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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner Archive & e.Lib Document

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

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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

Guide to Spiritual Science: Lecture 2



AST time we considered the development which mankind underwent between the Graeco-Latin times and the present, and arrived at the knowledge that man, as a single personality, as an ego man, is capable of development, we know that in every man there slumber soul forces which can be awakened and developed. This knowledge is of vital importance because it shows us the position which man occupies in the universe. We have considered the kingdoms of Nature, the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, and have found a progressive development from the dead mineral to the living plant and the living and feeling animal. Then we compared man with these kingdoms of Nature and saw how the development of the natural kingdoms finds its conclusion in man as race-being; but, on the other hand, in the single example, the ego man, a quite new, a soul-spiritual development begins, in which man himself must take an active part; the soul-spiritual forces which lie hidden in man must be fostered and developed by man himself; they do not naturally grow of themselves like the senses which gradually develop of themselves in the growing child. We have the ego in man as a germ in us, as a divine spark which can again be lost to us if we do not cherish and foster it We must even say that man no longer remains man, he falls back to the level of the animal if he neglects his thinking, feeling and willing powers.

To-day we want to try to learn to know the nature of man more closely. That is a difficult task leading us deeply into super-sensible knowledge, for that which is accessible to the senses and for the understanding, and relies on sense perceptions is only a part of the whole man. Indeed, even in the consideration of the physical body of men we are in a sphere which is not accessible to the senses. For that which we usually call the physical body of man, that which we have before us when we observe a man, is not merely a physical body, it is a living, thinking, feeling and willing physical bodily nature, and as we cannot perceive the life itself, no more can we see the thinking, feeling, and willing, save in its other manifestations, its effects. But these lie clearly exposed even for that power of judgment which confines itself only to the revealed. So we can also hope that we shall succeed in grasping the being of man with the help of our logical thinking. If we wish to confine ourselves only to sense considerations, we must consider the physical body of man as it shows itself to us when that which is supersensible in him is separated. We must consider it in sleep and death. In a sleeping man thinking, feeling and willing are laid aside, so in a dead man is all that supersensible thinking, feeling and willing, and also life. In the physical body we see working those same materials and forces which we find in the mineral kingdom, we see them called up into the form of the physical body, but we see also that with the entrance of death the mineral substances prepare again to follow the mineral laws from which they were torn during life; we see the decay of the physical body begin. During life the mineral substances were placed in a higher service. Moreover, something is hidden from our sense perceptions calling up the mineral substances into the form of the human physical body and during life carrying on a continual battle against the falling to pieces of this form. In spiritual science this which is hidden in man, this which hinders the physical substances and forces during life from following their own laws is called the etheric, or life body, and is denoted as the second member of the human being. Man has this etheric or life-body in common with all plants as he has the physical body in common with all minerals. The etheric or life-body is that which calls up the mineral substances and forces into the form of the physical body and is the cause that the substance and forces of the physical body produce the manifestations of growth, of propagation, of the inner movement of the sap, etc. Everything living has its etheric body. But man is not merely a living being, a being with the forces of growth and propagation, he is also sentient, he is wakeful, at least at times. An etheric body, which is only given up to itself would have to remain forever in a condition of sleep, it would lead only a plant existence in the physical body. Just as the etheric or life-body, a force hidden to sense perception, calls up the physical mineral substances to the form and to the possibility of growth and propagation of the human physical body, a further member of the human being illuminates the etheric body with the light of consciousness. This third member of the human being is called in spiritual science the astral or sentient body, This sentient body is not so closely bound up with the physical body as is the life body. The etheric or life-body unceasingly wages war against the falling to pieces of the physical body, from birth to death. The astral or sentient-body, on the other hand, at night withdraws from the physical and life-bodies in order to fetch for itself new powers. We then see at night the sleeping man leading a plant existence, that is, we see him as a living being without feeling and without consciousness. Man has the sentient or astral body in common with the animal, just as he has the etheric or life-body in common with the plants, and the physical body in common with the mineral. Now we can realise the physical being of man. It consists of three members, the physical body, the etheric or life-body, and the astral or sentient-body. But with this the being of man is not complete: what man really is, what he is as ego-man, his real self, his “I” lies still much deeper hidden from the outer perception. This ego-man lies so hidden that we are never in the position to name it. We can give a name to every sense thing from outside but to the spiritual being of man we cannot in that way give a name. Each one can call himself “I” only from inside outwards; only through itself can the soul express itself as “I.” And we can only get an idea of this “I” in its being, in ourselves as in other men, when we consider how it manifests itself in its actions. The “I” is the essential in us, the “I” thinks and feels, the “I” wills and acts. But it can act, and, acting, reveal itself only in a living physical body capable of feeling. Now we have the whole man, and we must admit that that which interests us most, the most important thing in man, the soul-spiritual being, which lies the most deeply hidden for outer consideration, is not easy to find, does not even appear for sense perception. What exists for sense perception is only the physical body. This must be capable of living and feeling if the “I,” the true being of man, will reveal itself through it. But life itself, and sensation, are, as we have seen, also non-perceptible, only in their effects are they there for our consideration. What remains over of man for him who will only hold to that which the senses show him? The corpse! Nothing, nothing of that which we call man remains except the corpse. And consider it as we may, with the most perfect instruments, we do not find life in it, we do not find feeling and sensation in it, nor do we find the “I.” We find only a shell, which has been abandoned by the “I,” feeling and life, a shell, which has been built up out of substances and forces of the mineral kingdom, and which is on the point of breaking up into its mineral parts, a shell of which the physical-mineral substances are now given over to their own laws, which falls to pieces because it is not drawn together by an etheric body, because its etheric body has withdrawn, No wonder the scientist, who only admits what the physical senses show him, must repeat that most terrible Ignorabimus [Ignorabimus We shall never know it. We shall never overstep the boundaries of natural science set for the spirit of man. (Dubois Raymond).] which external science expressed as confession of its ignorance at a time which had arrived at the highest point of materialistic thinking. The science that only admits what is open to the sense impressions will remain ignorant. For it ignorabimus is enough. But it should not remain at a standstill in this knowledge, it should say to itself: “We can, with all industry, with all thoroughness and scrupulousness investigate the mineral kingdom only as matter; but then we have to deal not only with matter, but with matter and force.” Force however, is life, and life is not to be perceived by the senses, so there is no sense or point in our investigating, if we cannot raise ourselves from sensible to supersensible investigation. Science will have to seek the way to supersensible research. Spiritual Science is in the position to show this way, it works and probes alongside with outer science. How important it is that it thus investigates and works we can understand and feel so well to-day after we have seen that man is no sense-thing but a soul-spiritual being, beyond sense, a supersensible being, of which outer science shows us no more than the shell, which he inhabits from birth to death. If we really want to discover the true being of man we must raise ourselves from sensible to supersensible investigation. Whoever does this brings to full development in himself all the soul and spiritual forces slumbering in man, and so makes himself capable of investigating the supersensible being of man. But those who are not yet so far as to be able to study the true being of man for themselves, but who yet have the wish and the will to learn to know it, and who also understand that they must exert their untrained soul-spiritual forces if they want to understand it, with them spiritual science shares the fruit of its researches, and while they take up these spiritual scientific truths into themselves, and work at the spiritualisation of their thinking forces, they strengthen their soul forces and make themselves more and more capable of understanding the spiritual, which manifests itself in all revelations. We can understand the being of man, and also the spiritual which will reveal itself to us in the kingdoms of nature. Although it is withdrawn from the outer sense consideration, although it is spiritual, we can understand and grasp it, but only with our “I.” We cannot understand it when we think that we must remain clinging to that which outer-sense consideration shows us — the shell. We can understand and grasp the spiritual only with the spiritual lying hidden within us, when we trust in that spiritual being within us, and if we do not let ourselves be lamed by that Ignorabimus, if we make ready all our soul forces and open them to the truths in which spiritual science allows us to share. We can understand it because we are ego-people and because our ego is of a divine spiritual nature.

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