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Origin and Destination of Humanity
GA 53

XXIII. The Arts Faculty and Theosophy

25 May 1905, Berlin

Note: The transcript of the four “faculty” lectures are deficient. It shows not only noticeable gaps; the author of the transcript is also not familiar with the topic of the lectures. He often made summaries in haste as far as he understood the lecturer. That is why some connections shifted. Although notices of other participants were used, the deficiencies of the text could not be essentially corrected except for some big misunderstandings.

In the order of the talks on the relation of the universities to the theosophical movement it is the fourth about theosophy and its relation to the arts faculty (in Germany: faculty of philosophy). We have to consider the fact that this is possibly of more significance to our education and culture than the three other faculties, because the arts faculty encloses the scientific disciplines which extend about the whole field of research. That is why somebody who wants to become engrossed in wisdom and world view without certain trend simply for the sake of knowledge and education has to direct his looks at it. The arts faculty has experienced big changes; however, it has grown out of an educational institution to a sophisticating one. It was once the arts faculty a very typical name that had to prepare for the study of theology, philosophy, and medicine.

You know that the university originated in the 12th and 13th centuries, and we can still observe up to the 18th century how somebody who wanted to climb up to the heights by studying had to go through a philosophical preparatory study. This was arranged in such a way that one did not aim at any certain professional education, but at a formal education which should form the spiritual training of a human being in a formal way. Among other things, rhetoric, dialectic, astronomy and music were taught. The latter was understood as an understanding of the harmonies in the universe and in the smaller phenomena which surround us. One appreciated it to make only the mind ripe. The feature of our time is to set little store by the formal education.

Besides, I must touch something that looks very heretical in our time. Today a big tendency exists to underestimate everything formal compared with the material. One makes a point conceiving the matters rationally, bundling together as much knowledge as possible. Who looks at the matters in such a way as it is usual today, does not understand me. Who would not side immediately if anybody said the following: there are two methods to learn languages. A method, which is regarded as ridiculous, is that by which the human being is tormented with pointless exercises, as such as: today, my father has become fifty years old. Tomorrow, my aunt travels to Paris. One smiles at such things and it is still the question whether one has any cause of it.

One thinks today that one could better take sentences from any great classic. Thus it has come to avoid such banal sentences at school; one prefers sentences of the classics who are then shredded and analysed and become thereby unenjoyable for the pupil. On one side, we find the pointless, on the other side, the picking to pieces. There one hardly finds anybody today who sides the first way. Nevertheless, it is for the psychologist no question that the first way is the right one. He is clear in his mind that the human being must remain at the formal very long, that his reason is invoked very late, and that we learn best of all if the things leave us very uninterested as regards contents. During the years in which the mind is most receptive, one has to develop it rightly at first. We have to learn to talk fairly, before our thoughts are transformed with it; one lets the reason mature in the subsoil, lets it develop the ability of logic formally, then this precious good of humankind slowly matures. It is clear that nobody can apply his reason to a problem without further ado. So at first formal education, before that matures which can appear as the best fruit in the human being.

The faculty of philosophy was called arts faculty in the Middle Ages. It was an artistic mastery of the mental material, and it contained an overwhelming quantity of thoughts. Later on, the lower subjects of the arts faculty were assigned for the high school. The modern arts faculty is unworthy of its name; it is an aggregate.

This is not always the case. The philosopher Fichte (1762–1814) headed the Berlin university when it was founded (1810). At that time, any single scientific discipline was integrated into a big organism. Fichte was convinced that the world is a unity, and that any knowledge is a patchwork that is not steeped in it. Why does one study botany, mathematics, history, for example? We study these sciences because we want to obtain an insight into the construction of the universe. In other times, the penetration in the scientific disciplines would not have been so fateful. But the picture of the unity of the world has disappeared. The arts faculty should pursue science on its own sake. It did this once, but thereby it has collided with the cultural life. Already Friedrich Schiller spoke in a talk at the Jena university of the difference between the philosophical head and the bread-and-butter scholar. At that time, it was not yet so bad. Who is a philosophical head can study everything; the biggest points of view present themselves to him from every science. He sees the biggest world secrets in the plant as the psychologist realises them in the human soul. Specialisation had to take place. We know too much today to master everything. Great spirits like Leibniz, Leonardo da Vinci and others could control the knowledge of their times. This is rare today. We can only hope that the scientific disciplines get new life. However, to the bread-and-butter scholar science is nothing but a cow that gives him milk.

One would object nothing if professional schools were established for studies that provide well-paid jobs. However, this has no other value than learning any other trade. From the point of view of world knowledge it is quite irrelevant whether I become a shoemaker or a chemist. The consciousness should become general that the professional study is not more valuable than any other study in life. The chemist, botanist et etcetera is compared with the great philosopher in the same position as the businessman. Who realises, however, what it means to acquire philosophical education knows that there must be sites where one pursues science for its own sake. In this respect, it is not good that the university split up into scientific disciplines, in particular in a time in which materialism has seized everything. Nowadays, the arts faculty is nothing else than a preparatory site for the grammar school teacher. Actually nothing at all would objected if philosophy devoted itself to the task to train educated teachers. Training the human soul belongs to the highest tasks of life. However, only someone can solve them who is an artist of psychology and can undertake the task to guide the souls. The human being was called a microcosm by the great spirits of the world not without reason. There is no branch of knowledge that one could not use to train a human soul. Hence, the pedagogues do not want to cram the young human being with knowledge only, and he will get to the formal quite naturally. Science takes a particular position if one looks at it as a pedagogue. If anyone studies painting or music, he is not yet a painter or a musician. That also applies to the pedagogue. All knowledge is nothing to the pedagogue if it has not proceeded to art as with the painter or musician, so that his mind, like physical organs, has immediately absorbed what he knows, so that knowledge is, as it were, completely digested. The human soul should be an organism in which the soul food is transformed, is assimilated. Only then the human being is a philosophical spirit. It is right that the universities teach the scientific disciplines. However, another human being should arise from them, a human being who has become an artist.

If one really applies the theosophical way of thinking there, it does not depend on scientific exams. As well as anyone does not own the quality of an artist who has only scholarship, also anyone does also never become an artist who has passed the necessary exams only. The problem of examinations must also be seen in a new light. The examiner has not only to examine knowledge, but also which kind of human being the examinee is, whether he has the right philosophy of life, how much of it he has made his own, to which extent he has become a new human being. This has gone unregarded in our materialistic age. When the external appearance to the senses became decisive, the modern arts faculty originated. All the other sciences originated from philosophy. Once one had the consciousness of the connection of all knowledge; but if one does not brand the Middle Ages as heretical, one does rouse prejudices. However, in those days one felt on what it depended for the world and for the human beings.

In 1388, a person was appointed professor of theology and of mathematics in Vienna. Today, a professor would faint about that. However, we know that mathematical thinking can serve well for that where to theology leads us. Who learns to think in the way that he exercises some mathematics, learns to think quite differently, can also be a mystic without becoming a romanticist. Who has not acquired a comprehensive knowledge, can abandon himself only to a suggestion. With this he enters in a professional study. What can he know if he has experienced a purely philosophical higher education, what can he know about mathematics? Only mathematical concepts, having no inkling of the fact that mathematics introduces in the great principles of the universe.

It is not long ago when one still knew this. In the Middle Ages, this view was not dangerous, because it is not true that the iron theology of the Middle Ages put everybody in irons. The best proof is that at the Paris university one argued, for example, about such subject like: The Speeches of Theology Are Founded on Fables or The Christian Religion Prevents from Adding Something Superficial to Theology. It was possible at that time to argue about these subjects. One argues differently today. Once arguing was fertile because one had acquired formal education. Today one can prove errors in reasoning very easily. But any arguing that is based on errors in reasoning is infertile because one is not clear in his mind that someone who argues has only to understand the technique of arguing. In the Middle Ages, mathematics was regarded as the basis of any knowledge, even of art. There could be the great idealism of which our time cannot have any idea. A typical remark by Leonardo da Vinci (1459–1519), this representative of the great idealism, is that the mechanics is the paradise of the mathematical sciences. He was an artist and mathematician at the same time. The physical education of his time lived in his soul. The way of thinking and the knowledge of his time also speak to us from his paintings. He called the external world the paradise of mathematics! Where he built bridges, thoughts about the spirit of humankind flowed to him... [Gap].

The “sacrifice of the world” means theosophically: the less someone acts for himself, the more he is capable to put something of himself into the culture of his time. It is not so important what we develop from ourselves, as what we implant in the world. Not what we perfect in ourselves, but what we give to the world is the pledge and the pound which is imperishable. Leonardo da Vinci got thoughts about the spirit of humankind as thoughts of mathematics from bridge building. The gods want free beings, they do not want a thing in nature. What the human being creates consciously in the world is an execution of the divine world plan. Something common can become something sacred if it is for the benefit of humankind. If we take this point of view, we have taken up the great idealism in ourselves, and this idealism would have to flow through the whole arts faculty. Within the frame of our arts faculty all scientific disciplines can be probably placed. But it had to be the headquarters of the world view as a core in the centre instead of taking the second place behind the single scientific disciplines.

With the help of this central philosophical science we would come to the artistic view. Only that should receive the doctorate who has absorbed this central attitude of having life in himself. The last exam of the philosopher would have to be an examination of his life forms; the only honorary title of the philosophical doctor would have to be founded on the fact that in the human being the life contents of this life form is included. Otherwise, the philosophical doctor is an arabesque, a pretension, a social form. Not only knowledge belongs to the philosophical doctor, but a knowledge transformed into art of living. One already had such consciousness. Thus a philosophical doctor will have only the maturity as it is commensurate with the philosophical head. A large dissemination of theosophy would bring it about by itself, for it wants to develop the forces that slumber in the human being. The theosophist is aware that the human being is capable of development that like the child must develop also mind and soul are capable to develop to higher stages. The human being is not yet complete when he leaves the high school and the universities. Theosophy asserts more and more that the human being is only in the beginning of his development. The arts faculty should have the greatest say. It should develop from the mathematical attitude into a spiritual direction; everything should run up to this point. Theosophy is not so difficult. It would be bound to occur that if there were a theosophical faculty all sciences would become theosophical in the end.

Physiology is the science of the phenomena in plants, animals and human beings. If in physiology the equipment of the eye is considered et etcetera, these are pictures to take the knowledge that the human being sees. Physiology teaches us that basically all our sense impressions depend on our senses; it teaches the subjective. In the end, it says that we know nothing about that which is beyond our sense impressions. If we consider this, and do not remain unthinking, but keep on investigating spiritually, we get exactly to the same teachings which occultism gives us that everything sensory is illusion and that the theory of sense energy, theosophically treated, leads into big depths. One needs physiology; one must study it and then top it with philosophy. One has no other choice. The philosophy in the arts faculty is only a piece. It does no longer have any strength; it is a discipline like other disciplines. This should not be; it had to give the strength to the other disciplines. Instead of this, it has received for its part the colouring from single professional disciplines.

The fact that one thinks substantially materially results from the fact that philosophy and the great world view do not have the saying, but rather psychology, which came from other disciplines, has become an experimental science. If one believes that psychology is done precisely only if one experiments around with the human being like with an unliving crystal, one considers the human being as something that has neither life nor soul. Psychology can recognise nothing but the material expression. Theosophy would realise that the studies of physiology and psychology are one and the same in certain way and would integrate both into the big framework of knowledge. The modern universities cannot do that and, therefore, they cannot carry any idealistic world view into the world. The arts faculty is not able to be the standard bearer of a philosophical attitude. The faculty should not be an aggregate of the various disciplines, but allow them to grow together to a common soul. Then it is taught theosophically without transplanting theosophy to the universities. Otherwise, the arts faculty remains an aggregate without spiritual bond. Knowledge should become a living whole from whose single parts the spirit shines. It satisfies us as theosophists if the prerogative belongs only to this philosophical study and if it develops on this basis. Then it is well rescued in theosophy. We want only what everybody wants for the welfare of the single sciences. Should theosophy fulfil its task, it must not be a doctrine but life. We have to be theosophists with every step, we have to impregnate everything that we do in life with this living theosophical attitude. Then the theosophical movement is more; it is like one of the most powerful cultural factors of the present. However, it has to win influence on those who are selected to lead our culture. We have to confess and represent theosophy where we want to work in life. The world process is not anything dead, but something living. The beings and not the relations cause the development of the human mind. If theosophy is a world of the spirit, then theosophy is one of the most powerful cultural factors of the present. It does not depend on the reading of theosophical writings, but on the attitude so that the human being is seized in the everyday life.