6 November 1916, Dornach
Now, I wish to approach the problem we are dealing with in these reflections from another point of departure. In spiritual science we must proceed so that we encircle the problem, in a sense, and approach it from various points and directions. When we observe a life such as Goethe's, one thing must strike us that may become a profound riddle in the evolution of humanity. This is so even when we take into consideration repeated lives on earth and include them in our deliberation of the molding of a human life. The problem is this: What is the reason that individuals such as Goethe are capable of creating something so significant out of their inner nature, as he did especially through his Faust, and through this exert so important an influence on the rest of humanity? How does it happen that certain individuals are separated from the rest of humanity and are summoned by cosmic destiny to do something of such significance? We compare such an important life and work with that of each individual and ask ourselves: What conclusion can be drawn from the difference between these individual lives and the lives of these preeminent persons?
This question can be answered only when we observe life somewhat more thoroughly with the tools provided by spiritual science. To begin with, all that a person can know, especially in our time, is intended to conceal and disguise certain things and to keep unprejudiced reflections out of touch with them. This often makes it necessary in the sphere of spiritual science to adapt what we say to what can be understood by others.
Now, the description we generally give in spiritual science is that man consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. In explaining the alternation between waking and sleeping, we say that in the waking state the ego and astral body are within the physical and etheric bodies but, during sleep, the ego and astral body are outside. This is adequate for a primary understanding, and it corresponds exactly with the spiritual scientific facts. But the truth is that we give only a part of the full reality in this description. We can never encompass the full reality in just one description, and thus we exhaust only part of anything we describe. We always need to seek light from other sources in order to properly illumine the part of reality already described. Here it must be stated that, speaking generally, sleeping and waking are really a sort of cyclic movement. Strictly speaking, the ego and astral body are outside the physical and etheric bodies in sleep only in being outside the head. Because the ego and astral body in sleep are outside the physical and etheric head, they bring about a more vivid activity in the rest of the human organization. It is, indeed, during sleep, when the ego and astral body are working from without upon the human being, that everything in him that does not belong to the head but to other parts of his organization is subjected to a far stronger influence of the ego and astral body than when he is awake. It may even be said that the action that the ego and astral body bring to bear upon the head in the waking state is exerted upon the rest of the organism during sleep. We can, therefore, rightly compare the ego with the sun, which illumines our environment during the day but during the night, it not only is outside of us but lights the other side of the earth. So, likewise, is it day in the rest of our organism when it is night for our sensory perception, which is primarily connected with the head; reciprocally, it is night for the rest of our organism when it is day for our head; that is, the rest of our organism is more or less withdrawn from the ego and astral body when we are awake. If we wish to understand the entire human being, this is something that must also be added to illumine the full reality.
Now, it is important to grasp correctly the connection of the psychic with the physical in man if we wish to understand properly what I have just told you. I have often stressed the fact that the nervous system of the physical organism is a unified organization, and it is really sheer nonsense, impossible to prove anatomically, to classify the nerves as sensory and motor. They are organized as a unity and all have one function. The so-called motor nerves are distinguished from the so-called sensory only to the extent that the sensory nerves are arranged to serve our perception of the outer world whereas the motor nerves serve for the perception of our organism. It is not the function of a motor nerve to cause my hand to move, for example; this is sheer nonsense. It exists for the purpose of perceiving my hand's movement from within. The sensory nerves, however, serve in the perception of the outer world. This is their sole distinction. As you know, our nervous system is divided into three branches: those nerves whose main center is the brain, centered in the head, the nerves that are centered in the spinal cord, and the nerves that belong to the ganglionic system [autonomic nervous system]. These are, in essence, the three kinds of nerves, and the important point is to know how they are related to the spiritual members of our organism.
Which is the finest and most advanced member of the nervous system and which the least? Quite obviously, those who adhere to the ordinary scientific world conception will answer that the nervous system of the brain is naturally the noblest because it distinguishes man from the animal. But such is not the case. This nervous system of the brain is really connected with the entire organization of the etheric body. Obviously, additional relationships exist everywhere so that our brain system is naturally related to the astral body or the ego. But these are secondary relationships. Those between our nervous system of the brain and our etheric body are the primary, original ones. This has nothing to do with the view I once presented in which I explained that the entire nervous system has been brought into existence with the help of the astral body. This is something quite different and must be kept quite distinct. In its original potentiality, the nervous system was brought into existence during the Moon period. It has evolved further, however, and other relationships have been introduced since its first formation, so that our brain system really has its most intimate and important relationship with our etheric body. The spinal cord system has its most intimate and primary relationships with our present astral body, and the ganglionic system is related with the actual ego. These are the primary relationships as they now exist.
Considering all this, we shall readily see that an especially active relationship exists during the state of sleep between our ego and ganglionic system, which extends throughout the trunk of the body, ensheathing the spinal cord, etc. But these relationships are lessened during the waking life of day. They are more intimate during sleep, as are the relationships between the astral body and spinal cord nerves. We may say, then, that during sleep especially intimate relationships obtain between our astral body and the nerves of the spinal cord, and between our ego and ganglionic system. To a greater or lesser degree, we live during sleep, as regards our ego, in a strong connection with our ganglionic system. Someday, through a thorough study of the puzzling world of dreams, people will come to know what I am here pointing out on the basis of spiritual scientific investigation.
Taking this into consideration, you will arrive at a transition to another essential, important thought. Something significant for our life must be due to the rhythmical alternation that occurs in the living union between the ego and the ganglionic system, and between the astral body and the spinal cord system. This rhythmical alternation is identical with the alternation of sleeping and waking. Thus, you will not be surprised when the statement is made that, just because the ego is really so truly in the ganglionic system and the astral body is so truly in the spinal cord system, man wakes in relation to the ganglionic and spinal cord systems during sleep, and sleeps in this relationship while awake. Here we can only ask how it comes about that so little is known of that vivid state of waking that must really be developed during sleep. Well, when you consider how man has come to be, that his ego has taken its place in him only during earthly existence and is, therefore, really the baby among his human members, it will not then seem amazing that this ego life cannot yet bring to consciousness what it experiences in the ganglionic system during sleep, whereas it can bring into full consciousness what it experiences when it is in the head, which is primarily the result of all those impulses that were at work during the Moon, Sun, etc., periods.
What the ego can bring to consciousness depends on the instrument it can use. That used during the night is still comparatively delicate. As I have pointed out in previous lectures, the rest of the organism really developed later than the head, has only been added later, and is an appendage of the fully developed head organism. When we say that relative to his physical body, man has passed through longer or shorter stages beginning with Saturn, we are referring only to his head. What is attached to his head is in many ways a later formation of the Moon period, and even of the earth. It is for this reason that the vivid life that is developed during sleep, and that has its organic seat to a large extent in the spinal cord and ganglionic systems, enters consciousness at first only in a small degree. But it is not because of this a less significantly vivid life. One can say with equal justification that during sleep the possibility is offered to man to descend into his ganglionic system and that in the waking state the possibility is given to ascend to his senses and brain system. You will surely say, “How this complicates and confuses everything that we have acquired!” Man, however, is a complicated being and we do not learn to understand him when we fail to permit these complex complications to work upon us.
Now just suppose that what I have described regarding Goethe actually happens to someone and his etheric body is loosened. Then an entirely different relationship comes about during the waking life between his soul-spiritual and his organic-physical nature. As I expressed it yesterday, he is put on a sort of isolated pedestal. But such an effect can never come about without being followed by another. It is important to bear in mind that such a relationship does not occur one-sidedly, but brings about another. If one expresses what I characterized yesterday somewhat more crudely, we may even say that the loosening of the etheric body influences the entire waking life in a certain way, but this cannot happen without also influencing the sleeping life. The result is simply that the person comes into looser relationships with his brain impressions. Because of this, he enters into more intimate relationships during the waking state with his spinal cord nerves and ganglionic system. At the time that Goethe fell ill, he developed, as it were, a looser relationship with his brain but at the same time he experienced a more intimate relationship with his ganglionic and spinal cord systems.
What is actually happening as a result of this experience? What does it mean to say that a more intimate relationship comes about with the ganglionic and spinal cord systems? It means that the individual enters into an entirely different relationship with the external world. We are, of course, always in the most intimate relationship with the outer world, but we merely fail to observe how intimate the relationship is. But I have often called your attention to the fact that the air that you hold within you at one moment is, in the next, outside, and then different air is taken in. Thus, what is outside takes on the form of the body and unites with it when you inhale. It is only seemingly true that the organism is distinct from the external world. It is a member of it and belongs to it. If, therefore, such a modification in an individual's relationship to the external world occurs as has been described, it makes itself felt strongly in his life. Indeed, it may be said that in such a personality as Goethe's, the lower nature, which we generally connect with the spinal cord and ganglionic systems, must come to the fore all the more strongly through this process. As the forces draw back from the head, the ganglionic and spinal cord systems take possession of them in larger measure.
An understanding for what really happens here is acquired only when we permeate ourselves with the knowledge that what we call the intellect and reason is not really so closely bound up with our individuality as is ordinarily assumed. It is clear that contemporary basic conceptions of these things are completely wrong; in part, it is in these matters that contemporary views are least frequently right. This has been especially evident in the muddle-headed behavior by some people in our age, including members of the most learned circles, when they tried to interpret their experiences with so-called dogs, apes, horses, etc. As you know, reports came out of the blue and were circulated about educated horses that can speak and do all sorts of things, about a highly educated dog that made a great stir in Mannheim, and an educated monkey in the Frankfurt zoo that had been taught to do arithmetic, as well as other things that one cannot mention in polite society. The Frankfurt chimpanzee, in other words, has been trained in certain natural necessities to behave like humans rather than monkeys. I will not pursue this further, but all this caused the greatest astonishment, not only among laymen, but also among professionals. They were actually enraptured, especially when the Mannheim dog, after one of its beloved offspring died, wrote a letter telling how this dear puppy would be together with the archetypal soul, what it would be like and so on. That dog wrote a most intelligent letter.
Well, we need not elaborate on these specially complicated expressions of intelligence, but what stands out is that all these various animals performed feats of arithmetic. A great deal of attention was then given to the investigation of what such animals can achieve. Something quite unusual came to light in the case of the Frankfurt ape. It was possible to witness that when he was given a problem in addition to which he had to find a definite answer he pointed to the correct number in a series placed side by side. It was then discovered that this educated ape had simply formed the habit of being guided by the direction of the glance of his trainer. Then some of those who had previously been astonished said, “He has no trace of a mind; his training is everything!” In other words, the animal was taking his direction from his trainer and followed nothing more than a somewhat complicated training procedure. Just as a dog fetches a stone when it is thrown, so did the ape produce from the series of numbers the one indicated by the glance of his trainer.
Upon more thorough investigation, similar findings will undoubtedly be obtained in experiments with the other animals. Whatever, we cannot suppress our astonishment that people are so amazed when animals perform something that is seemingly human. How much more objective understanding, how much intellect, is actually associated with the so-called instinctual behavior in animals. As a matter of fact, the enormously important achievements and profoundly significant connections in the animal realm cause us to admire the wisdom underlying all happenings. We do not have wisdom merely in our heads; wisdom surrounds us everywhere like light, working everywhere, even through the animal kingdom. In the presence of such unusual phenomena as we have mentioned, only those people are astonished who have not seriously dealt with scientific developments. To all those who today are writing such learned tracts on the Mannheim dog and other dogs, on horses and the Frankfurt ape, along with much else because these are not unique — to all these I should like to read a passage from Comparative Psychology by Carus 59 The philosopher and physician Gustav Carus (1789–1869) wrote the book Vergleichende Psychologie oder Geischichte der Seele in der Reihenfolge der Tierwelt [Comparative Psychology or History of the Soul in the Order of the Animal World] (Vienna, 1866). that was published as early as 1866. Since they are not here, I will read the passage to you. Carus writes:
... When, therefore, the dog, for example, has long been treated with kindness and affection by his master, the human traits imprint themselves upon the animal quite objectively, even though it has no conception of goodness as such; they blend with the sensory image of this person that the dog has often seen and cause the animal to recognize him, even apart from the sense of sight, merely through scent or hearing, as the one from whom something good once came to him. If, therefore, some suffering befalls this man, if he is even deprived, perhaps, of the possibility of continuing his kindness to the dog, the animal feels this as something evil inflicted upon him and is moved thereby to rage and revenge; all this occurs without any abstract thinking whatever, but only through the succession of one sensory image after another.
It is certainly true that for the dog sensory image follows sensory image; however, intelligence and wisdom are at the bottom of the phenomenon per se. Carus continues as follows:
Yet is it strange how closely actual thinking is approached and may be resembled in its results by such a peculiar weaving together, separating and again joining together of the images of the inner sense. Thus, I once saw a well-trained white poodle (this was not the Mannheim dog because this book was written in 1866) that correctly picked out and placed together letters for words spoken to him. He also seemed to solve simple problems in arithmetic by bringing together figures written, as were the letters, on separate sheets of paper, seemed to be able to count how many ladies were present in the company, and did other similar things. Of course, if all this had depended upon a real understanding of number as a mathematical concept, it would not have been possible without actual reflection. It turned out, however, that the dog had simply been trained to pick up, on a slight gesture or sound from his master, the paper bearing the required letter or number from the series of sheets laid before him. Upon another indication through an equally slight sound, like the clicking of the thumbnail against the nail of another finger, he would lay the sheet down in another row, thus performing what seemed to be a miracle. 60 Cams concludes the passage with a note: “Horses have been observed to accomplish similar feats; in fact, I have seen canaries do the same thing, although not quite as completely.“
You see, not only the phenomenon, but also its explanation has long been known. Only now has this explanation been furnished again by the scientists because people pay no attention to what has been accomplished in the past. It is only for this reason that such things occur, and they bear testimony, not to our advanced science, but to our advanced ignorance!
On the other hand, certain objections have rightly been raised. If we had only these explanations (as we have heard them today) they might be considered equally naive, because Hermann Bahr 61 Herman Bahr (1863–1934) was a Viennese writer. has quite correctly reminded us of the following. Herr Pfungst 62 Oskar Pfungst, Das Pferd des Herrn von Osten [Mr. von Osten's Horse] (Leipzig, 1907). demonstrated that the horses reacted to extremely slight cues made unconsciously and unperceived by their trainers. But Herr Pfungst was able to perceive these exceedingly slight gestures only after he had worked for a long time in his physiological laboratory constructing an apparatus to detect them. Bahr justifiably raises the objection that it was certainly most peculiar that only the horse should be clever enough to observe the gestures, whereas a university instructor had to work for years constructing an apparatus to do so — I believe it took him ten or more years. In all such things there is obviously a bit of truth, but we must simply view them in the right way.
With the proper perception, one can obviously explain such phenomena only when one thinks of objective wisdom and understanding as qualities that, along with instinctive behavior, have been instilled in things, and when one thinks of an animal as part of a complete system of interrelated objective wisdom permeating the world. In other words, they can be explained only when we are no longer limited to the idea that wisdom has come into the world through man alone, but recognize that wisdom is to be found throughout the universe. Man, by reason of his special organization, is able to perceive more of this wisdom than other beings, and is thus distinguished from them. Because of his organization, he can perceive more than they, but through the wisdom implanted in them, they can perform wisdom-filled tasks as he can. It is, however, a different kind of wisdom. The phenomena of these unusual expressions of wisdoms are really far less important to serious observers of the world than the phenomena that are always spread out before their eyes. These are far more important and, if you take this into consideration, you will no longer find incomprehensible what I am about to say.
An animal, far more intensely than man, fits into the universal wisdom and is quite intimately united with it. Its orders, so to speak, are far more compulsory than those of man. Human beings are much freer, and so it is possible for them to reserve forces for the cognition of interrelationships. The essential point is that the physical body of an animal — especially the higher ones — is fitted into the same universal interrelationships as man's etheric body. Thus, man knows more of the cosmic relationships, but animals are far more intimately united with them; they are far closer to, and more interwoven with, them. Therefore, if you take this objectively dominant reason into consideration tell yourself this: “We are surrounded not only by air and light but also by governing reason; we do not move merely through illumined space but also through the space of wisdom and governing reason.” You will then fully understand what it means for a person to be fitted into the world in regard to the finer relationships of his or her organs, and not just in an ordinary way. In normal life, a man, for example, is joined to spiritual cosmic relationship in such a fashion that the connection between his ego and ganglionic system, and between his astral body and spinal cord system, are greatly impaired during the waking life of day. But because these connections are subdued, he is not too attentive in ordinary, normal life to what is going on around him. It would be possible for him to observe this only if he really should see with his ganglionic system as he otherwise perceives with his head.
If, however, as in the special case of Goethe, the astral body is brought into a more vivid relationship with the spinal cord system and the ego with the ganglionic, because the ether body has withdrawn from the head, then far more vivid intercourse occurs with what is going on in our surroundings. But it is concealed from us in normal life because it is only while we are asleep at night that we enter into relationship with our spiritual environment. Here you arrive at an understanding of how the things Goethe has written were for him genuine perceptions, and although these could naturally not have been so clear as our sensory perceptions of the external world, yet they are clearer than the perceptions that an ordinary man has of his spiritual environment. Now, what did Goethe perceive in this way with special vividness? Let us grasp this point clearly through a special instance.
Through the complications of his particular karma, Goethe was destined to enter a life of scholarship and knowledge differently from an ordinary scholar. What did he experience through this? You see, for many centuries it has been so that a man who grows into intimate union with a life of learning has experienced a significant discord. To be sure, today it is more concealed than in Goethe's time, but it nevertheless is experienced because there is an enormous field in science that has been preserved from the fourth post-Atlantean epoch in the terminologies and systems of words that we are compelled to acquire. We trade more than we realize in words. All this has been obscured somewhat through the experimentation that has gradually been introduced since the nineteenth century, and a person now grows into his knowledge so that he sees more than he did earlier. Such sciences as jurisprudence, for instance, have descended somewhat from the specially lofty positions they previously occupied. But when jurisprudence and theology still occupied their specially lofty stations, the areas of learning man was trying to penetrate were really comprehensive systems of words, and the same is true of other things that had to be taken in as an inheritance from the fourth post-Atlantean period.
Along with this, what arises from the needs of the fifth post-Atlantean period made itself felt in an ever increasing way; that is, the life that arises from the great achievements of the new period. This is not realized by anyone who is simply driven from one lecture to another, but Goethe experienced it most intensely. I say that a person who is simply driven from one lecture to another does not sense it, but he passes through it nonetheless. He really passes through it. Here we touch the edge of a certain mystery of modern life. We can judge students who are enrolled in courses according to what they experience and what they are conscious of. But what they experience is not the whole story. Their inner nature is something quite different. If these individuals who are experiencing these overlapping layers of the fourth and fifth post-Atlantean epochs really knew what a certain part of their being is going through unconsciously, they would then have an entirely different understanding of what Goethe, even in youth, concealed mysteriously in his Faust. Countless persons who are finding their way into contemporary education are unconsciously sharing in this experience.
We must, therefore, remind ourselves that, by reason of all that Goethe had acquired because of his special karma, those with whom he came into close relationship during his youth were quite different to him than they would have been if he had not had this special karma. He sensed and felt how the people with whom he became intimately associated had to stupefy the Faustian life within them so that they no longer possessed it. He was able to sense this because what lived mysteriously in his fellow men made an impression on him such as is made by one person on another only when an especially intimate relationship, indeed when love, develops between them. In such a case of ordinary life, the connection of the ego with the ganglionic system, and of the astral body with the spinal cord system is highly active, although this is not consciously perceived as such. Something very special is activated. But what is otherwise active only in a love relationship came about in Goethe vis à vis a far larger number of people, so that he experienced a tremendous, more or less subconscious, compassion for the poor fellows — excuse the expression — who did not know what their inner natures were going through as they were driven from class to class and from examination to examination. This was felt by him and it gave him a rich experience.
Experiences become conceptions. Ordinary experiences become the conceptions of everyday life, but these particular experiences become the conceptions, the mental images, that Goethe poured tumultously into Faust. They were nothing but actual experiences that he gained from the most extensive environment because his ganglionic and spinal cord life was stimulated to more than normal wakefulness. This was the opposite from the subdued head life, but it was a potentiality in him even in his boyhood. We can see this from his description of what became active in him: not only what ordinarily engages people, say in piano lessons, 63 Poetry and Truth, IV, 107. became active in him but also the entire being. Goethe partook much more in the happenings of real life as a whole person than others, and we must say, therefore, that he was more wide-awake during the day than they. During the time in his youth when he was working on Faust, he was more awake during the day, and because of this he also needed what I described yesterday as the time of sleep — the ten years in Weimar. This dampening was necessary.
This, however, is just what happens to a greater or lesser degree in every human being during the course of life, only in Goethe it took place more intensely. He was simply drawn somewhat more consciously than other men into the surrounding wisdom-filled and purely spiritual influences. He became aware of what lives and weaves mysteriously within men. What, then, is this really? When we are put into the world in our ordinary and brutal waking life together with our ego, we are bound up with the world through our senses and our ordinary perceptions. But you will agree that we are now much more closely bound with this world. Our ego is, indeed, in an especially intimate relation with our ganglionic system, and the astral body with the spinal cord system. Through this relationship, we have really a far more comprehensive connection with our environing world than through the sensory system of our head.
Now you must bear in mind that man needs the rhythmic alternation of his ego and astral body in his head during the waking life of day, and outside his head during sleep; because they are outside his head during sleep, they develop an inner active life in connection with the other systems, as I have indicated. The ego and the astral body need this alternation of sinking downward into the head and rising out of it. When man's ego and astral body are outside his head, he not only develops that intimate relationship with the rest of his organism through the ganglionic and spinal cord systems, but he also develops spiritual relationships with the spiritual world. Thus, we may say that an especially active, vivid connection with the spinal cord and ganglionic systems corresponds to an active psychic-spiritual life with the spiritual world. Since we are obliged to assume that the soul-spiritual is outside the head at night, and since this causes the development of an especially active life in the rest of the organism, we must then say that during the life of day, when the ego and the astral body are more within the head, we are in turn experiencing a spiritual symbiosis with the surrounding spiritual world. In a certain sense, we submerge ourselves in an inner spiritual world in sleep, but in a surrounding spiritual world when we awake.
This state of being one with the surrounding spiritual world is more pronounced in Goethe. He is, as it were, dreaming during a state of wakefulness — just as the ordinary person does not always fall into a deep, dreamless sleep. It is seldom that anyone dreams consciously in this way during the life of the day, but people like Goethe pass into a state of dreaming even during the waking life. The forces that remain unconscious in other people become, in a certain sense, dream-forms of life for people like Goethe.
We now have an even more exact description which might tempt you to entertain the arrogant notion that all of you could easily write a Faust poem since you are experiencing the Faust dilemma by ranging out into and by living in union with the surrounding world during your daytime life. The latter is indeed true. We do experience Faust, but only as the opposite pole is experienced in the night through the ego and astral body when we do not dream. But since Goethe not only experienced this unconsciously, but also dreamed it, he could express it in Faust. He dreamed this experience and in people such as Goethe the following takes place: what they create stands in the same relationship to what the rest of us experience unconsciously as does the dream to deep sleep on the other side of our lives. This is an actual reality; the creation of the great spirits are related to the unconscious creations of other men as dream to dreamless sleep.
Even so, much remains obscure. But bear in mind that you are thereby gaining a glimpse into something that is intimately connected with human life; it may be described somewhat as follows. We could really say quite a bit about the connection between our being and the surrounding world if we could awake just to the stage of dreaming. If we were able to awaken only to the stage of dreaming, we would experience tremendous things and would also be able to describe them. But this would have a grave consequence. Just think, if all men, to express it trivially, were so conscious that they could describe everything in their environment, if they would really describe experiences, for example, like those of Goethe's as set forth in his Faust, what would we come to? What would the world then come to? Strange as it may seem but so it is, the world would come to a stop and would make no further progress! The moment everyone were to dream the way Goethe dreamt Faust, which is an utterly different kind of dreaming — the moment everyone were to dream his connection with the external world, then such people would devote all the forces developed in their inner being to such an activity. They would pour them into such things and human existence would, in some sense, consume itself. You can form a faint idea of what would happen if you just look at the many ruinous effects that are taking place because many people, although not really dreaming, imagine that they are and babble or scribble reminiscences they have picked up elsewhere. This is associated with the fact that there are entirely too many poets. Where is there anyone today who does not believe he is a poet or painter or something! The world could not continue if this were so because all good things have also their dark side, truly their dark side.
Schiller was also an important poet who dreamed much in the way I have described. Just imagine, however, that all those who in their youth were trained like Schiller to become doctors had given up the practice of medicine as he did and later, thanks to an extensive patronage, had been appointed “professor of history” without any real preparation or serious study of history! As a matter of fact, Schiller did deliver interesting lectures at the University of Jena, but his students did not get from them what they needed to learn. He also gradually stopped giving these university lectures and was happy when he did not have to give them anymore. Imagine that things would be the same with every professor of history or every young physician! Obviously, everything that is good also has its dark side. The world must be protected, so to speak, from standing still. It seems trivial to say this, but it is nevertheless a profound mystery-truth: not all people can dream in this way. The forces with which they dream must first be applied in the external world to something different so that through it a foundation may be created for a further evolution of the earth. It would come to a standstill were all men to dream as I have indicated.
Now we have reached a point where an especially paradoxical fact comes to light. To what in the world are the aforementioned forces really applied? If we observe their application in a spiritual way, they are ultimately applied to deep sleep even though you may like them to be applied to dreams. More concretely, they are applied to all that is spread out over human evolution in the most varied kinds of vocational work.
Vocational work is related to the work that was done in creating Faust, or in Schiller's Wallenstein, as deep sleep is related to dreaming. But to say that we sleep during our vocational work will seem extraordinary to you, and you will say that here, in this, you are wide awake. The truth is that there is a grand illusion in this idea that one is awake during this kind of work because what really comes into being through vocational work is not something we do in full waking consciousness. Of course, some of the effects a person's profession has upon his or her soul do enter one's consciousness, but such a person really knows nothing whatever of all that is actually present in the web of vocational labor that men are continually spinning around the world.
It is, indeed, surprising how these things are connected. Hans Sachs 64 Hans Sachs (1494–1576) was a shoemaker who became known as the foremost “Meistersinger“ in Nürnberg. was a shoemaker and also a poet. Jakob Boehme 65 Jakob Böhme (1575–1624), a shoemaker in Görlitz, Silesia, is regarded to have been one of the most profound mystics in Germany. was a shoemaker and a mystical philosopher. There you have sleeping and waking alternating through a special constellation that we may also discuss. It is possible to pass from one state into another.
What, then, is the significance of this interplay and alternation of life between vocational labor for such a man as Jakob Boehme — he really did make shoes for the good people of Görlitz — and his mystical-philosophical compositions? Many people have strange opinions of these things. Allow me to review the experience we once had when we were in Görlitz.
One evening before a lecture I was to give on Boehme, 66 Steiner lectured in Görlitz on December 3, 1908. I got into a conversation with a high school teacher, in which we spoke about Boehme's statue that we had just seen in the park. The people of Görlitz, as we were often told, called his monument, the “park cobbler.” We remarked that it was most beautiful, but the school teacher said he did not think so. He thought it really looked like Shakespeare and one would not know from it that Boehme had been a shoemaker. He said that to represent Boehme it would have to show that he was a shoemaker. Well, one can disregard such an attitude. As Jakob Boehme was writing his great mystical-philosophical views, he was working from the results that could have come about only through the human being having evolved through the Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth times; that is, through the fact that a broad stream flows through these ages and finally comes to expression in these effects. This stream manifests itself in such a personality only in a way that is the result of special karmic relationships. But just as all that has traversed the Sun and Moon periods is necessary to every individual on earth, so it is also necessary, but in a special way, in order to bring out what was in Boehme.
But then, Jakob Boehme also made shoes for the worthy Görlitzers. How does all this hang together? To be sure, the fact that a man has been able to develop the skill of a shoemaker is also connected with this stream. But when the shoes are finished, they are separated from him and their function has then nothing more to do with skill but with protecting and warming feet. They go their own way in performing their functions and are separated completely from the one who makes them; what they bring about has its effects only later. In other words, this is only a beginning.
If the initial influence leading to the mystical-philosophical activity of Jakob Boehme were represented graphically, I should have to indicate the first potential toward shoemaking here at this point. This then flows on further and in the future Vulcan evolution will have developed a degree of perfection that has been reached already by what had flowed into his mystical-philosophical activity from the Saturn evolution. This is, in a sense, an end; his shoemaking is a beginning. We say, of course, that the earth is earth at present, but if we could trace things from Saturn still further back, we might then say that, relative to certain things, the earth is already Vulcan. We should then assume Saturn at this point.
We can thus take everything in a relative way. We may say that the earth is Saturn, and that Vulcan is, in a sense, earth. What happens on the earth in the vocational labor of a man like Jakob Boehme — not in his free creative work, but what he does as vocational labor — is the beginning of something that will be as far advanced on Vulcan as the happenings on Saturn are already advanced on the earth. For Boehme to write his mystical-philosophical books on earth, it was necessary for something to have happened on Saturn that was similar to what he has done on earth in making shoes. Likewise, Boehme's shoemaking here on earth has the effect that something may be done on Vulcan that will be similar to his writing mystical philosophy here on earth.
There is something extraordinary in all this. Here is an indication of how what is often given little value on earth is so little esteemed because it is the beginning of something that will be prized in the future. In their being, human beings are, of course, much more intimately bound up with the past since they must first familiarize themselves with what is a beginning. Therefore, they often care much less for something that is a beginning than for something that has come over to them from the past. From the scope of what we are yet to be involved in during the earth period, and so that something special may then come about when the earth shall have developed further through Jupiter and Venus to Vulcan — from all this a full consciousness will develop such as the one that exists for the philosophy of Jakob Boehme on the earth. It is for this reason that the real meaning of human external labor is enveloped now in unconsciousness, just as man was shrouded in unconsciousness on Saturn; sleep consciousness was developed on the Sun, dream consciousness on the Moon, and the present condition of waking consciousness on the earth.
The human being is thus really living in a profound sleep consciousness in his involvement with everything of his vocation. Through his vocation he is really creating, not through what gives him pleasure in it, but through what is developing without his being able to enter into it; thus does he really create future values. When a person makes a nail over and over again, it certainly does not give him or her any special pleasure. But the nail becomes detached from its producer; it has quite definite tasks. As to what then happens by means of this nail is not of further concern to the worker; he does not follow up every nail he has made. But what is enveloped there in his unconscious, profoundest sleep is destined to come to life again in the future.
We have thus been able to juxtapose what the ordinary person accomplishes: first the most insignificant work in a profession and then that which appears as the highest achievement. Superior achievements are an end; the most insignificant work is always a beginning.
I wanted to place these two concepts side by side because we cannot reflect upon how the human being is bound through his karma with his vocation until we first know how his labor, which is often connected quite externally with him, is related to the entire evolution of which he is a part. We will soon develop the real question of karma as it relates to vocation. But I had first to introduce these matters so we might attain a universal concept of what flows from a human being into his or her vocation.
These things are also exceedingly useful in forming our moral sentiments in the right way. Our judgments are incorrect because we do not focus our attention on things in the right way. A seed often appears quite insignificant beside the beautiful flower of the future. Using human work as a case in point, I wanted to show you today how seed and flower are bound up in the evolution of mankind.