Truths and Errors of Spiritual Research
VII. The Questions of Life and the Riddle of Death I
16 February 1913, Tübingen
This evening I would like to speak about important questions of life from the viewpoint of the so-called spiritual science, that is from a viewpoint which is not popular today and which has exceptionally many prejudices against itself. Nevertheless, I am allowed to say that often that which later became common property of humanity in this or that area was unpopular at any former time, and was exposed to prejudices. Hence, I want to go over to the object without further introduction.
Spiritual science is concerned with an enclosing area of worldview. However, if one surveys the contents of spiritual science, everything amounts to answering two questions of existence which do not arise in a separated area of science, but appear everywhere in life. These are such riddles of existence which not only stress the intellectual interest but the deepest human interest; one is not only curious of the solution of these questions, but one longs for their solution because inner peace, viability, but also pain, doubt, trouble are associated with it. We can summarise with two words what it concerns: human destiny and human immortality — or we could say, death.
The human destiny puts big serious questions at every turn. We realise that a human being enters into existence and worries and efforts surround him, so that he will have a more or less painful existence; or we realise that he shows low abilities and predispositions, so that he cannot become any valuable member of humanity. Against it, another human being enters into existence without guilt or merit, early surrounded by providing hands, so that an indeed happy existence will be his destiny. We realise that with him also early abilities appear which let him become a useful member of the society. Maybe you can reject these questions with your intellect and you do not allow approaching you. However, if our sensations speak in life if our wishes must deal with the living conditions, then all wishes and sensations emerge in the subconscious depths of life, which wake the anxious longing after answers to such questions. Perhaps you can feel not in the thirst for knowledge, but in the positive or negative approach to life how the soul urges to know something that is in the way that I have suggested.
The riddle of death approaches the human being particularly. What people know about immortality does often not look scientific. How much passion, how many prejudices are contained in this question. Fear of death or the wish to extend the existence is involved in the evaluation of the question and in the answer that most people want to give themselves. When natural sciences were about to emerge as a worldview, there were people who completely denied the possibility that the soul would exist after death, and one may say, among these deniers were many who often outranked those morally who accepted immortality. These persons said to themselves, we want to sacrifice what we have worked during our life to the public. — These persons regarded that as something morally higher than the selfish wish to carry on the compiled. One cannot deny that such persons are moral.
However, there is a viewpoint from which the question of immortality must be put even quite scientifically if one does not completely feel this scientificity today. If we practise self-knowledge a little, we recognise that that which the human being creates and which he becomes as a human being has a personal individual character. With some introspection, you may say, the best is so particular with every soul that we cannot give this best to any public. If the consciousness of our soul being were destroyed after death, the most valuable would be lost not only to us, but also to the world economy. Should it be true that the human being works hard for something that is most valuable to him on earth and is destroyed at a moment? - Such a thing does not happen in the universe. It happens that the forces that are highly strained are incorporated into the world economy. There the question becomes only scientific.
Thus, we have characterised both questions — the question of the human destiny and that of human immortality. Today spiritual science is unpopular because it is rather strange to the habitual ways of thinking. One is used to counting on the outer sensory observations and on the intellect that is bound to the brain. However, with these means one cannot cope with the real being of the human nature. Then the question arises, are there other cognitive possibilities? Spiritual science just wants to deliver to the general intellectual culture that there are special methods to attain such cognitive faculties. To get to know this we have to take a phenomenon as starting point that is related to death that not enough is taken into account because we do not use that as an opportunity to put questions to which we are used. That which appears more seldom or in such a way that it dismays us like death or destiny becomes a riddle. However, the everyday consciousness passes an important riddle, the riddle of sleep. We have to go through this riddle if we want to approach the question of death.
Every day we see our consciousness sinking into nothing during sleep. Let us take the fact of falling asleep completely apart from scientific hypotheses. The limbs stop doing their services, the soul feels maladjusted to the senses, to the inner life that is bound to the physical body; then the darkness of unconsciousness begins. There are many scientific views about that; we do not want to mention them today, although it would be very interesting which attempts one undertakes in our time. However, we want to do spiritual-scientific considerations.
At first, that which spiritual science has to say about sleep. From this hypothesis, the facts will arise as it were. Spiritual science states that it is illogical to assume that the whole day life with all its experiences sinks into nothing and is made new in the morning. The experiences must still exist somewhere. On the other hand, spiritual science has to join the view that one can discover nothing in himself as causes, why mental pictures should fulfil him as the whole wake day life contains them in itself. Spiritual science considers all that — the mental pictures, the memories et cetera of the wake day life — as a spiritual-mental reality which withdraws from the physical body and the etheric body during sleep and enters into the spiritual world, so that the human being is with his inner existence beyond the physical body. Then the human being is in the spiritual world and in the morning this spiritual-mental of the human being submerges again in the body, in the senses, in the brain et cetera. Thus, we have separated the human being during sleep as it were in a bodily being and a spiritual-mental being; both combine again after waking up.
The materialist monist will argue how someone can sin in such a way against the view of monism; you split the human being in two parts. — You can argue that the chemist commits the same sin if he separates water in hydrogen and oxygen; but there you cannot forbid it to him. In no other way, we speak in spiritual science of a duality of the human being. That who does not know the methods of chemistry to recognise the existence of hydrogen in the water could also state that the hydrogen does not exist. Thus, somebody can also state that that does not exist which leaves the body with sleep. It concerns that during sleep the spiritual-mental of the human being is not aware of itself. For the usual consciousness all that is not there if it has left the body. Everything depends on the fact that the human being can recognise that which has left the body as something real.
One reaches this with rules that the spiritual researcher has to apply to himself. He reaches this while he puts himself in a state that is similar to sleep, but it is different from it at the same time. The sign of sleep is that idleness of the senses, of the reason and, in the end, unconsciousness happens. Could another state also happen now? Yes. For this purpose, we assume what will prove true then; we assume, the human being gets really rid of his body, so that in sleep this supersensible being cannot experience itself in the usual state. If we could cause anything by which this soul still experienced itself, the movement of the limbs et cetera would be excluded, but consciousness would still exist. One causes this state by inner means, by meditation, concentration, or contemplation.
In the soul are forces that one only has to strengthen if complete consciousness should replace the unconsciousness of sleep. One attains this in such a way that the human being suppresses the movement of the limbs arbitrarily, makes them as quiet as the body is in sleep, then he excludes all outer impressions which divert his thoughts. He must artificially cause this state towards the outside world, and then he must exclude the thoughts of the usual life. If this empty consciousness occurs in the usual life, then the human being falls asleep. However, long, patient exercises enable the person concerned to keep [the consciousness] alive, and then it concerns that he moves any mental picture in the centre of his consciousness arbitrarily and fulfils his consciousness with it. The things of the outside world are not suitable for that; symbolic images are much better which we ourselves produce. Everybody may say, to have such mental pictures is a crazy thing. However, it matters what they cause in the soul.
Let us imagine, for example, two glasses, one is empty, the other contains some water. Now we imagine that we pour from the latter perpetually water into the first glass and thereby the latter does not become emptier but fuller and fuller. This is, actually, a quite crazy image. However, it does not matter here but that this image works allegorically for a deep secret: love. Love is something with which we cannot cope with human images. It is a secret. However, we can give one of its qualities by that which the soul gives: it becomes richer and richer. Love has the quality that we can express allegorically, and there we find this specific what one is used in another area.
Let us take a round medallion as another example. With it, all relations can be determined: that of radius, diameter, circumference, area et cetera, but you can do that just as well with a drawn circle. Since its regularities also apply to the medallion. Mathematics shows such symbols of regularities perpetually. The spiritual researcher does nothing else than that he applies this mathematical method to a higher area not only to thinking but also to life. We do not speculate about these symbols, but it matters that all our impulses are directed to them, and it concerns the power that we develop there. Whereas the human being normally takes his mind off things, we concentrate our soul life completely, even if only for a few minutes. You have to continue these things for years, then a particular result will arise: the human being feels now that that which sank, otherwise, into unconsciousness becomes active in him that it is something that was filled, otherwise, with nothing at all.
You have to open yourself to many such images. Then particular experiences appear as pictures, as “imaginations;” they shoot up before us, they face us. With it, you already attain something that you have to treat, however, with caution. Someone who stands on a materialist viewpoint will say rightly, now you have brought it just as far as those who have hallucinations and visions, which are of no value. — Indeed, there is a cliff. People who experience such visions will believe in them like in something real that is much more real than the things that they see with their eyes. There are people who invent the most logical system for their delusions to keep them. There is a term, which explains all that, it is the word “self-love.” Why does the human being believe in these images? Because of self-love; because he himself has developed them; because the person cannot help to identify himself with that which he is internal. A spiritual researcher has to bear this in mind. He has to have such strong will so that he says to himself, what I see is only a reflection of my being.
The spiritual researcher has to be so strong that he can remove this whole imagination by his will. If one has developed his soul until then where the contents of the soul appear as objects, then he has to be thrown back to nothing, and then one can say, one prepares himself to get spiritual percepts. It does not matter so much that you develop this or that vision, but that you develop the usually slumbering soul forces. In particular, a strong will belongs to it. The human being is familiarised at first with the whole power of self-love. This must be defeated. Here it concerns a heavy victory. You have to extinguish what you have conquered.
The way to self-knowledge makes the forces that one knows only as inner ones work with the power of a natural phenomenon. The soul forces work like natural elements. You face yourself as a kind of nature. Then a certain experience takes place that one calls the “encounter with the guardian of the threshold.” It may take place in various ways. I would like to give an example only, you feel something new that drives through you like a lightning or you feel as if your body is dissolved and still remains. You feel incapable to use your body. This is a very important moment. You have the feeling as if your hands are forged to your body and your brain is something over which you do not exercise power that works mentally as an obstacle. You must prepare yourself to endure this moment. This preparation consists of the fact that you strengthen your courage. You must experience this moment fearlessly.
Some other experiences are attached to it which let us recognise what it means to face the own body, the usual soul forces like things. You recognise the meaning and vincibility of self-love only now. Because for the usual experience this moment cannot be endured without appropriate preparation, one calls this experience the encounter with the guardian of the threshold because good spirits stand before it as it were and protect us against this experience.
It depends on such experiences that you develop certain strictly moral impulses. Thereby you acquire maturity to build spiritual-scientific knowledge only on a healthy soul. Compared with that which the spiritual researcher must experience before he approaches the spiritual world, the objection is childish that the spiritual researcher dedicates himself to any mania. He knows the experiences of mania, the visions completely. He knows how he has removed them from his soul. If he is able to erase the results of self-love, a new world appears before him completely objective; it is fulfilled with individual things and beings, as well as the outer physical world is fulfilled with individual things and beings.
Our time tends quite strongly to accept something supersensible, and one can notice how this trend becomes prominent. I want to point only to an outstanding fact. Charles William Eliot (1834-1926, American chemist), board of directors of the Harvard University in America, held a lecture in 1909 where he spoke about a kind of future religion which acknowledges the supersensible on scientific basis. He said, people have always acknowledged an absolute soul being which is not subject to outer physical laws. — We find such a tip with many scholars. However, such persons would like to stop at the tip. They say, there is soul, soul, and soul. Yes, this is exact the same way, as if one says about the most different plants and animals: this is nature, nature, and nature. However, if the spiritual researcher tells details of the spiritual world, these persons become awkward. It is not enough to point to the fact that there is spirit and soul. However, if one states that there are beings and events in the spiritual worlds, then these persons become awkward and say, these are pipe dreams. One cannot say that everything that emerges before the spiritual researcher is delusion. Since the spiritual researcher has taken part in the experiences which enable him to distinguish.
Nevertheless, in natural sciences it is exactly the same way; one has to experience these things. If a human being has never seen a whale fish, zoology cannot prove that there is a whale fish. With it, some objections disprove themselves. Schopenhauer characterised a part of his system with the fact that he said, the world is my idea. — With it, he stated that one cannot separate percepts from mental pictures. However, there is an easy, even if trivial rebuttal. If we imagine that we touch our skin with an iron piece of 900 degrees centigrade, we can imagine the pain probably in thoughts, but an only imagined hot iron does not cause ache as a real one does. There is a proof that is produced by life. The same applies to the spiritual life; it must be experienced to the end.
Somebody argued, with big thirst one can imagine the taste and the refreshing effect of a lemonade. Yes — but one cannot quench the thirst with this image. One is not allowed to use intellectual games. The spiritual researcher must have advanced so far that he can distinguish reality and speculative fiction, as one has to distinguish reality and mental picture in the physical world.
Thus, the human being enters into that world in which he is every night after he has left his physical body where he is also in the spiritual world, save that he has no inner activity. By the exercises, his soul and mind become so strong that it experiences itself and its environment.
Now you start understanding that something spiritual forms the basis of the human being. If you have experienced once how you can be separated from the body how you do not exercise power over this body and, nevertheless, your consciousness is maintained, you understand something else. You understand that this is something embryonic, nevertheless, that assists in the creation of the body. Then one looks quite scientifically at the human life in such a way as one sees a plant growing. If a [living being] were born with the roots of a plant and died after flowering, it would have no notion of the fact that the seed which develops in the blossom starts a process again and that you have to imagine the whole plant concentrated in the seed. If you have recognised the human inside, you understand the dictum of Goethe: in old age we become mystics. — The rich soul life is like the seed of the plant.
We look at a human being now who enters into existence at birth how his abilities develop, and we realise at his death that he has stored inner forces that he can no longer express with the body. Thus, the inside enters into the spiritual world at death; and if we see a human being born, we see him again coming out of the spiritual world and moving in the lines of heredity of father and mother. If we say, all qualities are inherited from father and mother, it is like the old natural sciences that believed that from mud even fish could originate. Only Francesco Redi said that life can come only from life.
The spiritual researcher knows the human spiritual core. If anyone states that everything comes from father and mother, one has to answer: this is an inexact observation. One has to say, that which comes from former embodiments enters and attracts what comes from father and mother to itself. All spiritual-mental goes back to a former spiritual-mental. That means, we get to the repeated lives on earth. We have already gone through many lives. All that has a beginning and an end. We bring with us what we have acquired as inner forces into this life, so that we also work on the construction of our body. One can observe that quite externally. One looks at the brain at birth and observes how it develops then plastically. There the individuality works its way out. In that we find ourselves if we become spiritual researchers, we have acquired that in this life.
Hence, the stupefying impression which a spiritual researcher receives because he can change nothing of that which comes from former lives. There the riddle of death and destiny faces us in special way. If we suffer in a present life, we have prepared it to ourselves in a former life. This could seem cruel. However, let us suppose once that anybody has to experience in the eighteenth year of his life that his father loses his property. Now he has to learn something, this is very disagreeable, and he can feel it as something extremely bad. However, at the age of fifty years he will judge quite different. Thus, the human being cannot always judge a misfortune correctly, as long as he experiences it. We have to say to ourselves, if we expose ourselves to distress and misery: it is at the same time a condition of development. It is only imaginary if one believes that this knowledge is cruel.
How does immortality face us now? Not like in many philosophies, that one considers an infinite time line and speculates how the human can last. No, we acquire something that concentrates in the human life internally; the soul life concentrates, we carry our spiritual core through the gate of death into the spiritual world; connected with the body our destiny leads it to the next life, and we use the next life again to enrich our inside. Nevertheless, overall, life is ascending. The entire human life consists of the life between birth and death and of that which remains between death and new birth. The whole immortality consists of that which life itself renders. We get to know life as the creator of a new life, as the plant, which has the guarantee in the seed that a new plant will originate. This is a scientific consideration.
Admittedly, it is comprehensible that many prejudices exist against it, but Francesco Redi also experienced that. One wanted to burn him to death. This is the destiny of truth. Today people are no longer burnt, but one refers to them as fools. The fashion changes, the being has remained. Later these “pipe dreams” are a given. Thus, it will happen with truth: something spiritual-mental can originate only from something spiritual-mental. Somebody who knows how it stands with the investigation of the spiritual world understands that these prejudices must arise. At first, people believe that natural sciences are in danger. The following example serves as explanation. We see a person; two others stand before him and ask, why does this person live? — The one says, he has a lung inside and air outside, hence, he lives; this is a scientific fact. You cannot argue anything against it. The other says, this is not the only reason. He fell into water fourteen days ago, and I have pulled him out — this is the reason why he lives.
Thus, spiritual science denies no observed scientific facts; it says nothing against the theories of heredity, as far as they do not disprove themselves. However, beside heredity the law of destiny exists.
Spiritual science completely acknowledges natural sciences. The misunderstanding consists only of the fact that natural sciences often cross their borders and want to establish a kind of spiritual science. Many people say, one has to comply with that which the eyes perceive; natural sciences can count only on it. Then one can ask whether Copernicus had new astronomical perception.
No, he rethought what one had thought earlier because of sense perception. Copernicus had the courage and the mental power to interpret the sense-perceptible anew. From it, there the new astronomy originated which did not come about by sense perception. Giordano Bruno broke through the sense perception, while he did not regard the sky as a border. As well as the blue vault of heaven originates from the limitations of the human intuitive faculty, the firmament of the soul life originates between birth and death. We stand spiritual-scientifically at the place of Giordano Bruno. Spiritual science breaks through the borders of birth and death. As Giordano Bruno broke through spaces, spiritual science breaks through times.
Galilei had a friend who was a follower of Aristotle and who had discerned something incorrectly from Aristotle that the nerves take the heart as starting point. He led him to a corpse and showed that the nerves take the brain as starting point. The friend said, yes, it seems so, but I read with Aristotle that it is different, and I believe him more. — Today people come and say, it sounds reasonable, but with Haeckel we read it different. Here Schopenhauer's sentence counts: truth always had to suffer from the fact that she appears paradoxical if she enters into existence, because she cannot sit down on the throne of the widespread error. Thus she looks up at her guardian angel, the time, whose wing beats are, however, so slow, that someone who has recognised the truth often dies in the meantime.
We have to understand that the objection is unjustified that only the spiritual researcher can know something about the spiritual world. To find the truth, one has to go through all that, but spiritual research relates to spiritual science like that which the painter has to learn to his picture. From the picture, we can recognise something. One can understand what the spiritual researcher has investigated if one only approaches what he has to say with common sense. Then these truths give us joy of life, they help us over helplessness and give us security.
One beholds into the spiritual worlds not because one has something of it, but because one has brought [the beheld] into ideas [and concepts] which every other human being can understand. The spiritual researcher does not have the results different from the reader or listener. Thus, we get answer not only to scientific questions but also to the riddles of life.
If we could develop the human education in such a way that from youth on the human beings grew up with these questions, in us something would develop like a predisposition, like a seed or core that offers the guarantee of future life. The vigour of life becomes stronger and stronger, and if the outer forces go to ruin, we feel the inner ones concentrating. The seed of the plant could not feel different compared with the wilted leaves as the spiritual that enters with its power through the gate of death. This and not only science gives answers to life. They console us in the heaviest situations. One has not to be a spiritual researcher for that. As one can taste food without being a chemist, not everybody has to be a spiritual researcher. There must be only some. This becomes a steady conviction in the soul so that one learns to treat the hostility against it as Goethe said to the deniers of movement in his Zahme Xenien III (collection of sayings). Goethe answered out of common sense. One cannot easily disprove this view philosophically.
Something hostile may happen;
Keep cool, remain silent;
And if they deny the movement,
Walk around them before their noses.
One can apply humour to opponents; however, one has not only to believe but also to know how it stands with truth. Thus, spiritual science will familiarise itself with life, thus, those who feel the inner strengthening of the soul and how it adapts itself in life feel something similar as Goethe felt towards the deniers of movement. Thus, we can summarise everything that has arisen from our today's consideration in a sensation towards the opponents of spiritual science:
Something hostile may happen;
Keep cool, remain serene;
And if they deny the spirit,
Do no longer ponder.
Yes, admit at last that they are right;
Since their mind is in poor condition.