Where and How Does One Find the Spirit?
XVII. Old European Clairvoyance
1 May 1909, Berlin
In the course of these winter talks was talk of the fact repeatedly that there is knowledge of supersensible worlds. I have told how the human being can attain such knowledge, and we have spoken of the results of this knowledge of supersensible worlds many a time. In two talks, I want to give something like an illustration to that knowledge of higher worlds. At examples, I want to show how in a certain field clairvoyant recognising developed, that clairvoyant recognising which is overcome by our modern humanity or should be overcome. It should today be talk of a clairvoyant recognising by natural forces, physical abilities. Next time, it should explained how by strict training, by particular methods clairvoyant recognising is to be attained, again at certain examples. We want to speak of that clairvoyant recognising which has led, so to speak, our ancestors to their views that are overcome today; next time, it should be talk of those clairvoyant cognitive faculties, which lead in a free self-conscious way into the higher worlds.
I have already mentioned that spiritual science has to speak about a development of the human consciousness. Our consciousness by which we recreate the external world in thoughts, images, and ideas in our inside is only one developmental stage. Another consciousness preceded in the development of humanity and another follows. If today one speaks of development in the usual sense, one usually means the development of the external forms, the material figures of existence. Spiritual science speaks of the development of soul and spirit, so of the development of consciousness. We can look back at a former form of consciousness, which was overcome by our present stage of development, and we can look at a future consciousness that opens up before us gradually. If we call the modern stage of consciousness “consciousness” par excellence, we can call the former consciousness “subconsciousness,” and that consciousness which develops by spiritual-scientific methods “super-consciousness.” Thus, we distinguish three successive stages: subconsciousness, consciousness, and super-consciousness.
In certain respects, the modern consciousness is a developmental stage of consciousness generally like the higher animal forms are developmental forms of the general animal figure. The modern consciousness developed from subordinated stages of consciousness. We can characterise our modern consciousness, which we can also call object consciousness, in such a way that we say, it perceives the external objects by the senses like hearing, looking, touching and so on. It makes concepts, images, and ideas of what was only a perception. In our consciousness is reflected an external world of objects having an effect on our senses.
The subconsciousness was not yet in such a way; it had an immediate nature. We can call it a lower clairvoyant consciousness in certain respects, because the being that possessed this consciousness did not approach the objects with the senses and sensed them as it were to make concepts of them, but the concepts were there immediately; pictures ascended and descended. Let us assume that this consciousness faces an external object, which is dangerous for it. Today we see the object, and the image caused by the sight causes that in us the consciousness of danger appears. It was not that way in former times with the clairvoyant consciousness. The external object was not perceived in distinct contours, in the older times not at all. Something like a vision ascended and showed the being whether something pleasant or unpleasant faced him. This we can visualise by the modern dreaming, by its visions surging up and down. Our normal dreaming is to be characterised as something that is not related to the external world. Against it, let us imagine the dream consciousness in such a way that something quite certain corresponds to any picture, which ascends as a vision in us and is assigned to it, so that a certain picture ascends with a danger, another vision with a useful object. If with these pictures a certain relation existed to us, then it would not be a question to us whether we dream or watch, then we could set up our practical life also according to these visions.
The modern consciousness has arisen from such a real dream life, which let the inner nature, the inner soulness of the things rise in pictures from such consciousness. It has accepted the manifold forms, until it has developed into the modern form. If we went back in history in the sense of spiritual science, we would find a developmental state with old peoples in distant past in which the outside was not perceived. An old, clairvoyant consciousness perceived the environment internally. This clairvoyant consciousness brought a soul quality in its wake that one has to call an imperfect state compared with the present basic quality of our soul. The human soul was not a self-conscious soul, it could not say “I” to itself, and it could not distinguish itself from the environment. Only because the external objects with their solid contours faced the soul, it learnt to distinguish itself from them. This consciousness could only form because the old consciousness dwindled away when the day or object consciousness appeared.
Thus, the human being had to buy his self-consciousness giving up the old, original clairvoyant condition. Any development is a higher development at the same time, even if one has to give up certain advantages of former stages. Now something remains, so to speak, of every stage in later times, and we can see such inheritances of former times still projecting into the present time. This is something anomalous today.
I have already drawn your attention to the fact that we have such atavisms also in the external figure, for example, the muscles near the ear that have once moved the ear. With the animals, they still have the purpose to move the ears. With the human being, they do no longer have this purpose, and only a few persons can move their ears voluntarily. What are such muscles? They are the remainders of a former developmental stage. The human being once had such a head form that the ears were movable.
As well as such organ forms have been left in the course of development, certain old states of consciousness also remain behind. Therefore, we see such rests, such heirlooms of old clairvoyance projecting into our modern consciousness; but they are clouded and changed in the modern state of development and, therefore, anomalous. If we point to the rests of clairvoyance, we can easily characterise the old European clairvoyance that you find in the development of all European peoples and can distinguish it from the clairvoyance of the East. I want to refer to these differences today.
Which are the inheritances of the old clairvoyant state of humanity? We can distinguish two categories there. One stands, as it were, completely for itself and belongs to the divine heirlooms. This is the dream and the dream experiences. The other remainder belongs to another category. The dream is not changed by the human beings but by the on-going development itself. The other heirlooms are vision, foreboding, and deuteroscopy or the “second face.”
We look at the dream first. It remained from the old picture consciousness. However, in that old picture consciousness the dream was still connected with reality. How is the dream today? It still shows certain typical qualities of the old picture consciousness; however, it has lost the reality value of the old picture consciousness. Imagine an example: someone dreams that he sees a tree frog and snatches it. There he wakes and has the corner of the blanket in the hand. The dream symbolises the external event. If the human being had faced this dream with the object consciousness, he would have seen that he held the blanket in his hand. However, the dream symbolises. It can become a great dramatist. A student dreams, for example, another student would bumped him leaving the auditorium, an offence that can be expiated only by a duel. Now he challenges the other on pistols, the seconds are determined, one appears at the arranged place, the distance is measured, the pistols are loaded, and the first shot is fired. However, at the same moment the student wakes and has upset the chair beside his bed. There we have the same again: the dream transforms an external incident into a picture. If the person concerned had looked at the incident with the object consciousness, if he had been awake, he would have seen the chair upset.
We realise with these dreams that there a certain arbitrary connection exists between what the dreaming person has experienced and what happens externally. The dream has retained from the old picture consciousness that one has to deal with a picture of external facts, but it has not retained the immediate relation to the external world. If it still had this immediate relation, the human being would not need to touch the salt with the tongue to recognise it, but a particular dream picture would rise before him, another with vinegar, sugar, with dangerous beings and so on. A particular picture corresponded to any being.
This consciousness is like a rest, like an heirloom in the modern dream consciousness. Because the human being was merged, so to speak, with his whole being in his self-consciousness, because he had broken away from the surroundings, the dream pictures are no more related to the outside world. Because the human being ascended from the dream consciousness to the self-consciousness, the relation of the dream to the outside world has got lost.
The three other remainders are different: vision, foreboding and deuteroscopy or the “second face.” If you remember the whole development of the human being as it was often shown here, it presents itself in such a way: the human being, as he faces us today, consists of four members: the physical, etheric, astral bodies, and the ego. The ego is the last developmental member, and by ascending to the ego, the human being has become a self-conscious being. When did the human being have this picture consciousness? He had it, when his ego still slumbered in the astral body, when the astral body itself was the carrier of consciousness. It was the astral body, which let these pictures ascend and descend. It is as if the human being emerged from the astral body and attained his modern object consciousness thereby. That explains also, why the human being had to be connected even deeper with the other members of his nature. As well as he had disappeared into the astral body in former times, he had disappeared into the etheric body and even deeper into the physical body. We have three stages of subconsciousness below the modern object consciousness.
Imagine a human being swimming under the surface of the sea, within the sea. He is able to see what is in the sea. He sees what proceeds in the seabed, what happens there, what swims or hovers there. There he has something around himself that is different from that condition when he comes up, looks up, and sees the star-spangled heaven. We can imagine the object consciousness, raised from its lower states, where the human being appreciated what astral, etheric, and physical bodies have provided to him. However, the human being is now able to submerge in certain anomalous cases again in this sea of subconsciousness. He is able to resort to it in such a way that he again takes down what he had already attained after he had emerged from the sea of subconsciousness.
Imagine a human being who has seen everything above submerges again and can now compare all that he perceives below to that what he knows from above. That applies to the modern human being: he takes that along which he has acquired above. It is not in such a way as it is with a diver who takes everything along only in memory and can compare it. To someone who submerges there, after he has been a present human being, all that is below colours with that which he has above experience. One brings along the above experienced into this subconsciousness and thereby one gets no pure image, a clouded picture, but a picture that the experiences of the object consciousness have clouded.
If the human being submerges in his astral body, he puts himself artificially back in the sphere that his consciousness took when he still lived in the astral body. The vision originates in the present sense that way. If he descended in the consciousness of the astral body without knowing anything about the modern world, he would really experience those pictures, which show the inside of the objects. Because he takes that along which he has experienced above, all things, which would appear to him in their true forms otherwise, lead him to believe in that what one can experience only here in the world of the concrete. This is the true and the delusive side of vision.
If anybody descends into the world of vision, he can always be sure that there are reasons that lie in the mental environment. However, it is sure also, that that which faces him as a vision is jugglery, that the true figures of the things do not reveal themselves to him, but are after-images of that which is seen in the upper world. That is why the visions of the human being appear mostly in such a way that they indicate what just the human beings experience in the present. One can check this until the details, even from decade to decade.
Imagine a human being submerging in that world in a time in which there was still no telegraph and no telephone. There he would also have seen no telegraph and no telephone in the underworld. However, the vision of telegraphs and telephones will become more and more frequent in our time. Hence, it also happens that a devout Catholic, who has often seen the Madonna in that figure as the object consciousness faces it, if he descends, takes this picture along and it appears to him in the vision. As a rule, those who are not devout Catholics do also not experience the Madonna in their visions. What one sees in the vision does not correspond to reality; but the human being has only taken down what dresses itself as reality. He carries down in this world what he has experienced here. We see that, indeed, the human being tinges his vision in certain ways.
If he submerges back in the etheric body, he experiences what one calls foreboding or prescience. However, here it is even more dangerous because this state of consciousness is even more distant. There the human being is interwoven with all intertwined threads of existence from which he ascended to his self-consciousness, but he cannot figure the threads out really. Keep in mind how little the human beings survey the connections which are round them. They give thought to a small part of the world, to cause and effect, but they forget that the whole world with its circumference is intensely networked.
The human being is lifted out of all that, he surveys, as it were, an island, but this island is connected with the whole universe. In his etheric body, the human being is connected with the universe. If he descended in his etheric body, without bringing anything of the bright day consciousness with him, then he would see the germ of something that only will happen, we say, in ten years. Now you can imagine that he brings down his intellect with him. He brings his little intellect down with him. What appears as foreboding is thereby already corrupted. If the foreboding appears natural, it mostly has — as well as the vision — no big objective value.
However, when the human being disappears in the depths of the physical body, the foreboding can change over to penetrating the space. While the foreboding is still connected with time, deuteroscopy, the “second face” can show what cannot be perceived with physical eyes. The pictures present themselves to the human being like a Fata Morgana. Anomalous phenomena, as Swedenborg reported them, for example, belong to it. You can learn from this that in the psychological field the delusions are even bigger, and nothing is to be accepted unverified.
That which appears today as morbid states is the heirloom of old clairvoyance and was healthy in ancient times, was something with which the human being related to his environment. If we look back, in particular in the development of the European peoples, we find the old picture consciousness everywhere more or less which looks at the world, as it is internal, as it is according to its spiritual-mental being. However, the self-consciousness is still quite undeveloped. What remains from that which the ancestors have seen and have told who did not yet have the entire self-consciousness? We can realise that a transition took place from the old picture consciousness to the object consciousness. Oh, there is a good, nice heirloom of it: these are the myths and legends, the whole contents of mythology. One often interprets as folk poetry what mythology. There clouds are looked as sheep flocks, or flash and thunder are reinterpreted in any way. There is maybe no more arbitrary “poetry” than the interpretation of the old myths and legends. Everything that remains today as myths and legends results from old clairvoyance. What was experienced in the subconsciousness was told, and these stories are the legends and myths and the fairy tales.
All legends and myths are experienced, not invented, but also experienced not in the modern object consciousness but in the old hazy consciousness. We can deeply look into the work of this hazy consciousness remembering something great in the religious scriptures. Remember once that meaningful passage in the Old Testament, where you read: “The Lord God ... breathed into the nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living creature (soul).” A certain organisation of the respiratory process is associated with the development of the human being. This passage wants to show us that the human being owes his modern self-consciousness, this particular way to live in and with his blood, to the particular shaping of the respiratory process which he has attained in the course of times, and which he has still today. Only because the human being learnt to breathe as an upright-going being, he stayed aloof from the picture consciousness.
The animals even have either a direct or an indirect picture consciousness today because they have no upright lung. One has drawn the attention rightly to the fact that the dog is more intelligent than the parrot, and, nevertheless, only the parrot learns to speak and not the dog. This is connected with the fact that the parrot has a larynx upright as it were. The fact that the human being has a particular configuration of the organs caused that he has ascended to his today's object consciousness.
If we want to understand this passage of the Bible correctly, we have to say, the human organs were so formed by the universal principles that the modern respiratory process developed. Those who understood this process spiritually, who knew that in everything something spiritual lives said to themselves, the spiritual of the air must penetrate in such a way into us that the free self-consciousness can develop. — If this process takes place irregularly, if the spirits of the air do not find the right way to work on our blood correctly, as it is appropriate to our modern self-consciousness, then an irregularity of our consciousness originates, it is lowered to a former stage. Therefore, the old-European human being felt in any irregularity of the respiratory process nothing else than the decrease of consciousness.
Which is the physical expression of irregular breathing? It is the incubus (German: Albdruck). The word comes here from elf or alb and is connected with Orpheus. So we realise that we have nothing else than something spiritual that has an effect on the respiratory process in such a way that the ego cannot develop completely. If the respiratory process is irregular, the hosts of lower spirits have admission to the human being. You may call it morbid or the like, it does not depend on it; it depends on what thereby develops in the human being. From our modern point of view, one has to call this state morbid. Since even if it is a decrease to a former state, this state is, nevertheless, a transition of the normal to the anomalous today. Our respiratory process has arisen from a process whose remnant exists as incubus, which is its last heirloom. It was a process where the human being did not need so much oxygen. When he was still closer to the plant stage, he had another form of consciousness, was submerged in the old hazy consciousness. Then he appeared from it and with the transition when he was alternately here and there in his consciousness the old-European human being experienced everything that faces us as stories of albs and elves.
With it, we look in natural way back at ancient states. We have the albs as the modern external condition of something that was spiritual, and that shows nothing else than the remains of the old clairvoyant consciousness, of the picture consciousness, which creates myths and legends.
However, while breathing changed, some other things changed too. The external seeing of the objects also originated. The “picture vision” of the objects was not connected with the vision of the external contours, the surfaces of the objects. The human being did not see the exterior surfaces of the objects. There was also a transition where the human being experienced that the old pictures disappeared and the pictures of the external objects arose.
Again, there was an interstate where the human being was already developed for seeing, but got in anomalous states where the external seeing withdrew to clairvoyant states. The vernacular has an old word for this state where the normal consciousness withdraws where one looks at an object and does not see it, nevertheless. It calls it “spannen” (noticing), and this word is related to the word “Gespenst” (ghost), so that you have here, so to speak, the ghost before yourselves that which appeared as an internal picture what was not yet an external object but was seen by astral forces. This is something anomalous today. With the transition, the human being depended on it, if this appeared, to say to himself, nevertheless, I want to see, I do not want that you stare at me, I want to see. — The appearance was something that he had to overcome. All legends that aim at blinding what stares at one, to overcome it so that it does no longer stare have their origin here. In the legend of Polyphemus, in the glare of the giant up to the wonderful legend where Dietrich von Bern overcomes the giant Grim everywhere we have this consciousness.
However, the whole strangeness of the phenomena could also have something luring for the soul. Because these beings appeared like from an unknown world, they had something tempting. The “Lur” or the “Lore” is the basic word of a luring ghost. If the human being saw it, he could only see it originating in the inside of the things. Now still something strange: the word “Ley” (Loreley Rock) is connected with the word “Heimat” (home). The luring ghost withdraws into the Ley, into its home. One can find the word “Ley” in the manifold areas. There we have, so to speak, the subconscious experience of seeing the Lore or Lur that appears when the certain outward seeing developed. The albs or elves are connected with the fact that the human being receives his self-consciousness in his inside.
There another legend has survived as an heirloom that lives in certain Slavic areas still today. It is the legend of the Lady Midday. If people go out on the field and, instead of going home at noon, stay outside, the Lady Midday appears to them in the figure of a white woman. She puts questions to the human being until the midday bell rings. If he can answer these questions, the Lady Midday says at the end, “It is good, you have released me.” What do we see in such a legend? We see an old clairvoyant experience. As the human being inhales the spirit of the ego with the air, he has built his whole inside, his microcosm from the spiritual environment, from the macrocosm. Everything that is inside has come in from the outside. Our internal intelligence is the result of the external intelligence.
There is a transition from the time when the human being has seen the spiritual beings that guided the construction of the world and that created the flowers and crystals, up to the formation of the external intelligence. The external intelligence invaded the human being as it were, and he became aware of it. Assume that the consciousness extinguishes itself simply by the midday sun. Those who knew this spiritually called the midday sun the midday demon. Assume that the bright consciousness extinguishes itself — by a latent, partial sunstroke, one could say, and before the human being that emerges what is like the external occasion or reason of his intellectual forces. How has this to appear? Only by straining his intelligence. The human being faces, so to speak, objectively what is woven into him from the world. He has to overcome it, while he is able to strain his intelligence, so that he can answer, until the midday bell sounds. If he manages this, he has fulfilled the task and the consciousness unites again with his ego. Transfer this on the most beautiful form which this spiritual experience has attained in which it faces us in ancient Greece — and plastically in ancient Egypt — where the big questioner, the Sphinx, appears. Nothing else is the Sphinx than the Lady Midday in the most increased form. She likewise puts questions, questions about the human riddle to the human being where he must apply his highest intelligence. For all questions of the sphinx, require the answer: “The human being.” Therefore, the human being faces what he is inside, in the Sphinx, and who was able to solve the riddle of the Sphinx, could release her. Then she threw herself into the abyss that means she combined with the inner human nature.
Single examples have shown us that nothing else expresses itself in the marvellous mythology than the development of consciousness. From the old picture consciousness, humanity captured its present bright day consciousness that has brought the self-consciousness. Whereas he was once not able to look into himself, did not find a self there, he found, if he looked out, spiritual beings everywhere, in the source, in the air, in the tree — everything was animated by spiritual beings. If he looked out with his hazy consciousness and saw the air, he knew that it was the embodiment of that god who took shape in his inside. If the air penetrated him, he knew: this moves my ego. — Roared the wind outdoors, which he inhaled, otherwise, in cold, stormy winter nights above the earth, then he knew that Wotan drove in the roaring storm.
We could go through all myths and legends that way. We would probably find transformations by poems, but everything leads back to old clairvoyant consciousness. However, this clairvoyant consciousness, as it had developed within Europe, differs quite substantially from that of the East. Any nation has a particular mission or task to fulfil within the development.
While the Oriental had this ego only to a very low degree in the time in which he experiences that transition from the old clairvoyance to the configuration of the ego, so that this ego devoted itself very easily to the higher beings, the personality consciousness early developed within the European life. This characterises those transitions in particular that the ego is strongly engaged in those transitional stages to the object consciousness. The human being could look into the inside of the things, but he asserted his ego to the highest degree, he felt from the outset as a strong fighter against the beings that wanted to spin him into the threads of the surrounding spiritual world. Hence, his assistants are preferably such beings that work for the achievement of self-consciousness, for the liberation of the ego.
We realise that something is given in the victory that the spirits giving the personal self-consciousness want to gain over the astral beings that plays a big role within the Germanic, the European mythological literature. The alb that makes dependent exists in the Midgard serpent, in the giants, and in the Sirens, everywhere in the European consciousness.
Everywhere you see, so to speak, the gods becoming companions of the human being to develop the personal self-consciousness. We realise that the god who lives in the breath, Wotan, becomes a companion of the human being in the fight against all lower spirits. We realise that the strong god helps the human being overcoming the lower consciousness. Donar or Thor with his hammer is that who overcomes the giants and the Midgard serpent; he expresses really how the human being comes with his self-consciousness from the spiritual world into the world of sensuous perception.
In Europe, the ground was thereby prepared for Christianity that this victory over the astral powers that want to make the human being dependent is a main motif. The souls of the Europeans thereby had to feel something that the oriental peoples did not feel. In Europe, the desire prevailed to appear with the free ego from the subconsciousness. This is why the European souls felt most intensely: I have come with my ego from the spiritual world to the physical-sensuous world. I have lost the land where from I came, I have gained the physical world, however, I have made myself blind towards the old astral world; I have thrown down my old hazy consciousness.
This must be expressed the strongest where the victory over the astral world should be expressed. The old European consciousness felt Baldr as the leader in the bright astral world from which the human soul is born. He, the bright god, is the leader of the souls, as far as they belonged to their homeland, the bright astral world. Now the souls are enclosed in the physical body. There Hodur is the leader in the sensuous world who is blind towards the spiritual world and kills Baldr.
The old Europeans felt the decline of the clairvoyant soul like the temporary death of the soul. However, they felt this decline also as a transition. They felt that something new had to follow. Hence, Ragnarök, the twilight of the gods, the decline of that world order which put the external objects only as pictures before our eyes. Because in the old times the personal consciousness was especially marked with the European peoples, they could also understand and grasp the personal god the deepest and most intensely, who appeared in Christ Jesus. Already long ago, the foundation was laid for the acceptance of the personal god in Christ.
We have seen the modern consciousness developing in Europe from the former consciousness. Next time it is our task to show how initiates already pointed to higher worlds in the old mysteries, long before the appearance of Christianity. We hear in the next talk how the mysteries have developed until our time.
The human being will learn by spiritual science to behold on a higher level, with free consciousness, in the spiritual world what once the initiate beheld. The human being has descended from the spiritual world as a being living in his subconsciousness to get his self-consciousness in the sensuous world. He will ascend again to the supersensible world with his self-consciousness. The old clairvoyance was not his clairvoyance, but it was instilled into him by other beings. The clairvoyance that the human being acquires in the future is a self-conscious ego-filled clairvoyance. A quotation by Christ Jesus applies to it best of all. While Christ Jesus pointed to the connection between truth and freedom, he looked at a distant future; and to this future his quotation (John 8:32) points: you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.