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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 5



SHOULD like to speak again of the being of man, and starting again with the fact that man consists of body, soul and spirit, examine more closely the soul and th< spiritual being of man. How does man in his body, soul and spirit nature stand within the world? Of this Rudolf Steiner has given us the following example in his book Theosophy: “I cross a meadow covered with flowers. The flowers make their colours known to me through my eyes. That is the fact which I accept as given. I rejoice in the splendour of the colours. Through this I turn the fact into an affair of my own. Through my feelings I connect the flowers with my existence. A year later I go again over the same meadow. Other flowers are there. New joy arises in me through them. My joy of the former year will appear as a memory. It is in me; the object which aroused it in me is gone; but the flowers which I now see are of the same kind as I saw the year before, they have grown in accordance with the same laws as did the others. If I informed myself regarding this species, about these laws, then I find them in the flowers of this year again, just as I found them in those of last year. And I shall perhaps muse as follows: — The flowers of last year are gone; my joy in them remains only in my remembrance. It is with my own existence only that they are bound. That, however, which I recognised in the flowers of last year, and recognise again this year, will remain as long as such flowers grow. That is something which revealed itself to me, but which is not dependent on my existence in the same way as my joy is. My feelings of joy remain in me: the laws, the being of the flowers, remain outside of me in the world.”

Thus man, as he goes through a flower-bedecked meadow takes notice of the flowers. The flowers make their colours known to him through his body, his sense organs. That is the first way in which a man stands in respect to the outer world, as a person aware of things. Man experiences pleasure over the beautiful colours. Through his feelings he lives in a subjective world, an inner world which every man builds up within himself. These flowers please me, another perhaps passes them lightly by; and a third is, maybe, troubled by the scarcity of the same flowers, which as I look at their beautiful colour rejoice me.

This inner subjective world has nothing to say of the external world. It evolves simply out of my sympathies and antipathies. It is they that make the other world my affair. And that is the second way in which man stands in regard to the outer world, as a “feeling being.”

But man can connect himself in yet another way with the things of the outer world (in this case the flowers): he can think about them; he can discover the laws according to which they grow. That is the third way in which man stands in regard to the other world — as “thinking being.” So one can say that man is connected with the outer world in a three-fold way; first, through the body by means of which he becomes aware of it; secondly, through his soul in rejoicing or troubling over it; and thirdly, through his spirit, as he meditates and tries to find out the laws which govern it.

This three-fold connection with the world exists because man consists of body, soul and spirit. Through the body the things in man's environment reveal themselves to him, one might say the things in their most outermost expression, their form, colour, etc. Through his soul he is able to experience something that does not exist in the outer world (sympathy and antipathy), that, however, does not mean that it is something that does not characterise in anyway the outer world and that is of no significance for it as far as this sympathy or antipathy lead to action. Through the spirit man links himself in a yet higher way with the outer world. His senses show him the externals. The spirit penetrates through to the inner of this outer world, to that which is hidden from the senses, to that which is to be found behind the outer appearance as accordance with law. So we can say man lives in three worlds: in the physical outer world, which we find as fact, in which we live in our bodily life; in the soul world which we bear within us, which we experience within us; and in the spiritual world from which our own spirit springs, which does not reveal itself to us as a fact to be taken for granted, but which we must seek, to which we must try to rise, and which we find, however, behind the accordance with law in the physical world. It can also be found in that which lives in us as the eternally true, and the truly good. Naturally we also experience the spiritual world in ourselves, but it is not only at home within us like the soul world.

The soul world is a subjective world. The spiritual world is an objective world, it is there whether we grasp it or not, and within us there is only so much as we have grasped. We can also say “Man is related to these three worlds; to the physical through his physical body, which is built up out of the substances and forces of the physical world; to the soul world, through his sensations, his purely soul experiences, through the possibility of feeling pleasure and displeasure, likes and dislikes, joy and pain, And man is related to the spiritual world in so far as he can consciously raise himself above pleasure and displeasure and the outer appearance of the world.

Let us consider once more, and more precisely, how man stands in regard to the outer world; his senses give him his impressions of the outer world. But man faces these impressions in a two-fold way, — passively and actively. [See Rudolf Steiner's Theosophy.]

Rays of light penetrate the eye, they plant themselves within the eye as far as the retina. There they call up chemical processes in the so-called pupil. The working of this stimulus is carried through the optic nerve to the brain. These are physical life-processes which, if man could observe them, he would see as physical processes such as are carried on otherwise in the outer world. But the perception of the colour blue which the recipient of the rays of light has, can never be found in this way. It exists in the soul of the recipient.” Man receives from all sides through his senses impressions of the outer world, that means he is the recipient, he is in a passive relation to the world. He also reacts to these impressions through his feelings that means he responds in all directions to the impressions of the outer world, and therewith stands in an active relation to the world. The two ways in which man is related to the outer world are really quite different from one another. The process through which a sense impression works towards a reality is an etheric process. The sense impression from the outer world produces an inner experience, an inner activity, and this source of inner activity is called in spiritual science the sentient-soul. So we can say that this sentient-soul is dependent upon the physical body; there exists an interaction between it and the physical bodily nature, it reacts to the impressions which come to it through the senses. As it is with the body, so is it that with thinking, the soul interacts with the spirit. For first man forms thoughts over his sensations of the outer world. The child who burns himself with fire meditates and comes to the thought “Fire burns.” Man may meditate over his sensations. He does not blindly follow his motives, appetites, and passions, he is led by the consideration that he can obtain satisfaction through them. Through the sentient-soul, which without meditation reacts immediately to the impressions, or the stimuli of the outer world, man is related to the animal kingdom. In them also we see the activity of desire, instinct, and passion, which they immediately respond to as does the undeveloped man. The sentient-soul is therefore different from that soul activity which acts through thinking, and which puts thinking at her service. This soul which is served by thinking is called in spiritual science the intellectual-soul.

The whole of our modern culture is a culture built up on the intellectual soul. An immeasurable amount of thinking power has been expended in order to invent the railway, auto, telegraph, the radio, and the rest, and all these great achievements are employed in order to make life more comfortable, nicer, pleasanter, to satisfy our physical and soul needs. But man must not put thinking at the service of the sentient-soul, he should, through thinking, raise himself above that life. With my pleasure in the flowers of the meadow I live within myself, and it has a significance only for myself. I can go more deeply into the laws upon which the existence of the flowers depends. I can go more deeply into the laws of the germination, their growth and decay. The truths which I discover in this way are related to the things of the outer world not to my own soul. The thoughts which I have in regard to the germinating, growing and decaying and over the renewed germination, these, in so far as they are right and true thoughts have the same significance for every other man as for myself. When any knowledge gives me joy, such joy has significance only for myself only so long as it lives in me. The truth of this knowledge has an existence quite independent of this joy. The truths of knowledge have a quite independent existence, they bear their value within themselves, and this value does not vanish with the soul sensation of joy which I feel over them any more than it arises out of it. What is really true does not arise and pass away. Truth has a significance which cannot be destroyed. Truth has eternal value. And as it is with the eternal truth, so it is with the truly good; moral truth is independent of inclination or passion, it does not allow itself to be governed by them, but governs itself. To feel pleasure and displeasure, to desire and detest, these belong to man's own soul. Duty is a higher thing than pleasure or annoyance. Man stands so much the higher the more he has ennobled his inclinations, his pleasures and displeasures, so that they are in agreement with the truly good, the more it appears as self-evident duty, which agrees with the truly good. The moral good has its eternal value in itself just as much as truth has. In so far as the soul bears truth and goodness in itself, so far is it immortal. The soul which opens itself to and gives itself up to the eternally true and good is called in Spiritual Science the spiritual soul. Just as the sentient soul and the intellectual soul are quite given up to the physical, sensible, material world, so is the spiritual soul quite given up to the revelations of the spiritual world, which are conveyed to her through art, religion and true science. Truth is a lasting eternal truth when it has released itself from sympathy and antipathy. Truth is also true when it resists all personal feeling. The soul which will come to such truth must raise itself above itself, that is, it must silence what lives there as sympathy and antipathy, and in quiet composure await the revelations of the spiritual worlds, receiving them in humility as its fructifying by the spiritual worlds. Spiritual Science calls the spiritual soul that part of the soul which lives and rules in inward quiet, in contrast to that part of the soul which we call the sentient soul, where sympathy and antipathy, desire and passion of all kinds, rule. The soul stands in the middle between body and spirit. The bodily nature acts upon the soul limiting it in contraction, and the spiritual acts upon it in expansion.

The soul receives through the body only such impressions as those for which the body has sense. We know, for example, that in plant, animal and man there is life; our body, however, possesses no organ that shows us that life, in the way that our eyes make known to us colours and forms, and our ears tones. In this sense we have to say that our bodily nature works upon our soul in a limiting sense. Spirituality, however, works upon the soul expanding it, for the more it is filled with the eternally true and the truly good, so much the more broadly and comprehensively does it act. Now we naturally dare not imagine that we have three souls within us. Faust says, indeed, “Two souls, alas! are lodged within my breast,” but he might well mean by that what we mean when we speak of three soul-members or soul principles. It is indeed of interest to consider this passage in Faust very closely. In his breast there truly lived only two souls, the sentient soul, which, as he says, depends upon the sense-world “mit klammerden Organen” (with clinging organs) and the spiritual Soul, which would fain be carried into strange spheres, that means the spiritual. And Wagner is like a personification of his intellectual soul. Whenever the prosaic intellect is aroused in Faust, there steps forward Wagner. And considered from the standpoint of an artistic composition, it is justifiable that the prosaic intellectual thinking of Faust, the everyday Faust, stands by him like a second person. For what is shown in Faust is the striving man, and this shows itself most actively in the striving between the two extremes, between the sentient soul and the spiritual soul.

Two souls, alas! are lodg'd within my breast,
Which struggle there for undivided reign:
One to the world with obstinate desire,
And closely clinging organs, still adheres;
Above the mist the other doth aspire,
With sacred vehemence, to purer spheres.

At the death of Faust, at the end we have the victory of the spirit, the angel bearing up the immortal part of Faust:

                                                          Who ever
Strives forward with unswerving will, —
Him can we aye deliver;
And if with him celestial love
Hath taken part, — to meet him
Come down the angels from above;
With cordial hail they greet him.

And in the Mystic Chorus:

All of mere transient date
As symbol showeth;
Here the inadequate
To fulness groweth;
Here the ineffable
Wrought is in love;
The ever womanly
Draws us above.

We do not bear sentient soul, intellectual soul and spiritual soul as three separate members of our being in us; rather is the soul a threefold manifestation of our ego in the physical bodily nature. And this ego, this self can show itself in very different ways. At one time it is overcome by anger, at another it can raise itself into the sphere of the spiritual through religion, art, or true science. It conducts itself in different ways, not only in one man as distinct from another, but also differently in ourselves according to the impressions it receives. It will show itself the more symmetrically the more it is in control in our inner life, in our soul. To this we come only through work upon ourselves. This must then begin where man finds soul weaknesses within himself. When an impulse to anger wells up in us, and we quite consciously, with the force of our personality, recover our inner calm, and when we then act out of this inner calm, we have then done a fruitful work upon ourselves, and surely also upon our surroundings. For the acting out of an inner calm will have quite different results from the acting from anger. When we have practised for a long enough time, not out of our emotions but in accordance with an inner calm, out of better insight, the faculty of moderation will gradually unfold within our soul. We shall then have transformed the storm of anger into moderation and therewith have transformed this part of our astral, or sentient soul. In this way we can gradually change all our soul weaknesses. For example, let us take vanity, that injurious disease vanity, if we consider quite honestly why this or that word makes us suffer, — we very often find that such a word contains truth, and that we are vexed because we do not want to see the truth in the words or do not want others to see it. Here too, we can first establish that inner calm within us, and out of that inner calm try for an unsparing self-knowledge and this self-knowledge can indeed be the first step to the overcoming of that vanity. For this consists in an absence of just that self-knowledge, in an over-rating of our virtues, and an under-rating of our failings, and therein we admire our own virtues and forget our failings. If we would practise this unsparing self-knowledge, again and again, whenever this injurious vanity shows itself, then we would transform that part of our astral body. In such a way, naturally, examples can be increased. For there are, of course, innumerable great and small failings in our souls, our astral bodies, which can be transformed, indeed, which must be so transformed if we are to get any further. Now what does it mean, that the astral body has to be transformed in this way? Into what must it be transformed? Let us once more look into what happens when we work upon ourselves in the way described; we gradually learn to make our ego freer within ourselves. So long as we allow our passions free play, so long do they control our ego. When we establish an inner calm we withdraw our ego from the control of the passions, and so far as we free our ego from our passions so far do we give it the possibility to work in us as the spiritual force it in reality is. But so long as our passions control our ego so long is it a sense-ego or a sense-self. Should that freed self, however, take the control in our inner soul life, it will not work as a sense-self, a sense-ego, but as a spiritual ego, a spiritual self.

In this sense speaks spiritual science; in so far as man purifies his astral body, so far does he develop his spirit-self, that is he will have cast out what pertains to the lower senses from his ego, his self, and taken up the spiritual into that self, and he can with this spirit in his self, as spirit-self, act more and more from the impulse of the spiritual.

Alongside the work on the astral body there must also be the work on the etheric or life-body, at the same time, for in this, too, we have vices and failings. Every failing of the astral body can, if it continue unnoticed, and is continually practised, become a habit, a failing of the character, and this means that the failings print themselves gradually upon the etheric body. A burst of anger may be a passing one living in the astral or sentient soul; but a man who is often angry, and more and more over the little things, becomes at last a grumbler, and thereby deepens his power of vexation. But even those failings which lie more deeply in the etheric or life-body can be transformed when we continually try to control ourselves, and when we with sufficient perseverance, honestly and intensively work upon ourselves. The life-body freed from its failings becomes the life spirit. In this sense speaks spiritual science. In so far as man transforms his life-body himself, from his “I,” from that self which works as spirit-ego, or as spirit self, so far does man develop his life-spirit. To-day we live in the times in which we as men are forming our spiritual soul, that is, we are at the beginning of the transformation of the astral body into the spirit-self. Of this spirit-self there is as yet little trace in man, and still less of the life-spirit, the life-body transformed by the ego. But that which must come to expression in mankind must be effected by individual men. If mankind is to develop itself further, it cannot happen otherwise than by the development of the individual, and this can only be fulfilled when he works with the whole force of his ego on his spiritualisation.

Spiritual science calls man to-day to this work, for mankind has distanced himself far from his spiritual origin and must find the way back again. Man must again become what he was originally, a likeness of God. To-day he is more like to fall back to the beast. We can see in the physiognomy of a man whether his spiritual nature or his lower nature rules in him, and the spiritual power of the ego must act even upon the physical part of man. Only then will man as spirit man be able to grow into the spiritual world from which he came down to earth. That will be attained only in the distant future, but in order to attain it at all we must begin to-day with the first work, with the control of our feeling world, with the purification of our astral or sentient body, with its transformation into spirit-self.

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