The Bridge between Morality and Nature
This previously untranslated lecture is from the lecture series entitled, The Bridge between Cosmic Spirituality and the Physical Constitution of Humans, published in German as, Die Bruecke Zwischen der Weltgeistigkeit und dem Physichen des Menschen. Die Suche Nach der Neuen Isis, der Goettlichen Sophia. Der Mensch in seinem Zusammenhang mit dem Kosmos. Band II. It is lecture 7 of 16 lectures given by Rudolf Steiner at Dornach and Basel, Switzerland in the Fall of 1920. Translated by Hanna von Maltitz.
Dornach, 11th December, 1920
We would like to point out something concerning human morality in order to indicate tomorrow how this can be approached in the human soul-moral aspect flowing over to the macrocosm. In involves evaluating two human aspects in the right manner towards arriving at a profound assessment of the human being as a moral-soul being.
The human being is to some extent hemmed in between two extremes, two polar opposites. These opposites come to his awareness as the law of nature and the order of the moral world. We have pointed out how, during the last hundred years, every world view which has become increasingly popular has failed to build a bridge between nature's laws and the moral order in the universe. Two aspects in the human being need to be scrutinized when we want to approach life- and world riddles in connection with these polarized opposites in nature and, let's say, the spiritual or even the moral world laws. Nature is undeniably a part of the human being; he or she is to a certain extent dependent upon the laws of nature in relation to his or her soul, but also upon their moral being. When wanting to experience oneself as truly human, one has to rely on being extracted from purely nature's laws, to sense oneself as standing in the world order, not just rising out of nature. Actually one needs the spiritual scientific approach to reach a clear understanding of the actual basis of what we are talking about. Let's point consequently to a, I might say, far-reaching mistaken observation, which prevents people from discovering an answer to the corresponding riddle lying hidden here. Traditionally it is believed people could reach an understanding of their own human reality (Wesenheit) by searching, if I may say so, for a relationship between the soul-spiritual and the bodily-physical within the human being as if it is somehow present there. People imagine that somehow within this bodily physical human existence the spiritual-physical exists and then they search for how the two are connected.Much searching is done to find these connections, and a large part of philosophic endeavours regarding humanity is directed towards answering this question: which kind of connection exists between the soul-spiritual and the physical body?
You know of course, in spiritual science most questions arise in a totally different manner than questions tossed up in the popular fashion. In spiritual science the actual phrasing of a question has to be quite different to the often trivial manner in which they are composed today. It is extraordinary that in the 19th century, theoretically, quite strong points of view arose, and quite a firm idea was established that a soul-spiritual element was nowhere to be found in the physical bodily nature, and that the soul-spiritual could be regarded as a kind of consequence of the physical body. This point of view became something exceptionally fascinating for those individuals who were familiar with natural scientific research. We only need to be reminded of the utter dependency the human being actually has in his or her life between birth and death on physical origins, on the entire physical organisation. Materialistic science stresses repeatedly that the same measure is to be applied to the development of the outer body from the first days of childhood, as to the development of the soul-spiritual abilities; how the human being, when not cared for physically, will accordingly be retarded in his or her soul-spiritual nature. It is pointed out how with advanced age, with physical bodily degeneration, likewise the spirit-soul abilities will diminish. It is pointed out how the human being with some kind of underlying injury will show a soul-spiritual abnormality indicating that the human being is dependent on the shape and manner of his or her existence within the physical bodily nature. It is pointed out how the human being can imbibe certain poisons which to some extent have a chemical effect on him and despite this, can in specific cases have an effect on his spiritual normality, stimulated by the soul-spiritual paralysing conditions through physical substances administered to his body, and so on. It was also shown, that whatever is available as physical research, proves that in all acts of violence the soul-spiritual element is basically only a function of the physical bodily nature. Yes, those researchers who developed an inclination for such phenomena, I might say, also pointed to minute facts of this kind. One of these kinds of phenomena, the degeneration of the thyroid influencing soul-spiritual abilities, was an example of the researcher Gley who said that the highest talents in human beings, the soul-spiritual, are exclusively dependant on chemical processes which develop from the thyroid. All these things are somewhat captivating in the manner in which the scientific art of thought had developed in the recent times. Actually one can't say anything other than that the more people refer to this scientific manner of thinking, concepts of soul-spiritual nature are ever more pushed to the background; that the spiritual-soul element would be increasingly seen as something which has no substantial meaning. With intensity it creates so to speak an opposition under the populations of civilised regions: on the one side stand those who are more or less infected by the scientific thought pattern present in the more modern times, who consider it great progress for their spiritual development, if they speak about such a thing at all, declining reference to an individual spiritual soul. On the other side stand the portion of the population who want to continue living in the old religious wisdom, in old ideas of the soul-spiritual, from a moral divine world order, which actually under scrutiny has been handed down from ancient times and is only surviving through keeping it away from those mindsets which scientific thinking has brought about.
Thus we have on the one side numerous populations who are regarded by others as retarded, as people who know nothing of the laws of nature and therefore could remain with old religious ideas. Certainly something else has appeared more and more in the last while. This fascinating power of persuasion, I'd like to say, which for the greatest part of mankind had as the scientific ideas in the middle or beginning of the last third of the nineteenth century, this fascinating power of persuasion has gradually decreased. It has diminished with many scientific a mindset and people have become more tolerant towards that which had earlier been regarded as still contained by retarded, uninformed people, and that it must disappear. These latest phenomena are actually only referred back to because of the general sleepiness of the modern soul. Basically it is impossible to have on one side an almighty order of nature and on the other side some kind of real moral spiritual world order. Just as the order of nature was once regarded in recent times, it doesn't tolerate a moral world order and now only when mankind doesn't think efficiently, can one place today's natural observation below that which has come out of old traditional declarations. Consequently it is basically only those people who lived in the middle of the nineteenth century and the fifties and sixties who decidedly pointed out that the human being is a physical bodily being, and out of the physical body as precursor appeared the soul spiritual and that any opposition to this idea should gradually be eradicated. I have also remarked once in an open lecture in Basel and also other places, that there are people who with great intensity have repulsed the idea that one must be entitled to decline from a moral mindset and that basically a criminal has just as much right to run free as those who live according to a moral idea.
These were the consistent people on the one side. One can't remain stuck with courage to this consistency. One would become careless, sleepy and as a result give over that which I have just characterized. The others are certainly also consistent and act as if somewhat more Jesuit-minded in the catholic church, who say: Away with all science who want to enforce outer facts more than anything else — it dents people's belief in a spirit soul world order and through all possible outer force want to hang on to it. Both things cannot be maintained in relation to the further evolution of mankind.
Whatever comes from unclear, confused concepts of olden times cannot be maintained either. Above all it can't be maintained that human beings are to be imagined as bodily physical beings with a soul inside and that human beings can search for the spirit-soul in relation to the body by only looking at the present moment. Without expanding one's manner of observation, without calling on the past in order to understand the human being, will bring one no further. This scheme for humanity's being is quite impossible. Solely and only by following the next ideas could a clear conception be reached, which then, as we will see, will go further to build the bridge between the moral world view and the physical world view.
We know that the human being, before he or she enters their physical earthly existence, live in a spiritual world between death and a new birth. Taking this line as characteristic (arrow) depicting time, we get a spirit-soul life between death and a new birth which moves evenly in the stream of time.Now something develops in connection with these things, which I tried to explain yesterday, something within this soul spiritual being of mankind in the course of time, during which people developed without physical bodies through the previous events in the spiritual world, something within them which we can call a desire for physical birth. This self-development becomes gradually a desire for physical birth (red = rot). Upon really understanding these ideas of metamorphosed thought, one arrives at this: the desire actually flows over into the physical bodily (blue = blau) in order to, when one meets a child, we must say: what appears to us in the child is the fulfilment of a desire for physical incarnation, which the spirit soul had before it entered the physical existence. — We should not as it were see a duality between the physical body and the soul spirit. We should not merely see in the physical bodily so to speak the spirit soul dragged in, but we should see something in the physical body which is actually being transformed by the soul spiritual.
This of course gives problems for scientifically orientated thought. The modern scientific way of thinking clings most closely to how the point of germination develops in the mother's body, in the belief that the human being simply grows out of the mother's body after fertilisation because the mother's body has the inherent forces to make the embryo grow. But actually it is not like this. Such a solution only considers the shortest route. The human is a being who stands in the world in relation to the entire cosmos and who is in a continuous interaction with the totality of the cosmos. How would you respond if someone were to say: A particular quota of air which is within you at a particular time, has grown out of your body. It hasn't grown out of your body, you have breathed it in, and as a result have it in you to create a whole out of the entire environment. Only because one doesn't look externally at the cooperation of the entire macrocosm, only because the human embryo develops in the mother's body, only because one sees that there is also an influence happening from outside which surely connects a person to the entire cosmos, does one believe that the embryo simply comes out of the mother's body by itself. This human germ actually clearly comes out of the spiritual world. It uses that place in which it can gradually find a door to enter into the physical world. It is within that which spreads itself out in space, where there is no door for the human being who has lived between death and a new birth, to enter into the physical world. It is only within the human body itself where there is such a door. The forces working there are not the forces of the father and mother, but are cosmic forces which through the motherly body search after the conception for entry into the physical world, after it had developed a desire as a soul spiritual being.
So a person develops into a physical being; but this physical being is only the outer form of the spiritual. Observe how the child has, I would like to call it undifferentiated traits which develop more and more into the human form. We do the right thing when we look back from the child to what happened prenatally, what was happening for its arrival, and what still works and now expresses itself. That in which we observe in the child from day to day, from week to week, year to year, we see as an influence of the past, in the experiences of the soul spiritual being before his birth or before his conception. We only do the right thing when we observe the child to say: Here is the childlike organisation. We observe how the child develops certain qualities. These we don't search for in his inner being as it rays out to a certain extent, but to an earlier time when he or she was allowing the rays to work inwardly. Our reluctance to do this is the biggest disaster of our modern mindset. To take time in search of that which has gone before and how it works in our present thoughts, that is what it all comes down to. As we develop or lives further into time (blue, right) we are moving backwards again; what is physicality, which we gradually enter, turns around again from the physical-bodily into the soul spiritual (red, right).In the act of becoming physical individuals, our soul-spiritual side has been transformed in the physical body and we transform the physical body again back into the soul spiritual. You may object by saying here we encounter a difficulty. One will soon understand how the physical bodily nature can again be transformed back into the soul spiritual, if it so gradually happened when one could take the example of how a person, reaching the age of thirty five, has become quite physical, but from then onwards he or she gradually again becomes spiritual, so much so that by the end of their life he or she has become so spiritual that death is a gradual transition into the soul spiritual. Inwardly this is the case, although outwardly not — appearances are deceptive. It is namely so, that during the descending half or our life — the somewhat older people who sit here, may not give me credit for this awful truth — by becoming older, our bodies seem like something to drag along and doesn't feel as if it really belongs to us anymore. We slowly become a body, and death is actually the reason due to this body becoming heavy, its weight overpowering when we wake in the morning and return to it with our soul. By focussing on outer appearance the actual changes can't be observed as to how the second half of one's life is actually a slow dying.
It is not about considering the soul-spiritual on the one side and the physical body on the other, but that we learn to understand how, when we employ the concept of time in which the soul-spiritual is transformed in the physical bodily nature, that the physical bodily nature again is transformed back into the soul-spiritual. Despite its apparent only exterior expression in human development, this is connected with two important human qualities. Through what can we develop ourselves out of a spiritual-soul element gradually metamorphosing into a physical-bodily form, into uniting with the physical body? This one can grasp through learning to understand the moral quality of love. A principal, important truth is this: the human being goes into the world through love, by pouring itself into the physical bodily nature. How does a person exit? He or she takes their physical bodily nature and metamorphoses back again, change backwards and no other power gives them a greater possibility than freedom. That we can say we develop further and go through death is possible due to freedom. We are born through cosmic love, we go through death's door into the soul-spiritual world through the power of freedom which we have within us. If we develop love in the world then this love is basically a resounding, an echo of our soul spiritual being as we experienced it before our birth, or we can say before our reception. By developing freedom in our existence between birth and death, we develop the soul-spiritual within us as that which prophetically appeared as a power, our most important power, when we would leave the body through death.
What do we mean by a free being, understood in a cosmic sense? A free being is one who is able to revert out of its physical bodily nature into the soul-spiritual, it means basically, to be able to die; while love means to be able to develop out of the soul-spiritual into the physical. To love could mean to be able to live, understood cosmically.
Here we see how foregoing events without doubt may be grasped quite naturally: to be born and be incorporated as a human being, birth and death, can be understood by outer natural science merely as acceptable precursors, manifestations, revelations of love and freedom. By developing soul-spiritual love out of our will forces, what are we actually accomplishing? We are creating a soul-spiritual after-image in us, within our skin, from which our entire being originates before we are conceived. Before our conception we live in the cosmos through the power of love. Gradually, in a kind of feeling-will memory of this cosmic life, comes the unfolding of love as a moral virtue during our life between birth and death. Like a refinement in the microcosm appears the virtue of love, which extends macrocosmically before our birth, and the awareness of our freedom appears through this which we carry in us as soul-spiritual during our lives between birth and death, which will work like natural forces throughout the cosmos, when we have gone through death's door. They are nothing other than the human echoes of cosmic forces, because every birth is connected with cosmic love, and all dying connected to cosmic freedom. We talk about all kinds of natural forces like light, warmth, electricity and so on, since natural science has celebrated her triumph; we however don't talk about those forces of nature or more adequately expressed, cosmic forces, which we as people in a physical existence control and drive out in the physical sensory existence again. The thing is, you can take physics, chemistry, the biological sciences and take that which are depicted as forces which constitutes the world. Out of these forces which constitute the world, you will understand everything which is not human, but people don't. For human beings to exist there must be freedom and love, despite what exists in the world like electricity, light, heat and so on. You come, when you enter into such an examination to really understand the human being, to concepts of nature beings, which are simultaneously moral concepts and principles of nature, and it doesn't go undecidedly to the one side without a relationship to the nature of moral world order or to the other side without a relationship with the morality of the order of nature.
During the world's development something happened to humanity, which certainly had a deep inner lawfulness, which however in a particular way still had to be conquered by humanity in the course of their future earthly development, if humanity didn't want to fall into decline. Humanity's development on earth originated from the kind of spiritual development originated in the East, having blossomed in the East, as we know in ancient times, during the post Atlantean time, which was higher still than the appearance of the later poems of the Vedas or the philosophy of the Vedas. However this was an opinion which was actually only targeted as moral-spiritual world order. This moral-spiritual world order was great and brilliant in a particular past age of evolution, but slowly it has fallen into decadence in the East. It couldn't bring about an order of nature.
In recent times a new way of thinking has started regarding the world's natural order. Originating from the West it is regarded as emerging out of forces of external nature which can only be perceived by our senses. There is — we have already examined this from various points of view — the enormous contrast of the East with the West. In the East mankind is inclined towards a one-sided view of the soul-spiritual, in the West mankind turns to the only concept of the physical bodily element. That is applied to all human observation. Normally no one considers how radically different concepts about mankind are all over the world. The considerations real westerners enter into when considering mankind, is something quite foreign to easterners. When an easterner talks about mankind then the argument implies something non-existent on earth. The easterner directs his gaze, actually his soul glance on to that which basically is untouched by the earth. If one has the prehistoric oriental world view then no consideration would be given to anyone who is born and anything which is regulated by evolution of mankind or anything which has a physical sensory existence. A person is entirely a spiritual soul being and doesn't develop any right sense for a physical sensory existence. This has an important influence on everything the oriental thinks about. Today this has fallen into decadence but in olden times it was openly expressed regarding the way oriental thought related to human beings as social beings.
How do westerners think? Let's take an outstanding, honest social thinker of the West, for example Adam Smith. Just as natural science of the West does not include people — they include anything but humanity — so also social science doesn't consider people. Just study Adam Smith: he doesn't speak about people at all in his national economics but refers to a particular piece of earth, what grows and what stands on it, and then he talks about a machine which sows the seed, allows germination and so on. So you have a piece of earth, and you have a machine (a drawing is made) which only through its automation must freely be able to alter this piece of earth. Thus everything happening on this piece of earth must be properly directed by this machine. Adam Smith mainly spoke about these two elements and stressed that the principal qualities of the machine would be called economic freedom, and the piece of earth he called private property. Here we have the actual original cell of the social being: a piece of private property with an economic machine, which is independent from other machines and other private properties. The concepts of Adam Smith only dealt with cultivated land, with private property and with such economic machines with economic freedom. These are his actual concepts. If he comes across a person, he sees him not as a human being but says: this represents a piece of private property and an economic machine, and it is only formed by having a head, a trunk in the middle and some limbs, to which is added on top, a phantom. — However, one doesn't think like this, no one understands it. This only appears on the private property. By activating the economic machine it externally takes on the form of the phantom's endowments of head, trunk and limbs. Nowhere will you discover any kind of understanding for the human being amongst Adam Smith's ideas. Just try it out for once! You will find combinations of private property with an economic machine, but you will never find a concept of the human being. Gradually you will discover things around the human being, but never the human being itself. What is characterised regarding freedom is but a last shadow which is transferred on to the machine. Human freedom is not spoken about, what rises with spiritual content out of moral fantasy to make people fully human is not mentioned — because one must think like in my Philosophy of Freedom>” (Philosophy of Spiritual Activity) — but instead the subject is the relationship between private property and economic machines. We have on the one side the wisdom which has remained behind from the East, the inability of the human soul-spiritual to come out of the physical world. We have from the lands of the West the ability to say: Yes, here is something real in the world because something is on earth and can be automated; his lordship has great bounty, his Lordship has outer power through the management and hunt of goods. Through this one sees the Lordship has something. Yet, what rises from this is actually only a human phantom.
You see what has to be looked for: the human being as such. One must enter into a soul frame of mind with lively observation to regard the human being as such. We are in a western science with its chart of animals. First we have simple animals then ever more complicated animals up to the last most complicated ones on four legs, then they stand up, become upright instead of horizontal, and now we have the highest animal, the human being. One only has a row of animals and the human being is the highest member in this row. The human being is seldom considered in natural science and also seldom from social sciences, because here he or she is part of private property, namely the economic machine. The human being falls out of the social examination, out of the social examination of nature. The extraordinary thing about modern people is that they don't notice that there is nothing human here. There is absolutely nothing human here. Out of this a specific need arises. Just consider how people live in their outer social life. Let's accept that they live in the way Adam Smith sees them, because he has uttered the observation coming from that which he said, originating from the thought tendencies of numerous people. Just think of a person's outer social life. Let's accept they exist as Adam Smith suggests, because his expression of this observation does not come from there; he even expressed the thought tendencies of numerous people. Think to yourself, people see themselves as “Westerners” in their social existence: they are actually not! Private property and the economic unit exist; people do not exist here! How can one find in this concept of mankind what lies on the other side of birth and death? This must be handed over to what authorities are allowed to say. As a result of such concepts receding further and further from their flowering it has come about that with reference to the spiritual everything gradually is placed under an authority, instigating a certain aversion to even think about spirituality. In the modern proletarian science this has been taken up further. Only then seriousness took it up and said: Yes, the middle class has thought about it but actually it doesn't involve people; we have private property and the economic machine. Therefore we will not consider this trinket of special people, we are talking about pure scientific forces; this produces everything. Let's be serious about this point of view! The others are not serious; the entire week they talk about private property and economic freedom which the machine gives, and on Sunday they allow themselves to be also preached at about an immortal soul.
This is something which must be grasped in total awareness. If one doesn't have the courage to see things in complete alertness then there can be no progress. It is understandable that many powers exist at present which not everyone wants thoroughly illuminated. It is unpleasant when it is pointed out how social science should be understood in harmony with people, but how it actually knows nothing about people, merely about private property and about economic freedom through economic machines.
I have tried to show you a method of observation which is really built on lively observation which goes through metamorphosis, and how a method of observation can develop which does not want to know about such a metamorphic observation. Tomorrow we will consider deeper reasons which lead to something which people hardly allow to approach them, the macrocosmic results arising out of necessity. Tomorrow we will develop, I'd like to say, the macrocosmic echo of today's presented facts and we will go over to the human results of one and other world views.