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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

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A Guide to the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner

Guide to piritual Science: Lecture 4

LECTURE 4.

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E have now seen that man consists of body, soul and spirit, and we have been especially considering the “I” of man, the spiritual of man, which is not to be found by external observation, and we saw that it is indeed the most hidden sanctuary in man which comes to light of day only in man's deeds. For ourselves, however, it is to be found, we can examine and know our own “I” where it is so at home, where it shows itself as it is unadorned, but also unguarded in our own soul-life, — our inner life of thinking, feeling and willing. We can thoroughly investigate the human soul, i.e., our own soul, the expression of our “I” in our physical bodily nature, when we consider it as it expresses itself in sentient-soul, intellectual-soul and spiritual-soul.

In its most primitive expression as sentient-soul, the “I” is dependent upon the physical body, it responds to the impressions of the outer world from within, to feelings of sympathy or antipathy. As intellectual-soul, it connects its thinking with the impressions of the outer world, it forms concepts. As spiritual-soul, the “I” exists in the spiritual as it does in the physical material body as sentient-soul. But it can live in the spiritual in two different ways. A truth can be directly experienced as a truth if the soul through illumination and purification can acquire the ability for this. There are people who experience, for example, religious and also mathematical truths in this way. The spiritual can also be found in another way. It can be sought and found where thetrue natural science investigator seeks and finds it in outer nature The real investigator in Nature is not content with what natural phenomena shows him in externals He seeks in the most intensive way, and with tremendous industry and devotion, for the real being of things. He knows, for example, that a mineral has not been thoroughly examined when he has learnt only of the material and the force lying in it; that he has not created a plant when he can say that it is only a living being, which has in it the possibility of growth and propagation. The real Natural Science investigator seeks deeper, he seeks the spiritual behind the outer expression of nature, he seeks what nature does not speak of, that of which Goethe says, “Geheimnisvoll an lichten Tag, lässt sich Natur des Schleiers nicht berauben, und was Sie deinem Geist nicht offenbaren mag, das zwingst du ihr nicht ab mit hebeln und mit schrauben” (“Mysterious even in the light of day, Nature does not allow herself to be unveiled, and what she will not uncover to your spirit, that you cannot force from her with the crowbar or the vice.”)

By that it is not meant that Nature cannot be investigated, it is not of the boundaries of knowledge that Goethe is here speaking, he is speaking of what the spiritual in Nature shows only to the awakened spiritual in the soul, not through instruments in use in the laboratory — ”the lever and the vice.” That is what the true natural investigator looks for, — the spiritual lying at the basis of Nature, and he can find it, it will show itself in his spirit, if he makes himself accessible to it. The spiritual which is behind nature shows itself to him who looks for it from behind the natural laws. What we know as the laws of Nature are the expression of the spiritual lying behind nature.

So we see how the spiritual can be found from two different sides. The soul, through purification and illumination can acquire the ability to receive the spiritual into itself, to allow it to revive in itself. Through purification and illumination it can raise itself into the sphere of the spiritual, and can find it directly, can directly experience it. But the spiritual can also be sought and found in Nature. Nature, as Goethe says, does not give herself up to purely external research, it reveals itself, its deepest being, only to the spirit and only to that spirit which is ready and open to receive the revelations of the spiritual. When the natural investigator, moreover, denies all spiritual as a matter of course, he naturally fails to find the weaving of anything spiritual in natural laws, however well he may intellectually recognise that the mineral and plant have a life according to certain laws; he will not find the spiritual which is revealed in the laws, and these laws he will not recognise for what they are, the revelation of the spiritual. So that we see that the second way like the first demands a certain attitude of the soul, — that the natural investigator, like the spiritual investigator, must study with open heart and lively senses, that both must be ready to receive the revelations of the spiritual. And what the true seeker thus finds in one or the other way, is something that remains with him. Such knowledge has eternal value, it is everlasting truth, true in itself whether we recognise it as truth or not; it belongs to and persists in the transitory natural appearance, it is a part of it. If, however, we investigate only the sense appearance and separate it from its persisting part, we have not got its complete reality, but only a part of it, and that not its most real part. Such external investigations Goethe describes in the saying, “Whoever wishes to know and describe what is living, tries first to drive out what is living spirit, then he has a part in his hand, unfortunately there is lacking the spiritual connection.” But if we have, in the one or the other way, found the spiritual lying at the base of the sense appearance — if the spirit has revealed itself, in one or the other way to our spirit, then we need no logical proofs that the spiritual is behind the sense appearance, for we shall have experienced it as a truth. And we can “prove” a truth so experienced to no one else, — we can only seek to guide the other to such an experience. Fundamentally so-called logical proof is merely leading the other person up to truths through thoughts which are in consonance with what we call the laws of thought. To the experience of truth the other must come of himself, if he is really to possess it as truth.

Having seen how man stands in regard to the outer world, in regard to “space,” as observing, thinking, and feeling being, we will now try to make clear how man stands in the world in regard to time.

We saw how the soul stands in the middle between body and spirit. Through the body it receives its passing impressions. The spirit reveals to it eternal truths. So the soul standing thus in the middle between body and spirit, is placed between the past and the eternal, indeed, it mediates the past and the eternal. If we want to be quite clear as to how the soul is the mediator between the past and the eternal, we must first make clear the distinction between “Perception and Idea.” Just as humanity was paralysed throughout a century in its knowledge of the being of man, through the Kantian limitations of knowledge, so on the other side it got no further because it did not differentiate enough between perception and idea. These conceptions were confused in the most unbelievable fashion by the philosophers of the nineteenth century. Rudolf Steiner, in his book The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, has conclusively made the distinction clear. He tells us that man receives through his physical body, through his senses, his knowledge of the external world; thus he gains perceptions. And the impressions thus made can be revived again in the memory as Idea. For a perception to come into existence the object of the external world which is under observation must be there under one's eye. But the Idea does not cease with this sense impression; it lives in us as a memory picture. Thus the soul retains the present of which it becomes aware through the senses, in itself, and rescues it from transitoriness. On the other hand, the soul stamps its own being on the world through its acts. What we do to-day remains in existence for to-morrow. Acts have duration, when once they have been impressed upon the outer world. In this way the soul preserves yesterday through the memory, and through deeds prepares the morrow beforehand. At every moment of his life man stands in the middle between past and future (this middle is that which we call the present.) At every moment man is dependent upon the result of his earlier deeds. Our present is absolutely dependent upon our past, we cannot escape from it. Whatever we have learnt in the past, whatever we have absorbed into ourselves — we carry within us. We have in the present no other abilities and no other knowledge or value than such as we have acquired from our past. We must obtain in the present what we would fain possess as knowledge and ability in the future. At any moment of our life we could make the resolution to give to our future a new direction or a new content. We carry in us every moment the results of our deeds in the past, and are creating the source of future acts. So that we see that in regard to the past we are unfree but that in regard to the future we are free. There are, however, deeds of which we do not see the results or effects, and on the other hand we find that man brings with him at birth abilities, talents and gifts which cannot be won in this life. We see one man pursued by relentless blows of fate, while another happens to live his life long blessed by good fortune. Here we are faced by deep and difficult life problems which neither knowledge nor religion have satisfactorily solved for us. Their answers express the doubts and bitter thoughts of injustice. Belief, however, real belief fixed as the mountains — where do we find that to-day? In simple souls who still have the power to believe more in the justice of God, than in the inexorable laws of Nature. But, is it not possible to link this belief with the results of science? Can the truths in these beliefs, like the scientific truths be eternal truths if they are upset as soon as they are examined? These are difficult questions with which man who earnestly seeks the truth must be occupied, which he dare not allow to leave him cold, for life surely depends on the answers. His moral will is in danger of being crippled if he finds no answers to these questions. Let us consider an important result, a firmly rooted belief or truth of science, and see whether it cannot be brought into agreement with belief in the truths of belief. Let us consider as an example the idea firmly rooted in present-day knowledge “All that has life springs from life.” There was a time when this sentence, this truth, was even a subject of the bitterest strife for the scientists, because it seemed to contradict the belief of that time in primal origins. At that time man believed that out of lifeless substance life beings could arise e.g., worms, little fishes out of river slime, through primal generation. They failed to observe the penetration of the lifeless substance by life germs. The Italian investigator, Francesco Redi, knew and announced this truth two hundred years before science had found “convincing proof” of it. Only two hundred years later did Pasteur succeed in preventing the penetration by life germs into substance in which usually little life beings appeared, — and in finding there no trace of life. To-day everyone understands that to explain the form and the ways of the worm he has to examine the worm egg and the predecessors of the worm, that the sort and species are only, in a physical sense, understood when man grasps them through the conditions of their inheritance. If science is to remain loyal to the conditions of its own inheritance, it must employ the same methods, the same investigator's earnestness on questions of the soul spiritual. It would then make the same forward progress in soul knowledge as it did in regard to the investigation of the living, when it recognised the truth of the sentence “All that has life springs from life.” It would then recognise as also true the sentence asserted by spiritual science, “Everything that is of the soul-spiritual arises out of the soul-spiritual.” Science could then state: man inherits his physical body from his forefathers, just as the lion did his only from his lion ancestors, and too, the physically similar appearance of his body. As spiritual man, however, each man has his own shape, his own biography (if by biography we understand the description of what is peculiarly true of the man, and of his life, and not an external collection of life experiences). How did man obtain his spiritual shape? If as physical man he repeats the form of his physical ancestors, what is he repeating as spiritual man? As a spiritual being he would have to be the repetition of such as could be explicable in his biography; but we find no two biographies even approaching each other in similarity, in line of ancestry. It is obvious that man can have his spiritual being only from himself, and that he enters the world with certain soul-spiritual tendencies, with tendencies which determine his whole way of life, as it comes to expression in his biography, and therefore, his work upon himself cannot have begun only in this life, but he must have been in such an activity as spiritual man already before his birth. This is to think scientifically in the way science applies its investigations to the external world.

In the same way must thought be applied to the investigation of the soul spiritual. If it would do so it would come by way of scientific thought to the teaching of the re-incarnation of spirit, and the teaching of fate as it is given in Spiritual Science. It is very interesting to see how Lessing in his The Education of Mankind, through logical scientific thought came to the idea of re-incarnation, and sets it in the following sentence as a question at the end of his discussion, “Why should I not return as often as I am clever enough to acquire new knowledge, new dexterity? Do I get so far at one time, that it is not worth the trouble to come again? Is that why? Or is it that I have forgotten that I have already been? Well for me that I have forgotten it. The remembrance of my former existence would only allow me to make a bad use of the present. And what I have now forgotten, must I forget them for ever? Or because so much time would be lost to me? Lost. And what have I then to miss? Is not the whole of eternity mine?”

A hundred years later appears the answer to this question through Rudolf Steiner in his book Theosophy, in the chapter upon re-embodiment of the spirit and destiny. Therein he answers the deepest life questions which man, earnestly seeking truth, must put, questions in regard to the inequalities of fate, inequalities of ability, talents, and gifts of different men.

Scientific truths and the truths of belief never contradict one another in so far as they are eternal truths; Spiritual Science shows us that step for step; indeed, it gives us the reunion between belief and knowledge, religion and science.

Let us realise once more how the soul is the negotiator between the passing and the permanent, how at every moment it is dependent upon the results of its earlier deeds; how it cannot escape its past, but is free in its present acts. When we consider this position between past and present through a long period of time, throughout a lifetime, then can we say that the deeds, of which we cannot see results in one life, will have their effects in another life, a following one, in the form of fate or nemesis of the life concerned, and then these things will no longer appear blind or unjust. And the abilities which we bring with us at birth can be recognised as the fruits of our work upon ourselves in an earlier life.

As the acquisitions of our souls remain permanently, this knowledge can give us life surety, it can strengthen our moral will, so that it can become a powerful motive force for our actions and the activities which our fate is shaping for the coming times.




Last Modified: 16-Aug-2019
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