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Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib

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



This stone has come to rest at my feet; forces external to it placed it there. This unattractive bulb has become a lovely daffodil; but it was not in the mind of the bulb to become the flower. This swallow has arrived in England; but I cannot believe that during the winter it was making its plans for migration in the spring. ... Man is otherwise constituted; he has what Goethe calls “a universe within;” by the help of this subjectivity of his, he can exercise a magical power of purposing his actions. He can turn the established order of nature upside-down and inside-out.

The stone and the plant and the animal — in mechanical or quasi-mechanical fashion — each conforms to the law of its being. For man, however, Nature has in mind no prescribed destiny. To man is given the very power of causation itself. Man is himself a cause. Man is purposive.

Mysteriously and majestically, man turns effects into causes. For him, and for him alone, the clock strikes before it reaches the hour. He proposes to himself a deed or a course of action; and this which is to be the subsequent, contrives to become the antecedent. ... This is because man — unlike stone and plant and animal — is in his essential being a member of a Higher World ... In his conceptual selfhood man imaginates to himself a purpose. This purpose is then applied to things perceptual and sets them going. These things perceptual, in the ordinary cause-effect way of Nature, influence or move other perceptual elements and thus the original idea of man becomes perceptualised, materialised actuality.

The painter sees in imagination a picture; he makes up his mind to get it onto canvas; so far, we have the conceptual or ideal cause. The painter gets ready his paraphernalia; he sets to work; now we can watch him; the cause has set going various sense-perceptible activities. At length on the canvas appears the completed work. It has truly enough in a certain sense resulted from all that the painter perceptually did with his brushes and paints. But more antecedently yet, and far more truly, it has its origin in a conceptual purpose, now realised; — the effect seen and known in an inner world having brought about the occurrence in an outer.

We are called upon to try to take in the virtually unbelievable fact that we are comprehensively, completely, “really and truly” creative, causal, “free.” We are under no necessity to give effect in our lives to any purposes except our own. But to be purposeful within our own selfhood — to this, if we have the necessary receptivity, we are being perpetually called. Our task is to discover by thinking-intuition what are the life-purposes proper to ourselves, each of us as a special, distinctive, unique entity; our further task is to convert these ideal purposes into outer actions.

O Man, realise thyself! O Man, become what thou art!

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