At the Portals of the Senses.
Peace, all around me and within! The tireless cares
To live unto free truth alone;
My eyes are lifted to the vault of the eternal heavens,
My mind doth lose itself in gazing:
Returning thought, in fearsome alienation,
Ha! Did the gates start of thy sanctuary,
Would read the symbols' lofty purport, and o'erhear
But silenced are thy halls today, oh Goddess!
Whose spell once lured them: mute the wisdom of thy priests.
Of thy high banquets there remains no token;
A cloak for clever-tongued hypocrisy, — a birch, perchance,
This night, too, holy one! I have beheld thee, —
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 and hate.
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.
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 senses.
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 life.
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 attention.
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 world.
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 satisfaction.
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 from without.
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: truth.
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 presence.
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 to beauty.
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 different.
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 course.
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 soul life.
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 lives.
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 elements.
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 ego experience.
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.