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Self Observation

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

Sketch of Rudolf Steiner lecturing at the East-West Conference in Vienna.

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Self Observation

On-line since: 31st October, 2016




What a stone does is due to forces external to itself. Of this we are all of us completely certain.

If I am knocked down by a car in the street, what happens to me is the result, as things always are for the stone, of external forces. Here too we all of us feel completely certain of our argumentative ground.

In the routine of our lives; in our opinions and habits and behaviour; — if we are honest with ourselves, we are obliged to confess that here also our activity is quasi-mechanical. It may not be easy to elucidate them; they reach us by devious, underground, untraceable routes; — but it is influences outside ourselves that are the causes of most of the things we do. I am still a stone.

  1. Macbeth is contemplating the murder of Duncan. He hears within himself the voices of angels pleading with him to spare Duncan's life: —

    “He's here in double trust;
    First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
    Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
    should against his murderer shut the door,
    bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
    Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
    clear in his great office ...”

    that fateful moment, Lady Macbeth enters, with her: —

    “Was the hope drunk wherein you dressed yourself?”

    and her: —

    “When you durst do it, then you were a man.”

    Shakespeare makes us feel very intensely indeed — the play turns on it — that Macbeth need not have listened to Lady Macbeth; that if he wished, he could have acted from out of his own deeper selfhood. In thus representing things, is Shakespeare true to the facts of human psychology?

  1. Luther is required by the Diet of Worms to declare finally where he stands. If he will recant, he has, as we say, everything to gain. If he refuses to recant, he faces the fate of Huss and Giordano Bruno. He passes a fearful night of struggle with himself, emerging from it with: — “Hier stehe ich! Ich kann nicht anders! So hilf mir Gott!” Was his decision “free?”

  1. St. Francis at long last discloses to brother Leo the secret of Perfect Joy; — “And if, constrained by hunger and by cold and by the night, we shall continue to knock and shall call and beseech for the love of God, with great weeping, that he open unto us and let us in; and he, greatly offended thereat, shall say: — ‘These be importunate rascals; I will pay them well as they deserve’ and shall come forth with a knotty club and take us by the cowl and shall throw us on the ground and roll us in the snow and shall cudgel us pitilessly with that club; if we shall bear all these things patiently and with cheerfulness, thinking on the sufferings of Christ the blessed, the which we ought to bear patiently for His love; O Brother Leo, write that here and in this is the Perfect Joy.” Is St. Francis here speaking of a certain authentic possibility in Brother Leo and in every human being whom Brother Leo represents?

    In cases such as these, — and in the corresponding situations that come to all of us, — when everything seems to be happening not outside ourselves but within; when there are these acute and prolonged self-communings; when if we are to achieve a victory, we feel we must supply from within ourselves the motive-forces; — are these actions also the actions of a stone?

    With human behaviour in general we are not in this book concerned. We are not asking the unaskable abstract question: — “Is a human being free or unfree?” This opening chapter is entitled, by Dr. Steiner: — “Conscious Human Activity.” We are concerned exclusively with human actions which seem — at any rate — to be the effect of causes contained within ourselves; with deeds of which the motive-forces seem to lie in our own consciousness.

    What direction our investigations must take accordingly becomes plain to us. We turn to the study of human consciousness. What does it mean when we say: “I think?”

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