is bounded from without. Now we shall see how it can be characterized from within, disregarding what is adjacent, and clearly expressing in a conception what we mean by the pure soul principle. We must acquire a mental picture of the nature of the soul as it has its being on the physical plane.
The basic character of pure soul, of pure psychic experience, can be described in two ways. Speaking accurately in regard to earthly conditions, and indicating the inner phenomena of the soul life exactly as far as its boundaries, there are in the first instance two conceptions that we can apply to man's pure soul experiences and to nothing else. The inner phenomena of the soul life — its inner fluctuation — clearly indicate its boundaries, and the attributes of these boundaries must be mentioned. My next task will therefore be to characterize these inner phenomena of the soul life, and this, as I said, can be done in two ways. We will devote today's lecture to gathering conceptions, but never mind; it will greatly help us to understand phenomena that concern us intimately. It is a matter of gleaning hints that are extraordinarily important in connection with the soul life, whether healthy or diseased.
One conception by which the pure soul principle can be characterized is reasoning. Reasoning is one activity of the soul, and all remaining psychic experiences can be summed up in what we may call the inner experiences of love and hate.
Rightly understood, these two conceptions — reasoning, and love and hate — comprise the entire inner soul life. Everything else denotes something that derives from without through the body or from within through the spirit. We shall see how fruitful a careful study of the two psychic activities can become. Everything pertaining to the soul, then, is either reasoning or living in love and hate; at bottom these two conceptions are the only pure soul activities. Reasoning on the one hand, loving and hating on the other — these are the forces of the soul life exclusively pertaining to it.
If we are to understand each other aright with regard to these two basic forces of the soul, it behooves us to visualize clearly first, the significance of reasoning within the soul life, and then, the role played in the soul life by love and hate. I refer to reasoning not from the standpoint of logic, but of the activity comprising the inner soul process of reasoning; not judgment, but the activity, reasoning.
If you are led to concede that the rose is red, you have reasoned; the activity of reasoning is involved. If you are inwardly constrained to say that the rose is red, that man is good, the Sis-tine Madonna is beautiful, that steeple is high, you are dealing with activities of the inner soul life that we designate as reasoning.
Now, how about love and hate? A little introspection will show you that we do not pass by the outer world in such a way that our soul remains untouched by the majority of external phenomena. Passing through a landscape you see cloud-capped mountain peaks, and you experience joy in your soul. What underlies this is that you love what you experience through this landscape. Whatever exists of joy or horror in an experience, that is love or hate. If love or hate hides in many kinds of soul experiences, that is merely because these accompany us incessantly from morning to night. If you see someone committing an evil deed and are repelled by it, you have a hidden experience of hate, exactly as you have when you turn from a malodorous flower. Love and hate accompany the soul life continually and so does reasoning.
If we now observe an important concomitant of reasoning, we can learn to know the phenomena of the inner soul life better still. It is this, that all reasoning has an effect in the soul life, and this fact is the key to the soul life. By forming the judgment, “the rose is red,” “that man is good,” you retain a result in the soul. It can be characterized this way: When you have given the verdict, the inference is the conception, “the red rose,” “the good man.” The verdict “the rose is red” has been transformed into the conception “the red rose.” As a being endowed with soul, you then continue to live with this conception. Every judgment is a confluence of conceptions. Here we have, on the one hand the rose, on the other, red. These flow toward each other and combine in the conception “the red rose,” which you carry with you in your further soul life.
This may sound dry, but it is indispensable for an understanding of the soul life. Neither the soul life nor its relation to the higher planes could be accurately comprehended without the knowledge that judgments converge into visualizations.
Experiences of love and hate, on the other hand, do not give rise to the question of how do they converge, but rather as to where they arise. In the case of reasoning, the question is, Whither? and the answer is. Toward the conception. But with regard to love and hate the question is. Whence? We will always find one impulse in soul experiences themselves that gives rise to love and hate, an impulse that breaks into the soul life from another quarter, as it were. All love and hate can finally be traced back to what within the soul life we call desire. Entering from another direction and underlying love and hate, as these manifest themselves in the soul, desire can always be found streaming into our soul lives. Into one side of it flows desire, manifesting itself in love and hate. On the other side the activity of reasoning leads to visualization.
Desire is something you can easily recognize as arising naturally out of the inner soul life. The external cause of it may not at all be known to you, but you do know that it appears in your inner soul life, and that invariably love and hate result. In like manner you realize that your verdict “the rose is red” arises in the soul, but when this verdict has culminated in a visualization, the latter must have external validity. Reasoning takes place in the soul; it arises out of the inner life. We can put it this way: primarily, desire — for reasons not known to us today — manifests itself in the soul and expresses itself in love and hate. But in the same way — also for unknown reasons — the soul is impelled to permit judgment to enter from the wellspring of its own being, and provided the verdict has been arrived at in a certain way, the visualization must be valid for the outer world.
It will seem strange to you that I should be so prolix in expounding the elementary concepts of the soul life. You may think that these matters could be skipped over more rapidly, and indeed, they could, but just because these relationships remain largely unnoticed in scientific circles, error after error is committed. I will mention one prime error common today. By drawing far-reaching conclusions, those guilty of this error become entangled in misconceptions; they start from entirely false premises. In many books on physiology you can find the statement that the raising of a hand or leg is brought about by the fact that we have two kinds of nerves. Those that run from the sense organs to the brain or the spinal cord and that transmit messages to the brain, so to speak, are supposed to be contrasted with another set, called motor nerves, as against the sensory or perceptive nerves. According to this theory, when an object is seen, the message of the sense organ is first carried to the brain, where the stimulus thus exerted is supposed to stream out into a nerve that leads to a muscle, and only then does the impulse arise that entails motion. According to spiritual science, however, that is not the case. What is called the motor nerve does, in fact, exist as a physical unit, but it does not serve to instigate the motion. It serves only to enable us to perceive the motion ourselves, to check up on it, to bring our own movement to consciousness. Just as the optic nerve, through which we perceive an external event, is a sensory nerve, so the muscle nerve leading to the hand is also a sensory nerve, whose function is to keep track of the movement of our hand. This example of faulty scientific thinking is a prime error that has poisoned all physiology and psychology.
Our task is clearly to understand the role played by these two elements of the soul, reasoning, and love and hate. They play an enormous role, for the entire soul life runs its course in manifold combinations of these two elements. We should misconstrue this soul life, however, if we failed to allow for extraneous forces, not properly psychic, that constantly enter in across the border. The first example that occurs to us, to be met with everywhere in daily life, around which, indeed, our everyday soul life is built, is that of sense experiences. These are the various experiences brought about by the ear, the eye, the tongue, the nose, etc. What we experience through our sense organs we take into our soul, in a way, and there it lives on. With this in mind we can actually speak of our soul reaching as far as a certain boundary, which is the boundary of the sense organs. We have posted sentinels, as it were, at the boundaries of our soul life, and what these sentinels report of the outer world we take into our soul life and carry further.
We can now ask about those impressions in the soul that we experience through our sense organs. What is represented within the soul life by what we experience through the ear as tone, through the eye as color, through the nose as smell? Well, the study of these sense experiences is as a rule pursued in a lopsided manner. Science fails to face the fact that the processes taking place at the boundaries of the soul life are composed of two factors, two elements. One element is perception, our immediate experience of the outer world. You hold the tone, the color, the smell, and so forth — that is, the impression of these — only as long as you are in contact with the external stimulus. The impression, the interaction of inner and outer factors, ceases at once when you turn away, close your eyes, or the like.
What does that prove? If you consider the immediate perception in conjunction with the fact that later you know something (you know the tone, the color, etc.), it proves that you have retained something of your experience of the outer world, even though the experience has ceased. What does this imply? That something has completely entered your soul life. Something that has become part of your soul life must inevitably run its course there because you carry it with you. If it were part of the outer world you could not carry it with you. You can continue to hold the impression of color, the perception of the color impression, only if it has remained within your soul.
It is necessary to distinguish between a sense perception proper and what you continue to carry in the soul, what you detach from the outer world. The experience you thus derive from objects we will call perception, and what you continue to carry in the soul, sensation. As a foundation, then, for subsequent expositions, keep in mind the sharp distinction between sense perceptions and what we retain as sensation (sentience). The perception of color ceases when you turn away; the sensation of it remains. Ordinarily such fine distinctions are unnecessary, but for these four lectures they are apposite.
So we continue on our way, carrying these sensations about with us in our soul. We now ask if it could be that these sensations, derived from external objects, constitute a new element of the soul life, as opposed to reasoning and the phenomena of love and hate, which we termed the exclusive elements? If that were the case I should have been guilty of omitting to name something that also constitutes an inner experience, namely, sentience. But that is not the way matters stand; sentience is not a separate element of the soul life.
If you have sensed the color red, the color red is not an inner soul experience, for it is the object that is red. If “red” were an inner soul experience your whole color-perception of red would avail you nothing. The quality “red” did not originate in your soul life. What did arise there was the activity in which you engaged for the purpose of carrying away with you something of the red. What you did while confronting the rose, that is inner soul life. This activity of your inner soul is in reality nothing more than a fusion of what I have described to you as the two basic elements of the soul life.
But then we must consider the following. If what I have told you of the two elements is true — if love and hate, deriving from desire, and reasoning lead to visualization — then what was characterized as sentience would have to be related to those two elements in the case of a sense experience as well. A sense experience must be accompanied by love and hate, and reasoning. Imagine you have a sense experience of color, and observe closely what happens:
and reasoning flow to the boundary of the outer world
Above the heavy line is the outer world, below it the world of the soul. The line is the boundary. When at this boundary an object makes an impression upon the sense organs and induces an experience — for instance, of color, this experience must be met by the result of love and hate and of reasoning, emanating from the soul as visualization. Nothing else can flow out of the soul.
Note, however, an important distinction that can exist between different kinds of desire, different kinds of reasoning. As an example, let us assume that while you are waiting for a train, day-dreaming, the visualization of a disagreeable past experience appears in your soul life, and side by side with this appears another, namely, everything unpleasant that has happened to you since then as a result of that experience. Then you can sense how these two visualizations combine into a more intensive visualization of that distressing event. During this process nothing related to it has occurred in the outer world. A judgment has been reached that remains wholly within psychic experience. Nevertheless, love and hate appeared in the soul life; they amalgamated with the visualization, as it were. As you sit there dreaming, your environment need show nothing of all this; your surroundings are of no consequence; yet something occurs. A visualization comes about through love and hate, and reasoning, without any stimulus from without.
That is quite a different thing from confronting a sense experience. When we perform such an inner act — let judgments arise, provoke love and hate — we remain within the sea of our soul life. But when a sense experience arises we must advance to the boundary of the outer world, and there it is as though the currents of the soul life were directly stopped by the outer world.
Whenever a sense experience is involved we are stopped by the outer world. Desire, love and hate, flash to the boundary; the capacity for judgment flows there too, and both are obstructed at that boundary. The result is that reasoning and desire are checked. They are there, but the soul does not perceive them, and the sense sensation is brought about by this flowing to the boundary and there being stopped. The sense sensation is nothing but a phenomenon of love, hate and reasoning that remains unconscious, though these are obstructed and held fast from without (cf. previous diagram).
We can put it this way. Ebbing and flowing in the sea of our soul life, psychically substantial, is what can be designated love and hate, and reasoning. This manifests itself in various ways.
When a judgment is reached within the soul itself, the soul is aware of the activity of reasoning as visualization.
When the soul directs the activity toward the outer world, it must stop at the boundary and it perceives the outer world: perception.
When, however, the soul directs the activity toward the outer world but stops before it is reached, sensation arises. Sensation is the confluence of desire and reasoning within the soul life.
If we consider what the soul life ordinarily comprises, we find that our inner experiences really consist, as a rule, of what we have carried away with us from sense experiences. A little introspection will convince you of this. If you want to create higher visualizations for yourself, you will notice how helpful it is for your inner soul life to try to substantialize what is not of the senses, to imagine it pictorially, to clothe it in a garb that is faintly a sensation of color or tone. Speech itself could teach us how extensive is the soul's need to express higher things in such a way as to symbolize them in sense sensations. As a rule, the symbol is a necessity, though people usually have no inkling of the fact, because in symbols the likeness is shadowy, nebulous.
Try, for a moment, to imagine something without the aid of a symbol — a triangle, for example; a triangle without color or any link with any sense sensation. Just try it, and you will see how difficult it is to visualize a triangle un-symbolized, that is, a visualization not associated with any sense picture. Most people are quite incapable of accomplishing this. Symbols alone provide the possibility of rising to higher visualizations. Even language is aided by symbolization. Observe how we are forced at every turn to symbolize speech. I said that a symbol must be verknüpft (linked) with the visualization of a triangle: what a crude conception, knüpfen! [TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Knüpfen means literally to knot together.] Even words themselves disclose the prevalence of symbols, and we see to how great an extent the soul life consists of products of sensations.
We have just one conception that cannot be directly classed as an outer sense experience, although it keeps recurring as an inner soul experience and we must continually relate it to the outer sense experiences: the conception of the ego. If we face the purely psychic state of affairs, we must concede that man lives largely in a world of sense sensations. In this world the conception of the ego keeps bobbing up and crowding forward, but this ego is not always present as a conception. It would be foolish to assume that the ego conception could be present continually or for a prolonged period. Fancy what it would be like to keep saying to yourself, to keep visualizing incessantly, I, I, I ...! No, that is not what you do. You have other conceptions, such as red, blue, tone, large, small. Nevertheless you know that your visualizing occurs in your ego, that your ego must participate whenever a sense experience takes place. What we call soul experience is in a sense at the same time ego experience. You know that soul experiences — desire, reasoning, etc. — must always be opposed by the ego, but no matter how insistently visualizations are stimulated by the outer world, the conception of the ego can never possibly be created merely through the outer world. It does not enter from without. True, the ego sensation, the ego conception, invariably accompanies these sense conceptions that originate in the outer world, but it does not itself arise there. It emerges from the sea of the soul life and, as a visualization, joins the other visualizations, as it were.
Out of the sea of soul experience the other sense experiences emerge as well, but only when outer causes are in question. In this fact is to be seen primarily the sole difference between the ego sensation and sensations consequent upon sense perception. A significant phenomenon thus confronts us. In the midst of our soul life there appears a conception that joins the others coming from without. How is this to be explained?
Among present-day philosophers and psychologists, even outside the anthroposophical movement, there are some who point out the importance of the ego conception, but strangely enough these psychologists, no matter how well-meaning, invariably overshoot the mark. The French philosopher, Bergson, was one who emphasized the significance, the distinctive character, of the ego conception. From this the philosophers infer a permanence of this ego conception, or at least, that it points to something permanent, and they substantiate this view as follows. The ego differs from all other experiences of the senses and the soul by participating, as it were, in the other experiences and conceptions in such a way as to lend them their true form; ergo, it must be of a permanent nature.
Here, however, a grave error appears, and a certain objection that must be raised against Bergson's argument proves quite fatal for his inference. Let us assume that the ego conception yielded something that constitutes the soul within itself. The question would then necessarily arise as to what happens to this during sleep at night. The ego conception ceases entirely, of course, during sleep.
All these concepts concerning the participation of the ego in visualizations apply only to our waking life. They merely appear anew every morning. If the ego conception were to prove anything concerning the permanence of the ego, it would have to remain present during sleep. From the absence of the ego conception during the night it follows that after death it need not necessarily be present either. Thus there is no testimony available for the permanence and the immortality of the ego. It might be lacking, for it disappears every day.
Hence we must keep in mind that, on the one hand, the presence of the ego conception without external stimulus is significant, but that, on the other, this presence in no way proves the permanence of the ego, as the latter is away during sleep. In this way we have today reached an inference upon which we shall build further.
We have seen that two elements emerge from the surging sea of the soul life: reasoning, leading to visualization, and love and hate, deriving from desire. At the boundary of our soul life is the confluence, of which we are not aware, of desire and reasoning. An ego conception appears without external stimulus, but it shares its destiny with the other visualizations of the soul life; just as tone, color, and so forth, come and go, so does the ego conception emerge and disappear.
In the following lectures we will examine the connection of this ego conception, this soul center, with the other conceptions of the soul life — sensation, desire, reasoning, love and hate.