The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

Anthroposophy, A Fragment
GA 45

VII. The World Underlying the Sense Organs

To characterize the astral human being, we had to point to the trinity of image sensation, desire, and impulse for movement. The I-human being, to the extent that it is experienced directly in its sense processes, shows itself to be a unity. As our considerations have shown, all sensory experiences are only I-experiences in different modifications or gradations. In the experience of the I itself, the human being stands in direct relationship to the supersensible world. The other I-experiences are mediated through organs. And through these organs, the I-experiences manifest themselves in the multitude of the sensory domains.

Now two organs, the organs of the sense of thought and the sense of tone, allow to a certain degree an easy description of the unfolding of sensory capacity. When perceiving a concept, the previously acquired concepts prove to be what absorbs the new concept. We can understand a new concept that comes toward us to the extent that certain concepts have been absorbed previously. When understanding a concept, we must therefore open up to the outside and plunge what is received into the previously existing organism of concept. The life that unfolds there blossoms toward the outside and takes root in the organism of concept.

Something similar occurs with the sense of tone. We are receptive to a new meaning of a tone to the extent that we have already acquired other meanings of tone. We really do carry within ourselves an organism of concept and of tone. Both must be present before I-experiences can take place through them. The I-being cannot produce these organisms of tone and concept by means of forces present in sensory life. And yet a third is necessary. The I unfolds its experience toward all sides, so to speak, but, within this experience, cannot experience itself. In order to experience itself, it must confront itself with its own experience. It confronts itself with itself as sensation. We see that the sensation of I and the experiences of the sense of concept and the sense of tone are brought toward the I by three organisms. The organism of I can be added to the two described above. I-experience unfolds itself on all sides; it takes root on one side in a supersensible world equal in nature to itself, and enters into the organisms of concept and tone so that its own experience grows toward itself, as if it brought the organisms of I, of concept, and of tone to unfold like a blossom.

If we imagine the human being as a being of the sense world who incorporates a characteristic orientation, we are obliged to think of the polarity of up and down. "From above downward" is a direction in which we can think of the unfolding of the I-experience; "from below upward," the organism of I, toward which the I-experiences are growing, confronts this enfoldment. Just as leaves arrange themselves along the stem of a plant and unfold from below upward, so the formations of the organisms of concept and tone arrange themselves along the I-organism from above downward.

If it is now said — justifiably, after the above — that the primal I-experience unfolds out of a supersensible world, then it can be assumed that the forces at work in the formation of the organisms of I, concept, and tone possess the same substance that is present in the I-experience; however, these forces form this substance into structures that must already be present when the I-experience is perceived within sense perception. We can therefore conclude without much ado that the human I-experience is such that it flows out of a supersensible world — but can only be perceived when it takes root in an organism that itself is a composition of the organisms of I, concept, and tone; we could also say, in an organism that unfolds its sense organs within these three.

In addition, let us consider the astral body as it was described earlier. Its existence is indicated by image sensation, desire, and impulses for movement of the astral human being. Now it can easily be seen that, present within the organism of the I, is an image sensation that did not come about through a sense experience. The organism of the I is, after all, precisely the I-experience encountering itself from the opposite direction. Within the organism of concept we can recognize forces that unfold toward the inner human being — within the astral human being — as desire. A precise self-reflection will easily recognize the desire of the organism of concept in this organism's attraction for newly converging concepts. This is equally true for the organism of tone. It develops this desire for new meanings. In this, the activity of the astral body in bringing about the organisms of I, concept, and tone can be recognized.

An entity that would observe the I from outside, rather than experiencing it from within, as human beings do, could trace the coming about of the organism of I, and of the organisms of tone and concept. Such an entity would have to perceive the I-experience itself in such a way that it lets nothing of this I-experience enter but, rather, advances up to its boundary and, at this boundary, rays back the immanence of the I into itself. It is apparent that this process is the inverse of the so-called sense of touch. In the latter, the outer world is contacted and nothing of its nature is assimilated. The behavior of the presumed entity 1In chapter seven, das angenommene äußere Wesen has been consistently termed "the presumed outer entity." Das Wesen and die Wesenhaftigkeit des Ich has sometimes been translated as "the immanence of the I." — TRANS. toward the I is similar. However, with the sense of touch, the I enkindles only its own experiences through the contact and, thereby, experiences only its own content, whereas the presumed entity presses its own content into the I-experiences such that, within the I-experiences, this turns into a perception of the I. Thus when the I perceives itself, this occurs as a result of its [the presumed entity's] activity, which is of identical content with its experience of itself and differs from this only in that the activity shows it its own immanence from outside, whereas the I can experience this immanence only within itself.

In the case of the sense of concept, this presumed entity, when it comes into contact with the I, would have not only to ray back the experiences of concept, but also to impel them back into the I-experience, where they would then form the configuration of the organism of concept. It would not have to add anything to these experiences of concept, but only to maintain them within the process of experiencing concepts.

In the case of the organism of tone, however, maintaining would not be enough. Something needs to join the concept if it is to become tone. The hypothetical entity would have to transmit some of its own content into the I-experience.

A review of these relationships shows that, in the organism of I, only the I's individual immanence is rayed back from outside, while within the organism of concept the differently molded individual I-experience lets itself be directed back upon itself by something outward. Within the organism of tone, something of the very being of the outwardness then pours itself into the I-experience.

The presumed outer entity would have to perceive the coming about of the organism of I as an inverted experience of touch. It would have to sense the forming of the organism of concept in the way human beings experience their own life processes by means of the sense of life; the only difference would be that, in the case of the sense of life, an inner configuration is being sensed, while the presumed entity would have to sense in its corresponding sense how it molds itself into the I-experience of the human being. Then, in the sense of tone, something pours in from outside. If the presumed outer entity were to experience this, it would have to occur through an inverted sense o1 self-movement. Through it human beings perceive their own movement; through its inversion, this entity would sense how its own being moves inward into the I-experience. It would experience itself in the I-being's carrying out an outer movement.

Now, in the human being the sense of life must be founded in the life processes of the particular individual. These life processes can be differentiated into the processes of breathing, warming, nourishing, secreting, maintaining, growing, and generating, as has been shown. The process of forming the organism of concept can now indeed be imagined as a generating oriented from without to within, and the forming of the organism of tone as a part of the presumed outer entity growing into the I-experience. We must, however, imagine that the I-experiences themselves are used as substance of this generating and growing.

By enlarging its scope, we can also apply the chosen perspective to the other sense experiences and, thereby, interpret these experiences with respect to what stands behind them. In the case of the sense of hearing, our experience is that the sound points to an external object, while the organ of hearing itself points to an activity that forms it in a way similar to the way in which the organism of concept is formed by the inverted sense of life and the tone organism by the inverted sense of self-movement. Let us now imagine that the sense of balance manifests itself in its inversion. Instead of maintaining uprightness when encountering the three outer directions of space as the sense of balance does in the human being, the inverted sense of balance would generate, within another entity, opposition to the three directions of space. If the above presumed entity were to indeed relate to the human being in such a way as to pour its own nature into the human being and, within the human being, bring about an opposition to the three directions of space, then the effect could be that the entity, which poured into the interior of the human I-experience, will be sensed as inner experience, while the activity of the inverted sense of balance would not be sensed, but would work in a way similar to the force that forms the organism of concept in the inverted sense of life, and the tone organism in the inverted sense of self-movement. The inverted sense of balance would then generate organ formation within the hearing organization.

Thus, sound points to the inwardness of something outward pouring across into the I-experience, whereas the organ of hearing points to an inverted sense of balance that has accumulated, and organically incorporated, the formations of the human being's immanence — similar to the inverted sense of life accumulating and combining experiences of concept. If the presumed outer entity is then, by its nature, actually assumed to be sound permeated by the inverted sense of balance, then it can also be imagined that the coming about of the hearing organization is founded in a process that enables the organ — while the outer entity comes into contact with the human being — to perceive the specific content of this outer entity, which flows toward the I-experience as sound, while the inverted sense of balance constitutes the activity underlying the sound, having molded the hearing organization out of the organism toward the experience of sound. 2See "alternate version of page 139" below for another version of this paragraph.

How to interpret the sense of warmth becomes evident when the inversion of the sense of smell is reflected upon. In the sense of smell, external substance approaches the human being, and the experience of smell is a direct interaction with the substance. Its inversion would occur if the presumed outer entity were to consist of the content of the sensation of warmth, but permeated with an activity that enters into a direct interaction with the human being. Behind the content of the sensation of warmth would then stand an activity shaping the warmth organization. This activity would be such that warmth streams out from it, as smell streams out of an odorous substance. Just as smell spreads out into the outer world in all directions, this activity can be imagined as diverging out of the human being in all directions, unfolding in this divergence the organ-forming force for the sense of warmth. And just as outer substance discloses itself to the sense of smell, the human interior would have to disclose itself to this activity. Such a disclosure would happen if the outward-striving activity were underlain by a kind of life process, which is to say, if this activity were to saturate the human being with its own nature. The sense of warmth would thereby be based on a kind of nourishing of the human being with the substance that discloses itself, in terms of its content, in the sense experience of warmth.

For an interpretation of the sense of sight, the inversion of the experience of taste should be considered. If the organ of seeing were to come about through an outer activity of a being such as the hypothetical entity assumed above — in such a way, for example, that color would saturate this entity while being completely permeated by an activity that an inverted tasting represents — then this taste-radiating activity could be considered an organ-forming force of the sense of sight. Unlike the effect of an outer substance that we experience as taste, the situation here would have to be such that this being would radiate taste toward itself, from within the human being. Just as the human being brings about a change in the substance in the case of taste, so this outer entity would have to undertake a change in the human interior. Such a change, however, is present in inner life processes — in the process of warming, for example. Warming in the human being would have to result from the taste radiating from within outward. However, this warming would not proceed like an outer warmth process because its substance is not outer warmth but something identical in content to the sense experience of sight. We see that in this warming, occurring through the activity that radiates outward from within the human being and founded in the color of the presumed entity, there lies the inner nature of light itself. Not the experience of sight, but, lying behind this experience of sight, the inner nature of light kindles a warming that lives in the organ-forming force of the sense of sight, just as the substance, interacting with the sense of taste, lives in the experience of taste.

The sense of taste can also be characterized as an inverted sense of smell. However, in that case the inversion has a different meaning than it does in the comparison between the senses of taste and sight. Let us suppose that, in the organ of smell, an inversion were to take place such that a smell is not sent from a substance into the human interior, but instead the inversion makes the smell rebound upon contact. Then we would indeed be given an analogue to the human organ of taste. The human interior, however, would itself have to be put in the place of the above presumed outer entity. But while that hypothetical entity lets its nature approach the human being from the outside, its counterpart with regard to the sense of smell would have to be enclosed in the human being. To the extent that the human organism activates the sense of smell, it is filled with something external or foreign to its essence. Something outer has become interiorized and, from within, unfolds forces like those that were active in forming the organs of sight, hearing, and warmth.

It is reasonable that in the sense of smell something comes to expression that can be equated with an inner immanence of outwardness. And, if the sense of taste is the inversion of this, it is justified to say: what hits the human being as disclosure from outside in the experience of taste is the same as what acts within in the organ of smell. But then, between the sense of taste and the sense of smell, there must be a point where the outer world and the inner world show themselves to be the same. And we may imagine that something stands behind the experience of smell, which — as substance of the outer world within the interior of the hurrian being — is truly active in the molding of organs, particularly in the build-up of the organ of taste. This, then, is built up by the substance of the outer world.

Within the organ of smell, only the outward streaming substance that perceives itself directly in the experience of smell must then be imagined. The sensation of smell, then, would thus be self-perception of substance, and the organ of taste would be the self-enlivening of substance.

These considerations were meant to point out that, behind sense experience, nothing more concerning substance needs to be imagined, but rather only spiritual immanence. The sense experiences would then be revelations of the spiritual. To sense observation, sense experience directly reveals itself, but not the spiritual lying behind it.

Alternate version of page 139:

Thus, sound points to the inwardness of something outward, pouring across into the I-experience, while the organ of hearing points to an inverted experience of balance that accumulates and organically combines the formations of the human being's immanence, similar to the inverted sense of life accumulating and combining experiences of concept. If the presumed outer entity is then, by its nature, actually assumed to be sound permeated by the inverted sense of balance, then it can also be reasoned that the coming about of the hearing organization is based on an immanence of being in the outer world that is given in the sense experience of the sense of balance, if the sense of balance is thought of as inverted — that is, not imagined as directed into the human being, but as raying outward.