THE WISDOM OF THE SOUL
At the Portals of the Senses.
Feelings. Aesthetic Judgment.
ODAY our lecture will again be preceded by the recitation of a poem
intended to illustrate various matters that I shall discuss today and
tomorrow. This time we are dealing with a poem by one whom we may
call a non-poet because, as compared with his other spiritual
activity, this poem appears as a by-product, written for an occasion.
It is, therefore, a soul manifestation that in a sense did not
proceed from the innermost impulses of the soul. Precisely this fact
will bring clearly to light a number of points connected with our
subject. The poem is by the philosopher, Hegel, and concerns certain
phases of mankind's initiation.
Peace, all around me and within! The tireless cares
Slumber, of busy men. They give to me
Leisure and liberty. Oh night, I thank thee, thou
That set'st me free! With shimmering haze of white
The uncertain confines of the distant hills
Are shrouded by the moon; and, from between,
With kindly twinkle glitters one bright strip
Of yonder lake.
The tedious clatter of the day recedes,
As memory had laid long years between.
Thy image, now, beloved, rises up
With joys of bygone days. Yet soon these yield
To sweeter hopes of new and speedy meeting:
I paint the scene already — the eager step,
The warm embrace: and that, more intimate,
When each probes each with questions, to espy
What new things time has wrought within his friend
Of feeling, view and utt'rance; the glad certitude
That the old covenant maintains its faith,
Even truer, firmer, riper than before;
That covenant, not sealed by any oath:
To live unto free truth alone;
And never, never to make truce
With that convention which would regulate
The feelings and opinions.
Now must the thought, that bore me once o'er streams and mountain heights
To you on wings, confer with dull reality.
Yet soon a sigh betrays their quarreling, and with it flees
Away the dream of sweet imaginings.
My eyes are lifted to the vault of the eternal heavens,
To ye, ye radiant, starry host of height;
And, every hope and every wish effacing,
Forgetfulness rains down from your eternity.
My mind doth lose itself in gazing:
Gone is what I called mine:
I yield myself to the immeasurable;
I am in him, am All, am nothing else.
Returning thought, in fearsome alienation,
Recoils before the infinite, and fails, astounded,
To fathom such a vision's depths.
But fancy to the mind draws down the eternal,
And marries it to form. All hail to you!
Exalted spirits! Lofty shadows!
From whose clear brows fulfillment radiates.
Be not afraid!
This dazzling brightness that enwraps you round;
I feel I too have here my home.
Ha! Did the gates start of thy sanctuary,
Ceres? Oh, thou who in Eleusis throned'st!
Enthused, intoxicate, I feel
Thy awesome presence near
Would comprehend thy revelations.
Would read the symbols' lofty purport, and o'erhear
The festal choirs of the gods,
The dooms they utter from their council-seats!
But silenced are thy halls today, oh Goddess!
Fled is the conclave of the gods to high Olympus,
Far from their profanated altar-places;
Spurning the grave of desecrate mankind,
Fled is that genius of innocency
Whose spell once lured them: mute the wisdom of thy priests.
No single note of all the sacred rite
Escaped to reach us; and in vain the searchers delve,
Moved more by curiosity than love
For wisdom. Her they possess indeed! Disdaining thee.
In hopes to master her, they burrow after words
To find the imprint of thy lofty mind.
Tis vain! They grasp but a handful of dust and ashes,
To which they nevermore shall conjure back thy life!
Yet in the rotting, soulless mould they take their pleasure,
Aye dead themselves, and with the dead content!
Of thy high banquets there remains no token;
Of all the pictured forms not any fleeting trace.
Too holy for the children of thy mysteries
The depths of that unutterable feeling,
The rich contents of that exalted lore,
To be entrusted to a barren symbol.
Even thought itself can compass not the soul,
Who, beyond time and space, aspectant of infinity,
Rapt, self-oblivious, back to consciousness once more
Awakes. And, would he tell to others what he knows,
Though spoke with angels' tongues, the words were all too poor.
And horror seizes him, that holiest thing,
Even in thought belittled, by his words
To make so little, that the very speech seems sin.
And shuddering, he closes up his lips.
This vow, the initiate laid upon himself, wise law
Laid upon meaner spirits: never to make known
What, on a holy night, they saw and felt and heard.
Lest even the nobler sort should find their barking folly
Trouble his devotion, and their wordy trash
Stir him to wroth even with the holiest, — lest it should be
So trampled in the mire, — so mere a thing of rote
That it became the plaything of the sophists
A ware word-mongers hawk about and chaffer,
A cloak for clever-tongued hypocrisy, — a birch, perchance,
To school the merry child, — and at the end, so void,
So utterly empty, that its sole life's root
Is in its echo upon alien tongues.
Thy sons, oh goddess, did not vainly flaunt
Thy honor in the streets and market-place, but bore it
Locked in their bosom's inmost shrine.
Therefore thou livest not within their mouths:
Thee with their lives they worshipped; in their deeds thou livest still.
This night, too, holy one! I have beheld thee, —
Thee, whom in thy sons' lives I oft times found revealed,
And felt unseen, as soul of all their deeds.
Thou art that lofty purpose, that firm faith
Of Godhead, which — though all the world should fall —
nor swerves nor shakes.
In the last two lectures it was stated that in studying
the soul life we find it filled out up to its boundaries principally
by reasoning and the experiences of love and hate, the latter, as we
showed, being connected with desire. Now, it might seem as though
this statement ignored the most important factor, the very element
through which the soul experiences itself most profoundly in its
inner depths, that is, feeling. It might seem as though the soul life
had been characterized precisely by what is not peculiar to it, and
as though no account had been taken of what surges back and forth, up
and down in the soul life, investing it with its character of the
moment, the life of feeling.
We shall see, however, that we can best understand the
dramatic phases of the soul life if we approach the subject of
feeling by starting from the two elements mentioned. Again we must
begin with simple facts of the soul life, and these are the sense
experiences that enter through the portals of our senses, penetrating
the soul life, and there carrying on their existence. On the one
hand, the waves of the soul life surge to the portals of the senses
and thence take back into it the results of the sense perceptions,
which then live on independently in the soul. Compare this fact with
the other one: that everything comprised in the experiences of love
and hate, deriving from desire, also arise in the inner soul life
itself, as it were. Desires seem to arise in the center of the soul
life, and even to a superficial observer they appear to lead to love
Desires themselves, however, are not originally to be
found in the soul. They arise at the portals of the senses. Consider
that first of all. Think of the everyday life of the soul. In
observing yourself thus you will notice how the expressions of desire
arise in you through contact with the outer world. So we can say that
by far the greatest portion of the soul life is achieved at the
boundary of the sense world, at the portals of the senses.
This must be thoroughly understood, and we will best be
able to grasp it by representing in a sort of diagram what we
recognize as fact. We will be able to characterize the intimacies of
the soul life by imagining it as filling out a circle.
Click image for large view
Let us imagine, then, that the content of the soul life
is represented by what the circle encloses, and further imagine our
sense organs as a sort of portals, as openings leading to the outer
world, in the manner set forth in the lectures on Anthroposophy.
If we now consider what is to be observed only within the soul,
we should have to represent it graphically by showing the flood
surging from the center in all directions and expressing itself in
the phenomena of love and hate. Thus the soul is entirely filled by
desires, and we find this flood surging right up to the portals of
The question now arises as to what it is that we
experience when a sense experience occurs. What takes place when we
experience a tone through the ear, a smell through the nose? Let us
for the moment disregard the content of the outer world. Call to mind
once more, on the one hand, the actual moment of sense perception,
that is, the intercommunication with the outer world. Relive vividly
the moment during which the soul experiences itself within, so to
speak, while having a color or tone experience of the outer world
through the portals of the senses. On the other hand, remember that
the soul lives on in time, retaining as recollected visualizations
what it acquired through the sense experience in question. Here we
must sharply differentiate between what the soul continues to carry
along as permanent experience of the recollected visualizations and
the experience of the activity of the sense perception, otherwise we
should stray into thought processes like Schopenhauer's.
Now we ask, “What happened in that moment when the
soul was exposed to the outer world through the portals of the
senses?” When you consider that the soul, as experience
directly reveals, is really filled with the flood of desires, and you
ask what it actually is that flows to the portals of the senses when
the soul lets its own inner being surge there, you find it to be the
desires themselves. This desire knocks at the gate; at this moment it
actually comes in contact with the outer world, and while doing so it
receives a seal imprint, as it were, from the other side. When I
press a seal with a crest into wax, what remains of the seal in the
wax? Nothing but the crest. You could not maintain that what remains
does not tally with what had acted from without. That would not be
unprejudiced observation, but Kantianism. Unless you are discussing
external matter you cannot say that the seal itself does not enter
the wax, but rather, you must consider the point at issue: the crest
is in the wax. The important thing is what opposes the crest in the
seal and into which the crest has stamped itself. Just as the seal
yields nothing out of itself but the crest, so the outer world
furnishes nothing but the imprint. But something must oppose the seal
if an imprint is to come about. You must therefore think of it so
that in what opposes the sense experience an imprint has formed from
without, and this we carry with us, this imprint come into being in
our own soul life. That is what we take along, not the color or the
tone itself, but what we have had in the way of experiences of love
and hate, of desires.
Is that altogether correct? Could there be something
directly connected with a sense experience, something like a desire
that must press outward? Well, if nothing of the sort existed you
would not carry the sense experience with you in your subsequent soul
life; no memory visualization would form. There is, indeed, a psychic
phenomenon that offers direct proof that desire always makes contacts
outward from the soul through the portals of the senses, whether the
perceptions be those of color, smell, or hearing; that is the
phenomenon of attention. A comparison between a sense impression
during which we merely stare unseeing and one to which we give our
attention shows us that in the former case the impression cannot be
carried on in the soul life. You must respond from within through the
power of attention, and the greater the attention, the more readily
the soul retains the memory visualization in the further course of
Thus the soul, through the senses, comes in touch with
the outer world by causing its essential substance to penetrate the
outermost bounds, and this manifests itself in the phenomenon of
In the case of direct sense experience the other element
pertaining to the soul life, reasoning, is eliminated. That is
exactly what characterizes a sense impression; the capacity for
reasoning as such is eliminated. Desire alone prevails, for the sense
impression of red is not the same as the sense perception of red. A
tone, a perception of color or a smell to which you are exposed,
comprises only a desire, recorded through attention; judgment is
suppressed in this case. Only one must have clearly in mind the
necessity of drawing a sharp boundary line between sense perception
and what follows it in the soul.
If you stop at the impression of a color you are dealing
with just that — a color impression without judgment. Sense
impressions are characterized by an operation of the attention that
rules out a verdict as such, desire alone holding sway. When you are
exposed to a color or a tone, nothing remains in this condition of
being exposed but desire; judgment is suppressed. The sense
impression of red is not the same as the sense perception of red. In
a tone, in the impression of a color, in a smell to which you expose
yourself, only desire is present, recorded by attention. Attention,
then, manifests itself as a special form of desire. But at the moment
when you say “red is ...” you have already judged:
reasoning has come into play. One must always remember to make that
distinction between sense perception and sense sensation. Only when
you stop at the impression (say, of a color) are you dealing with a
mere correspondence between the desire of the soul and the outer
What takes place at this meeting of desire in the soul
and the outer world? In distinguishing between sense perceptions and
sense sensations we designated the former as experiences encountered
at the moment of being exposed to them, the latter, as what remains.
Now, what do we find a sense sensation to consist of? A modification
of desire. Along with the sense sensation we carry what swirls and
surges as a modification of desire, the objects of desire.
We have seen that sense sensation arises at the boundary
between the soul life and the outer world, at the portals of the
senses. We say of a sense experience that the force of desire
penetrates to the surface. But let us suppose that the force of
desire did not reach the boundary of the outer world but remained
within the soul, that it wore off within the soul life itself, as it
were, that it remained an inner condition, not penetrating to a sense
portal. What would happen in that case? When the force of desire
advances and is then compelled to withdraw into itself, inner
sensation, [TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Empfindung,
in addition to meaning “sensation” (as here translated)
can also be synonymous with Gefühl (“feeling”),
as is here the case. In order to avoid confusion, the word “inner”
is added; indeed, in all subsequent recurrences it appears in the
German text as well (innere Empfindung).]
or feeling arises. Sense sensation, or outer sensation, comes
about only when the withdrawal is effected from without through a
counterthrust at the moment of contact with the sense world. Inner
sensation (feeling) arises when desire is not pushed back by a direct
contact with the outer world but when it is turned back into itself
somewhere within the soul before reaching the boundary. That is the
way inner sensation, feeling, arises. Feelings are, in a way,
introverted desires, desires pushed back into themselves. Thus inner
sensation, feeling, consists of halted desires that have not surged
to the soul's boundary but live within the soul life, and in feeling,
too, the soul substance consists essentially of desire. So feelings
as such are not an additional element of the soul life, but
substantial, actual processes of desire taking place in the soul
life. Let us keep that in mind.
Now we will describe a certain aspect of the two
elements of the soul life, reasoning, and the experiences of love and
hate originating in desire. It can be stated that everything in the
soul arising from the activity of reasoning ends at a certain moment,
but also, all that appears as desire comes to an end at a certain
moment as well. When does the activity of reasoning cease? When the
decision is reached, when the verdict is concluded in the series of
visualizations that we then continue to carry with us as a truth. And
the end of desire? Satisfaction. As a matter of fact, every desire
seeks satisfaction, every reasoning activity, a decision. Because the
soul life consists of these two elements — love and hate, and
reasoning, imbued with a longing for satisfaction and decision
respectively — we can deduce the most important fact connected
with the soul life, that it streams toward decisions and
Could we observe man's soul life in its fullness we
should find these two currents striving for decisions and
satisfaction. By studying his life of feeling we find the origins of
many feelings in a great variety of satisfactions and decisions.
Observe, for example, those phenomena within the life of feeling that
come under the head of concepts like impatience, hope, longing,
doubt, even despair, and you have points of contact between these
terms and something spiritually tangible. You perceive that the
origins of soul processes like impatience, hope, longing, and so
forth, are nothing but different expressions of the constantly
flowing current in its striving for satisfaction of the forces of
desire and for decisions through the forces of visualization. Try to
grasp the essence of the feeling of impatience. You will sense
vividly that it contains a striving for satisfaction. Impatience is a
desire flowing along with the current of the soul, and it does not
cease till it terminates in satisfaction. Reasoning powers hardly
come into play there.
Or take hope. In hope you will readily recognize the
continuous current of desires, but of desires that, unlike those of
impatience, are permeated by the other element of the soul life, that
is, a tendency of the reasoning powers toward a decision. Because
these two elements precisely balance in this feeling, like equal
weights on a scale, the feeling of hope is complete in itself. The
desire for satisfaction and the prospect of a favorable decision are
present in exactly equal measure.
A different feeling would arise were a desire, striving
for satisfaction, to combine with a reasoning activity incapable of
bringing about a decision. That would be a feeling of doubt.
Similarly, we could always find a curious interplay of
reasoning and desire in the wide realm of the feelings, and if there
remain feelings in which you don't find these two elements, seek
further till you do find them. Taking reasoning capacity as one side
of the soul life, we find that it ends with the visualization, but
the value a visualization has for life consists in its being a truth.
The soul of itself cannot judge truth; the basis of truth is
inherent. Everyone must feel this if he compares the characteristics
of the soul life with what is to be acquired through truth.
What we are wont to call reasoning capacity in
connection with the soul life could also be designated reflection;
yet by reflecting we do not necessarily arrive at the right decision.
The verdict becomes correct through our being lifted out of our soul,
for truth lies without, and the decision is the union with truth. For
this reason decisions are an element foreign to the soul.
Turning to the other element, surging in as from unknown
sources toward the center of the soul life and spreading in all
directions, we find the origin of desire again to lie primarily
outside the soul life. Both desires and judgments enter the soul life
Within the soul life, then, satisfaction and the
struggle for truth up to the moment of decision run their course, so
it can be said that in relation to reasoning we are fighters within
the soul life, in relation to desires, enjoyers. Decisions take us
out of our soul life, but regarding our desires we are enjoyers, and
the end of desires, satisfaction, lies within. In the matter of
judgment we are independent, but the reverse is true of desires. In
the latter case the inception does not occur in the soul, but
satisfaction does. For this reason feeling, as an end, as
satisfaction of desire, can fill the whole soul.
Let us examine more closely what it is that enters the
soul as satisfaction. We have explained that sensation is
fundamentally a surging of desire right up to the boundary of the
soul life, while feeling remains farther within, where desire wears
off. What do we find at the end of desire, there where the soul life
achieves satisfaction within itself? We find feeling. So when desire
achieves its end in satisfaction within the soul life, feeling comes
into being. That represents only one category of feelings, however.
Another arises in a different manner, namely, through the fact that
actually interrelationships exist in the depths of the soul life
between the inner soul life and the outer world.
Considered by itself, the character of our desires
expresses itself in the fact that these are directed toward external
things, but unlike sense perceptions they do not achieve contact with
them. Desire, however, can be directed toward its objective in such a
way as to act from a distance, as a magnetic needle points to the
pole without reaching it. In this sense, then, the outer world enjoys
a certain relationship to the soul life and exercises an influence
within it, though not actually reaching it. Feelings can therefore
also arise when desire for an unattainable object continues. The soul
approaches an object that induces desire; the object is not able to
satisfy it; desire remains; no satisfaction results.
Let us compare this condition with a desire that
achieves satisfaction; there is a great difference. A desire that has
ended in satisfaction, that has been neutralized, has a health-giving
influence on the soul life, but an unsatisfied desire remains
imprisoned in itself and has a deleterious effect on the health of
the soul. The consequence of an unsatisfied desire is that the soul
lives in this unsatisfied desire, which is carried on because it was
not fulfilled and because in the absence of its object a living
relationship is maintained between the soul and what we may call a
void. Hence, the soul lives in unsatisfied longing, in inner contexts
not founded on reality, and this suffices to produce a baneful
influence upon the health of the physical and spiritual life with
which the soul is bound up. Desires that remain should be sharply
distinguished from those that are satisfied. When such phenomena
appear in obvious forms they are readily distinguished, but there are
cases in which these facts are not at all easy to recognize.
Referring now only to those desires that are wholly
encompassed by the soul life, let us suppose a man faces an object;
then he goes away and says the object had satisfied him, that he
liked it; or else, it had not satisfied him and he disliked it.
Connected with the satisfaction is a form of desire, no matter how
thoroughly hidden, which was satisfied in a certain way, and in the
case of the dislike the desire itself has remained. This leads us
into the realm of aesthetic judgment.
There is but one variety of feelings, and this is
significantly characteristic of the soul life, that appears different
from the others. You will readily understand that feelings, either
satisfied or unsatisfied desires, can link not only with external
objects but with inner soul experiences. A feeling of the kind we
designated “satisfied desire” may connect with something
reaching far into the past. Within ourselves as well we find the
inceptions of satisfied or unsatisfied desires. Distinguish, for a
moment, between desires provoked by external objects and those
stimulated by our own soul lives. By means of outer experiences we
can have desires that remain with us, and in the soul as well we find
causes of satisfied or unsatisfied desires. But there are other tiny
inner experiences in which we have an unfulfilled longing. Let us
assume that in a case where our desires face an outer object our
reasoning powers prove too weak to reach a decision; you might have
to renounce a decision. There you have an experience of distress
brought about by your feeling of dissatisfaction.
There is one case, however, in which our reasoning does
not reach a decision, nor does desire end in satisfaction, and yet no
feeling of distress arises. Remember that when we do not reason in
facing the objects of daily life through ordinary sense experiences
we halt at the sense phenomena, but in reasoning we transcend the
sense experience. When we carry both reasoning and desire to the
boundary of the soul life, where the sense impression from the outer
world surges up to the soul, and we then develop a desire, permeated
by the power of reasoning that stops exactly at the boundary, then a
most curiously constituted feeling arises.
Let this line represent the eye as the portal of sight.
Now we let our desire (horizontal lines) stream to the portal of
sense experiences, the eye, in the direction outward from the soul.
Now let our reasoning powers (vertical lines) flow there as well.
This would give us a symbol of the feeling just mentioned, a feeling
of unique composition.
Remember that ordinarily when reasoning power is
developed the fulfillment of psychic activity lies not within but
outside the soul. Then you will appreciate the difference between the
two currents that flow as far as the outer impression. If our
reasoning power is to decide something that is to proceed as far as
the boundary of the soul, the latter must take into itself something
concerning which it can make no decisions of its own initiative, and
that is truth. Desire cannot flow out; truth overwhelms
desire. Desire must capitulate to truth. It is necessary, then, to
take something into our soul that is foreign to the soul as such:
The lines representing reasoning (cf. diagram) normally
proceed out of the soul life to meet something external, but desire
cannot pass the boundary where either it is hurled back or it remains
confined within itself. In the present example, however, we are
assuming that both reasoning and desire proceed only to the boundary,
and that as far as the sense impression is concerned they coincide
completely. In this case our desire surges as far as the outer world
and from there brings us back the verdict.
From the point where it turns back, desire brings back
the verdict. What sort of a verdict does it bring back? Under these
conditions only aesthetic verdicts are possible, that is, judgments
in some way linked with art and beauty. Only in connection with
artistic considerations can it happen that desire flows to the
boundary and is satisfied, that reasoning power stops at the frontier
and yet the final verdict is brought back.
When you look at a work of art, can you say that it
provokes your desire? Yes, it does, but not through its own agency.
When that is the case, which is possible, of course, the arrival at
an aesthetic decision does not depend upon a certain development of
the soul. It is quite conceivable that certain souls might not
respond in any way to a work of art. Naturally, this can happen in
connection with other objects as well, but then we find complete
indifference, and in that case the same process would take place when
looking at a work of art as when confronting any other object. When
you are not indifferent, however, when your soul life responds
appropriately to the work of art, you will notice a difference. You
let reasoning and desire flow to the boundary of the soul life, and
then something returns, namely, a desire expressing itself in the
verdict. That is beautiful. To the one, nothing returns, to the
other, desire returns, but not desire for the work of art, but the
desire that has been satisfied by the verdict. The power of desire
and the power of reasoning come to terms in the soul, and in such a
case where the outer world is the provoker only of your own inner
soul activity, the outer world itself can satisfy you. Exactly as
much returns to you as had streamed forth from you.
Note that the actual presence of the work of art is
indispensable, because the soul substance of desire must certainly
flow to the frontier of the senses. Any recollection of the work
really yields something different from the aesthetic judgment in its
Truth, then, is something to which desires capitulate as
to a sort of exterior of the soul life. Beauty is something in which
desire exactly corresponds to reasoning. The verdict is brought about
by the voluntary termination of desire at the soul's boundary, the
desire returning as the verdict. That is why the experience of beauty
is a satisfaction that diffuses so much warmth. The closest balance
of the soul forces is achieved when the soul life flows to its
boundary as desire and returns as judgment. No other activity so
completely fulfills the conditions of a healthy soul life as devotion
When a longing of the soul surges in great waves to the
frontier of the senses and returns with the verdict, we can see that
one condition of ordinary life can better be met through devotion to
beauty than in any other way. In seeking the fruits of thought we are
working in the soul with a medium to which the power of desire must
constantly surrender. Naturally, the power of desire will always
surrender to the majesty of truth, but when it is forced to do so,
the inevitable consequence is an impairment of the soul life's
health. Continual striving in the realm of thought, during which
desires must constantly capitulate, would eventually bring about
aridity of the human soul, but reasoning that brings satisfied desire
and judgment in equal measure provides the soul with something quite
Naturally this is not a recommendation that we should
incessantly wallow in beauty and maintain that truth is unhealthy.
That would be setting up the axiom that the search for truth is
unhealthy: let us eschew it; wallowing in beauty is healthy: let us
indulge in it. But the implication of what has been said is that in
view of our search for truth, which is a duty, a necessity, we are
compelled to fight against the life of desires, to turn it back into
itself. Indeed, in seeking truth we must do this as a matter of
More than anything else, therefore, this search
inculcates humility and forces back our egotism in the right way. The
search for truth renders us ever more humble. Yet if man were merely
to live along in this way, becoming more and more humble, he would
eventually arrive at his own dissolution; the sentience of his own
inner being, essential to the fulfillment of his soul life, would be
lacking. He must not forfeit his individuality through the constant
necessity surrendering to truth; this is where the life of aesthetic
judgment steps in. The life of aesthetic judgment is so constituted
that man brings back again what he has carried to the boundary of the
In that life it is permissible to do what is
demanded in the light of truth. What is demanded by truth is
that the decision be reached independently of our arbitrary choice.
In seeking truth we must surrender ourselves completely, and in
return we are vouchsafed truth. In coming to an aesthetic decision,
in seeking the experience of beauty, we also surrender ourselves
completely; we let our souls surge to their boundaries, almost as in
the case of a sense sensation. But then we ourselves return and this
cannot be decided, cannot be determined from without. We surrender
ourselves and are given back to ourselves. Truth brings back only a
verdict, but an aesthetic judgment, in addition, brings back our self
as a gift. That is the peculiarity of the aesthetic life. It
comprises truth, that is, selflessness, but at the same time the
assertion of self-supremacy in the soul life, returning us to
ourselves as a spontaneous gift.
In these lectures, as you see, I must present matters
ill adapted to definitions. We are merely endeavoring to describe
them as they are by delimiting the soul life and studying it.
In the lectures on Anthroposophy given last year
we learned that in the downward direction corporeality borders on the
soul life. At this border we endeavored to grasp the human being and
thereby the human body, together with all that is connected with its
constitution. The ultimate aim of these lectures is to provide rules
of life, life wisdom, hence a broad foundation is indispensable.
Today, we gained an insight into the nature of desires
as they surge in the depths of the soul life. Now, in the previous
lectures we learned that certain experiences allied to feeling, like
boredom, depend upon the presence of visualizations out of the past,
like bubbles that lead their own lives in the soul. At a given moment
of our existence much depends upon the nature of the lives they lead.
Our frame of mind, our happiness or distress, depends upon the manner
in which our visualizations act as independent beings in the soul,
upon the significance of boredom, and so forth. In short, upon these
beings that live in our souls depends the happiness of our present
Against certain visualizations that we have allowed to
enter our present soul lives, we are powerless; facing others, we are
strong according to our ability to recall visualizations at will.
Here the question arises as to which visualizations are readily
recaptured and which not. That is a matter that can be of immense
importance in life. Furthermore, can anything be done at the
inception of visualizations to render them more or less readily
available? Yes, we can contribute something. Many would find it
profitable and could lighten the burden of their lives enormously if
they knew how to recapture their conceptions easily. You must give
them something to take along, but what? Well, since the soul life is
made up of desire and reasoning, we must find it within these two
Of our desire we can give nothing but desire itself. At
the moment when we have the conception, the moment when it flows into
us, we must give as much of our desire as possible, and that can only
be done by permeating the conception with love. To give part of our
desire to the conception will provide a safe-conduct for our further
soul life. The more lovingly we receive a visualization, the more
interest we devote to it, the more we forget ourselves and our
attributes in meeting it, the better it is permanently preserved for
us. He who cannot forget himself in the face of a conception will
quickly forget the conception. It is possible to encompass a
conception, as it were, with love.
We still have to learn, however, how our reasoning can
act upon conceptions. A conception is more readily recalled by our
memory when received through the reasoning force of our soul than
when it has simply been added to the soul life. When you reason about
a visualization entering the web of your soul, when you surround it
with reasoning, you are again providing it with something that
facilitates the memory of it. You see, you can invest a conception
with something like an atmosphere, and it depends upon ourselves
whether a conception reappears in our memory easily or not. It is
important for the health of the soul life to surround our
visualizations with an atmosphere of reasoning and love.
In this connection we must also give due consideration
to the ego conception. Our entire continuous soul life bears a
constant relationship to our central visualization, the ego
conception. If we follow the path indicated today, we shall in the
next lecture discover how to correlate the directions of memory and
At bottom, the main tendency of the soul is desire. This
being the case, anyone knowing that through esoteric development the
soul's aims must be raised may be surprised to learn that in a
certain sense desire must be overcome. “Overcoming desire in
the soul,” however, is not an accurate way of putting it.
Desire arises in the soul from unknown depths, yes, but what surges
in with it? Of what is it the expression? If we would fathom these
depths, we must temporarily interpret them in an abstract way as
something that corresponds on a higher plane to desire, something
proceeding from our own being as will. When, for the purpose
of higher development, we combat desire, we are not combatting will
but merely certain modifications, certain objects of desire. Then
pure will holds sway. Will coupled with an object, with the content
of desire, is covetousness. Through reasoning, however, we can arrive
at the conception of wanting to rid ourselves of desire, so that a
will of that sort, disencumbered of objects, is in a certain way one
of our highest attributes. Don't confuse this with concepts like “the
will to live.” That is a will directed at an object. Will is
pure and free only when not modified into a definite desire; in other
words, only when it leads in the opposite direction.
When the life of the will surges into our feelings, we
have an excellent opportunity to study the relation of will to
feeling. Fantastic explanations of will are possible. One could
maintain that will must necessarily lead to a certain object. Such
definitions are wholly unjustifiable, and people who propound them
would often do better to devote themselves to the genius of language.
Language, for example, offers an inspired word for that inner
experience in which will is directly converted into feeling. If we
could observe within ourselves a craving of the will in the process
of wearing off, we could perceive, in facing an object or a being, a
surging of the will up to a certain point, where it then holds back.
That produces a profoundly unsatisfied feeling toward that being.
This sort of will certainly does not lead to action, and language
offers the inspired term Widerwille. [TRANSLATOR'S
NOTE: Literally, anti-will, or counter-will. Widerwille is a
commonly used word meaning distaste, antipathy, disgust. The English
language, unfortunately, lacks this particular “inspired
term.”] That is a feeling, however, and
therefore the will, when recognizing itself in the feeling, is in
fact a desire that leads back to itself, and language actually has a
word that directly characterizes the will as a feeling.
This shows us the fallacy of a definition implying that
the will is only the point of departure of an act. Within the soul
life we find on all sides a surging differentiated will: desire;
therein are seen the various expressions of the soul.