by Rudolf Steiner
Translated from the German by Frank Thomas Smith
Dornach, April 18, 1924
My dear friends,
A large number of anthroposophical friends have appeared at the Class today who have not been here before, so I am obliged to say a few introductory words about the School's arrangements. It is to be remembered in all earnestness that with the Christmas Conference at the Goetheanum a new element has entered into the anthroposophical movement. Especially the members of our Free School for Spiritual Science must be aware of this new element. I have often indicated this, but I know that many anthroposophical friends are here for the first time who have never heard it, so I must emphasize it once again.
It is true that before the Christmas Conference it was always emphasized that the anthroposophical movement and the Anthroposophical Society must be held strictly separate.
The anthroposophical movement represented the inflow of spiritual wisdom and life impulses into human civilization today which can and should be obtained for our present time directly from the spiritual world. This anthroposophical movement exists not because people like it to exist but because the spiritual powers which guide and lead the world and affect human history consider it right that spiritual light, which can come through anthroposophy, flow today into human civilization in the appropriate manner.
The Anthroposophical Society was founded in order to act as an administrative society for the body of anthroposophical wisdom and life. And it had to be continually emphasized that anthroposophy as such is beyond and above any societal organization and the Anthroposophical Society is the exoteric administrator.
That has changed since the Christmas Conference at the Goetheanum. Since the Christmas Conference the opposite is the case. And only because the opposite is the case was I able to declare myself willing, together with the Executive Committee (Vorstand) which was formed during the Christmas Conference and with whom the appropriate work to be done can be carried out, to take over the presidency of the Anthroposophical Society which was founded at Christmas. I can explain what this means in one sentence: Until then, anthroposophy was administered by the Anthroposophical Society; now whatever happens through the Anthroposophical Society must itself be anthroposophy. Since Christmas the Anthroposophical Society must occupy itself with anthroposophy. Every single act must have an esoteric character. The investment of the Vorstand was thus an esoteric measure, a measure which must be thought of as coming directly from the spiritual world. Only when our anthroposophical friends are conscious of this can the Anthroposophical Society thus founded thrive. So, the anthroposophical movement and the Anthroposophical Society have now become identical.
Thus, the Vorstand at Dornach is an initiative-Vorstand, as was emphasized during the Christmas Conference. Of course, there must be an administration. But that is not what it considers to be its principal task, but rather to make anthroposophy flow through the Anthroposophical Society and to do everything possible to achieve this objective.
The position of the Vorstand at Dornach within the Anthroposophical Society is therewith given. And it must be clear that from now on every relationship within the Anthroposophical Society will not be based on some bureaucratic measure or other, but it will be based on the strictly human. Therefore, at the Christmas Conference statutes that contain paragraphs which detail what members must believe or agree to were not presented; rather do the statutes describe what the Vorstand intends. And that is how the Anthroposophical Society is constituted. It is founded upon human relationships.
It is a minor thing, but I must emphasize it: every member is issued a membership card, which is signed by me, so that even if it's an abstract thing, the personal relationship is at least present. It has been suggested that I have a rubber stamp made with my signature. I'm not going to do that - despite it not being exactly comfortable to sign twelve thousand membership cards, little by little. But I will not have the stamp made, first of all because, although very abstract, a relationship is at least established to each and every member when, if only for minutes the eye rests on the name of the person who carries the membership card. Obviously, all the other relationships will be even more human, but by this means a concrete beginning is made within our society.
I must also stress that it must be clear to the members - I stress it because it has already been sinned against - that when the name “General Anthroposophical Society” is used, the agreement of the Vorstand at the Goetheanum is first obtained. In the same sense, when something comes from the Goetheanum and is then used as something esoteric, the use is based upon an understanding with the Vorstand at the Goetheanum. This means that nothing by way of formulations and teaching which appears in the name of the General Anthroposophical Society will be recognized by us here as valid unless an understanding with the Vorstand at the Goetheanum has taken place. In the future, no abstract relationship will be possible, only concrete ones. Anything said to come from the Goetheanum must really come from the Goetheanum. Therefore, the use of the title “General Anthroposophical Society” for lectures to be given somewhere or for the use of formulations and so forth which originate here and which an active member wishes to distribute, should write to the Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society at the Goetheanum, that is, to Mrs. Wegman, in order to obtain the Vorstand's agreement. It is important that in future the Vorstand at the Goetheanum be understood as the center of the anthroposophical movement.
Furthermore, the relation of this School to the Anthroposophical Society must be clearly understood by the membership. One who becomes a member of the Anthroposophical Society feels the inner heartfelt need to learn and live what circulates in the world as anthroposophical knowledge and living impulse. One assumes no responsibilities other than those which come to the heart and soul from anthroposophy itself. Once one has been a general member of the General Anthroposophical society for a certain time - presently the minimum is two years - he can apply for membership in the Free School for Spiritual Science.
In this Free School for Spiritual Science one assumes truly earnest responsibilities for the Society, for anthroposophy, that is, that as a member one wishes to be a true representative of anthroposophy to the world. That is necessary today. The leadership of the Free School for Spiritual Science cannot agree to work together with someone as a member under other conditions.
Do not say, my friends, that this is a limitation of freedom. Freedom demands that everyone involved be free. And just as one can be a member of the School and be free in this relationship, the leadership of the School must also be free to determine with whom it wishes to work and with whom not. Therefore, if the leadership for any reason is of the opinion that a member cannot be a true representative of anthroposophy to the world, it must be possible for the leadership of the School to either not approve that person's application or, in the case where he is already a member, to say that his membership must be revoked. This must be strictly observed in this future, so that in fact a free cooperation exists between the School's leadership and the members.
Step by step we will try to make arrangements so that those who cannot take part in the continuing work of the School in Dornach can partake in some manner. We can only take the fifth step after the fourth, not the seventh step after the first; we must take one step after the other and there has been much to do here since the Christmas Conference. But it will all be arranged to the extent possible. We will have a newsletter through which those who reside elsewhere can participate in the School's activities. We were able to make a beginning with a newsletter that Dr Wegman sent to the physicians who were thus able to participate in the work of the School. Things will develop as much as possible, and I ask that you be patient in this respect.
Something else to be mentioned is that the School must be understood not as having been established by a human impulse, but from the spiritual world. A decision made from the spiritual world has been obtained with the means which are possible. So that this School is to be understood as an institution of the spiritual world for the present time - as has been the case with the Mysteries in all times. Therefore, we may say today: This School must develop into a true Mystery School for our times. Thus, it will be the soul of the anthroposophical movement.
This makes clear how serious membership in this School should be understood to be. It is obvious that all the previous esoteric work achieved here will flow into the School's work. For this School is the esoteric foundation and source of all esoteric activity within the anthroposophical movement. Therefore, if anyone wishes to initiate any kind of esoteric work in the world without a connection to the Vorstand at the Goetheanum, they must either reach an understanding with the Vorstand or they cannot include things which originate in the Goetheanum in their teaching or impulse. Whoever wants to do esoteric work under conditions other than those just mentioned cannot be a member of this School. They must then do the esoteric work outside the confines of this School and unrecognized by it, but must clearly understand that it cannot include anything which originated in this School. Relations with the School must be clearly understood. So the members must understand that [the leadership of] the School must be able to consider that each member is a true representative of anthroposophy in the world, and that every member represents anthroposophy exoterically (sic) as a member of the School should.
Before I was President of the Anthroposophical Society an attempt was made to organize the Goetheanum in the way other universities are organized. But that doesn't work under certain circumstances. Here esoteric studies will take place which are not found in other universities. And there is no intention to compete with other universities in the world, but to begin with questions about any field of life posed by honestly seeking people, which cannot be answered outside the esoteric.
Therefore, in the future, especially for members of the School, nonsense which keeps being repeated must cease, because with the Christmas Conference something real has happened and for the Goetheanum to fulfill its mission all the members of the School must frankly and freely declare: I am a representative of the anthroposophy which comes given from the Goetheanum. Whoever will not do this, who thinks that one should be silent about anthroposophy, prepare people slowly, whoever wants to play politics and thinks that he can advance by denying us and then people will come to us - they generally don't - would be well advised to give up membership in the School right away. I can promise you that in the future membership in the School will be taken very seriously indeed. For those members of the School whose work is really about anthroposophy and not something else, this will be accepted readily and gladly. Those who continually claim that you can't confront people with anthroposophy immediately, that you must somehow talk them into it gradually, may choose to exercise their opinion outside the School.
These are the conditions which must be adhered to, and I had to mention them today because so many anthroposophical friends are present who had not yet participated in the School. And this is the reason why you have had to wait so long for the lesson to begin, and listen to this introduction. So, we can consider the lesson today to be a kind of preparation. I will hold a second lesson, date to be announced, in which no new friends may participate. So, I ask those who wish to attend in the future to have patience, because if every time a lesson is held here new people come, we would never get anywhere. Of course, one can still become a member, but only members who have attended today will be admitted to the next lesson. It will be a continuation of today's lesson.
I wish to begin today's lesson - without you taking notes, only listening at first - by speaking the mantric formula which points to what has resounded throughout the ages, first from the Mysteries, but previously for the Mysteries from the script written in the stars, in the whole cosmos, and which resounds in the human soul, in the human heart, as the great challenge to humanity to strive for a true knowledge of self. This challenge; “O man, know thyself!” rings forth from the whole cosmos.
We look up at the stars, which reveal an especially clear writing in the zodiac, which through their composition in certain forms reveal the grand cosmic script. For one who understands the script the cosmic words will sound forth: “O man, know thyself!”
When we look up at what the planets reveal by their movements, first the sun and moon, but also the planets which belong to the sun and moon, then just as the movements of the stars reveal the powerful, forceful cosmic word, so do these planetary movements reveal the heart and feeling content.
And through what we experience from the elements which surround us on the earth and in which we partake through our skin, through our senses, through everything in us, that enters into us and acts in our bodies - earth, water, fire, air - through them the will element pours into these words.
We can therefore let this cosmic word, which rings out to humanity, act on our souls through the mantric words:
My dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, there exists no knowledge which is not closely tied to the spiritual world. Everything we call knowledge which is neither investigated in the spiritual world nor imparted by those who are able to investigate in the spiritual world, is not real knowledge. We must be clear about the fact that when we look around in the world, in the kingdoms of nature, see the colors and the radiance manifested, see what lives above in the shining stars, in the warming sun, what springs up from the depths of the earth - it is all sublime, grand, beautiful, full of wisdom. And we would be very mistaken to ignore this beauty, sublimity, this wisdom. If one wishes to become an esotericist, if he strives for real knowledge, then he must have a sense for the world around him - an open, free sense. For during the time between birth and death, during his earthly existence, he is obliged to absorb his strength from the forces of the earth, and to return the results of his work to the forces of the earth.
But although it is true that man must really participate in all the colors on colors, sound on sound, warmth on warmth, star on star, cloud on cloud, creatures of the kingdoms of nature which surround him, it is also true that if when he looks out at all the grand, powerful, sublime, wise, beautiful things his senses convey, he still does not discover what he himself is. Rather is it just then, when he has a correct sense of the sublimity, beauty and grandeur of his surroundings in his life on earth, that he will realize: In this light-filled kingdom of earth the inmost source of my being is not present. It is elsewhere. Full recognition of this causes us to seek the state of consciousness which moves us on to what we call the threshold to the spiritual world. This threshold, which lies immediately before an abyss, we must approach and remember that in all that surrounds us in earthly existence the primal source of humanity is not found.
Then we must know: at this threshold stands a spiritual figure called the Guardian of the Threshold. This Guardian takes care - beneficially to man - that one does not cross the threshold unprepared, without having experienced deeply in the soul those feelings I have spoken about. But then, when he really is prepared with inner earnestness for spiritual knowledge - whether by means of clairvoyant consciousness or through healthy human understanding of what he has been told, for both ways are valid, only then is it possible for the Guardian of the Threshold to reach out with a helping hand and allow him to look over the abyss. There, beyond the threshold where the human being's inmost being originated, utter darkness lies at first.
My dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, we seek light in order to see in the light the origin of our own being. At first darkness reigns. This light which we seek must radiate out from the darkness. And it only radiates out from the darkness when we become aware of how the three fundamental impulses of our soul-life, thinking, feeling and willing, here is this earth-life are held together by our physical bodies. Thinking, feeling and willing are conjoined in physical existence.
If I schematically draw how they are conjoined, it looks like this. Feeling (green) extends into thinking (yellow); willing (red) extends into feeling. So, in earthly existence the Three are conjoined.
One must learn to feel that the Three separate from each other. And if more and more he uses the meditations suggested to him here by the School as the content of his soul life, he will note the following [drawing again]: thinking (yellow) is freed, detaching itself from feeling, feeling [green] is on its own as is willing [red]. For one learns to perceive without the physical body.
The physical body had held thinking, feeling and willing together, had pressed them into each other. [Around the first drawing an oval is drawn.] Here [in the second drawing on the right] the physical body is not present.
Through the meditations which he receives here at the School, one gradually comes to feel himself outside his body; and he comes to regard the world as self, and what self was, as world. We stand here on the earth in our earthly existence: we feel like human beings; we say, as we become inwardly aware: this is my heart, these are my lungs, this is my liver, this is my stomach. What we call our organs, what we call the physical human organization, we consider to be our own. And we point up: that is the sun, that is the moon, those are the stars, the clouds, that is a tree, a stream. We identify these things as being outside us. We are within our organs. We are outside of those things we indicated as: that is the sun, that is the moon, those are the stars, and so on.
When we have prepared our souls enough so that they can perceive without the body, that is, outside the body in the spiritual universe, then the reverse consciousness comes about. Now we speak of the sun as we speak of our heart here in earthly existence: that is my heart. We speak of the moon: that is the creator of my form. We speak of the clouds more of less as we speak on earth of our hair. We call our own organism what people on the earth see as components of the universe. And we point out: look there, a human heart, human lungs, a human liver - that is objective, that is world. Just as when we are in our physical bodies we look out from here to the sun and moon and to the world, when from the universe we look at the sun and the moon and clouds and rivers and mountains and they are within us. And when we look at man he is our outer world. The difficulty is only in the spatial relationships. And the difficulty will be overcome.
As soon as we leave our physical bodies with our thinking, we perceive this thinking as one with all that is manifested in the stars. Here on earth we call our brain our own, as the instrument of our thinking. But now we begin to feel the stars, especially the stars of the zodiac, as our brain when we are out in the universe and look down at man external to us.
And we perceive the circling planets as our own feeling. Our feeling follows then the course of the sun, of the moon, and of the other planets. Between what we experience as thinking in the fixed stars and feeling, is the sun in ourselves [the sun sign is inserted between the yellow and green of the second drawing]; and the moon lies between feeling and willing - which we also feel within us. [The moon sign is inserted between green and red.] And by simply meditating on this figure, it has the force to bring us closer and closer to spiritual vision. It must be realized that what I am saying here can really be experienced: leaving the physical body, expanding throughout the cosmos, feeling the elements of the cosmos - sun and moon, stars and so on - as one's own organs, observation of humanity as our exterior world.
What must be perfectly clear however, is that our thinking, our feeling and our willing which on earth is a unity held together by the physical body, now becomes threefold. And we learn to feel this threefold nature above all when we observe thinking.
Dear friends, dear sisters and brothers, this thinking which man uses on earth between birth and death is a corpse. It does not live. Whatever he may think with his brain about the beautiful, sublime, grand earth in his surroundings: these thoughts do not live. They lived in pre-earthly existence. They lived, these thoughts, when we had not yet descended to the physical world, but still lived above in the soul-spiritual world as soul-spiritual beings. There the thoughts which we have on earth were alive, but our physical body is the grave in which the moribund thought-world is buried when we descend to the earth. And here we carry the corpses of thought within us. And we think about our sense-perceptible surroundings on earth not with living thoughts but with the corpses of thought. But before we descended to this physical world a living thinking existed within us.
My dear friends, we only need to immerse ourselves in these truths again and again with inner strength and we come to the conscious conclusion that it really is so. One comes to know the human being in this way. One comes to know him and sees him so: This is the human head. [The outline of a head is sketched.] This human head is the bearer and support for earthly corpse-thinking. From it spring forth - but dead - the thoughts which spread over what is perceived by the eyes, by the ears, by the sense of warmth, by the other senses. We observe the thinking that corresponds to life on earth.
But gradually we learn to see through this thinking. Within the spiritual cell of the human head is the lingering sound of the true, living thinking in which we lived before descending to the physical world. When one looks at man, one sees at first his dead thinking [sketch: red part of the head]. But behind this dead thinking in the head's spiritual cell is the living thinking [yellow part of the head]. And this living thinking has brought with it the force necessary to form our brain. The brain is not thinking's creator, but the product of pre-earthly living thinking.
So when we look at the human being with the correct awareness, dead earthly thinking is manifested on the surface of the head; if we look within to the spiritual cell behind, we see the living thinking, which is like a will, such as the will we are otherwise aware of in the human motor system, which is really sleeping in us. For we don't know how thought descends to our muscles and so on - when it intends to will this or that. Then we observe what lives in us as will: we see it as thinking in the spiritual cell behind the sense oriented thinking. But then this will, which we become aware of as thinking, is creative for our thinking organ. For this thinking is no longer human thinking, it is cosmic thinking.
If we can understand the human being so that we look through the earthly thinking to the thinking which made the brain the basis for thinking on earth, then sensory thinking flows out into the cosmic void, and eternal thinking arises as will.
We become conscious of all this when we let the following mantric words act in us:
This imagination must gradually stand before you, my dear friends, this imagination of dead thinking directed toward the sensory world streaming out from the head. Behind it lurks - at first in darkness - the true thinking which glows through sensory thinking and which builds the brain as man descends from the spiritual to the physical world. It is, however, like will. And one sees then how from out of man the will arises [white lines from below to above], spreading in the head, to become cosmic thinking because what lives in the will as thinking is already cosmic thinking.
We should therefore try to better understand and bring closer the mantric thoughts which we can imbue in the soul in the following way:
[The first verse is written on the blackboard:]
- that is, one must look behind thinking - [“behind” is underlined]
Willing arises from the body's depths;
- one must become strong in the soul to let normal sensory thinking flow away -
These seven lines contain the secret of human thinking's connection to the universe.
We must not pretend to understand these things with the intellect, but must let them live in feeling as meditation. And these words have force. They are constructed harmoniously. “Thinking”, “willing”, “cosmic void”, “will” and “cosmic thought creating” [these words are underlined] are arranged here in inner organization of thoughts so they can work on the imaginative consciousness.
Just as we can look at the human head and it becomes a means for us to look into cosmic-thought-creating, we can also look at the human heart as the physical imaginative representative of the human soul. As thinking is the abstract representative of the human spirit, we can look upon the human heart as the representative of feeling. And we can look into feeling, as it applies to human earthly existence, but now no longer behind, but into it. [In the drawing a yellow oval.] For just as we perceive cosmic-thought-creating in the spiritual cell behind thinking, we can also perceive feeling, whose representative the heart is, streaming through something which from the cosmos goes in and out of man: we perceive cosmic life, cosmic life which becomes human soul-life.
As here [in the first verse] must be: “behind thinking's sensory light”, now it must be: “in feeling's” in the second mantra, which must be harmonically interwoven with the first.
[This second strophe is written on the blackboard:]
Feeling is only a wakeful dreaming. Feelings are not as conscious as thinking is. They are as conscious as the pictures in dreams. Thus, feeling is a waking dream. Therefore:
Here [in the first verse] “willing” arises from the body's depths; whereas here “Life” streams in from cosmic distance.
streams in from cosmic distance;
[In the drawing 4 horizontal arrows are added.]
As here [in the first verse] thinking is to flow into the cosmic void through strength of soul, now we let the dreams of feeling gust away, but in their place, we perceive in the psychic weaving of feeling what streams in as cosmic life. When feelings' dreams completely dissolve in sleep, when individual human feeling stops, then cosmic life weaves into man.
Life streams in from cosmic distance
Let in sleep through the tranquil heart
Here [in the first verse] we need strength of soul; Here [in the second verse] we need complete tranquility, for the dreams of feeling dissolve in sleep, and the divine cosmic life streams into the human soul.
Let in sleep through the tranquil heart
[Writing continues, and the words “drift away”, “cosmic spirit life” and “Man's true force of being” are underlined.]
In these seven lines the whole secret of human feeling is contained, if it can become independent when the unity [of thinking, feeling, willing] becomes threefold.
In this way we can also observe the human limbs, in which the will is revealed [Drawing: white arrow pointing downwards]; here we cannot say: “See behind”, “See into”. Here we must say “See above”, for thinking streams down to the will from the head, although man with normal consciousness cannot see it. But the thoughts stream from the head into the limbs in order for the will to be able to act in the limbs.
When we observe the will acting in the limbs, when we see in every arm movement, in every leg movement how the will streams in, then we also realize how in this will there is a secret thinking, a thinking which directly grasps earthly existence. Actually, it is our being in earlier earthly lives, which grasps earthly existence through the limbs in order that in grasping it we can live our present life on earth. Thinking descends into the limbs. When we see how thinking descends, we are seeing thinking in the will [drawing: red descending from the head through the arm].
Then, because we are seeing with the soul, we see how thinking lives in the arms, in the hands, in the legs, in the feet, in the toes, a process otherwise hidden from us, then we must see how this thinking is light. Thinking as light streams through arms and hands, through legs and toes. And the will, which otherwise is sleeping in the limbs, transforms itself and thinking appears as a magical being of will that transplants the human being from earlier lives - after becoming spirit - into the present-earth life:
It conjures, that is, it acts magically on the invisible thinking in the will of the limbs. He understands the human being who knows that the thought which is not seen in the will - because we are sleeping in the will - acts magically in the limbs as will. And only by seeing as magical the thoughts which pass through the arms and hands, through legs and toes is true magic understood.
[The third strophe is written on the blackboard with the words “thinking”, “transform” and “magical being of will” underlined.]
Therein is contained the secret of human will, which creates magically from out of the universe into man.
Let us then, my dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, consider this a foundation for building later on at a time to be announced, a foundation for again and again in meditation letting the mantric words flow through the soul.
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