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Community Life, Inner Development, Sexuality and the Spiritual Teacher
GA 253

VII. The Philosophy of Psychoanalysis as Illuminated by an Anthroposophical Understanding of the Human Being

16 September 1915, Dornach

TODAY I am simply going to add to what we talked about yesterday, and if possible, I would like to take up a new topic tomorrow.

In the fourth lecture in this series, I stressed that finding the right perspective is essential to understanding any subject, whether it is the world in general, an individual human being, social interactions, or any series of interrelated facts. The belief that the truth can be arrived at by proceeding to draw logical conclusions from some arbitrary point of departure is the source of a great many errors. If we really want to understand something, the first thing we have to do is to work out the right point of view from which to approach it. We must realize that finding the right perspective is essential to any studying we do; attempting to understand a subject by approaching it from an arbitrary starting point actually causes a lot of mistakes.

However, if people who are aware of the principle of first discovering the right perspective became acquainted with the psychoanalytic theory's point of departure and proceeded from there, the results would be quite different. They might incorporate certain materialistic affectations into psychoanalytic theory to begin with, but they would soon be forced to adopt purer and nobler means of understanding simply through having made the distinction between the conscious and the unconscious mind. They would realize that dragging in points of view of the sort we mentioned before is not objective but a sign of arbitrary emotions belonging to subjective human nature.

The most significant aspect of any true study is that it tends to lead us far beyond our original point of departure. Rather than incorporating our own subjective impulses into the subject, we are guided and spurred on by the subject itself. Eventually, every true student becomes aware of how truly necessary this principle is. It is indispensable in making any spiritual scientific world view into a reality and equally indispensable to the structure of a society in which such a world view is to be fostered. We must finally realize that we have to take anthroposophy seriously and give it the respect it deserves. That is, we must not incorporate previous subjective habits into things belonging to our spiritual scientific philosophy, but must rather let ourselves be guided by what that philosophy requires. For example, in everyday life someone may be in the habit of always arriving late instead of at the specified time. In ordinary bourgeois life, that habit may be merely unpleasant or less than advantageous for that person's advancement, but in our anthroposophical movement, the whole way we deal with spiritual scientific truths ought to make that kind of behavior an inner impossibility except in cases of dire necessity.

In the past few days, we have talked a lot about dignity — not only the essential dignity of spiritual science itself, but also the dignity of our own interactions within the Society. We saw how important it is for us to spend time together as members among ourselves, with no one else present. Of course, making sure we arrive on time is a superficial thing, but in the past few days people have still been coming late, even though the lectures started at twenty past six. If we carry on like that, my friends, we will never even be able to begin to realize the ideal of our Society. In the somewhat attenuated circumstances that come about when we cannot be sure that members will not continue to arrive once we have begun, we will never be able to rule out the possibility of having uninvited guests in our midst. It is simply inconsiderate to come late to a Society function when the Society needs to make sure that everyone present is actually a member; that is, when some of us have to go to the extra effort of keeping an eye on the people entering until all members are present. When the people standing at the door have come in, we need to be able to shut the doors and know that everyone is here.

It should certainly not be necessary to make a special point of talking about things like this, but in spiritual science we have to be guided by the concept of symptomatology, which simply means that any being tends to act the same way in important instances as it does in less significant ones. People who don't even manage to arrive on time for meetings will also not be able to act out of the requisite sense of responsibility when it comes to something important. A great deal of the damage that has become so blatantly evident lately has come about because people were not particular enough about certain things. It is really important for us to conduct the practical affairs of anthroposophy with the conscientious exactitude I just mentioned. We have seen an example of how we as members of a spiritual scientific society interact on an ordinary everyday basis; this example, although very mundane, is nonetheless indicative of what spiritual science requires of us.

In our efforts to find the right perspective on what we have spoken about aphoristically so many times in the past few days, the main thing we have to keep in mind is that the structure and organization of the world as a whole consists of expressions and revelations of real spiritual entities. They are present behind the revealed world, which conceals them from our perception. As you know from many previous lectures, these beings are constantly in movement, constantly inwardly active. At the moment, I am not talking about any particular movement, but about their inner activity as a whole. We have to imagine a certain degree of complexity in this movement if we want to understand how the beings that stand behind certain phenomena relate to the phenomena themselves. The following example will be familiar to you from previous anthroposophical lectures.

We know that our physical evolution began during the ancient Saturn period and that it continued during the Sun period, when etheric development set in, and so on. But what does our physical development on ancient Saturn mean in relation to the structure of the cosmos as a whole? It would be totally inaccurate to take our physical nature as it is now and assume that if we imagine it in a much more primitive and simplified form, that's what the physical human being would have looked like during the Saturn stage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps it will help you understand this if I tell you that there is absolutely nothing in the present-day physical world, nothing on the physical plane as it exists now, that bears the slightest resemblance to human physical existence during the Saturn stage of evolution. In none of the forms and facts of the physical world as we know it now is there any trace of what human physical development was like during that evolutionary period. So if we want to understand this ancient form of our physical existence, we must make the effort to do so with a soul and spirit freed from the physical and etheric bodies.

I will call the world in which we understand the makeup of our earliest potential for physical existence during the Saturn stage [writes on the chalkboard] the world of the perception of physical human nature on Saturn. For the time being, let me just say that we must leave the physical body and undergo a higher form of development in order to achieve an understanding of structures corresponding to physical human nature during the Saturn stage.

Next, let us consider human physical existence during the Sun period, which represents a progression of physical evolution from the Saturn stage. It is impossible to understand our physical Sun nature with our present-day physical organs of perception. Once again, we must ascend into the spiritual world, but not as high as the level required for comprehending human physical nature during the Saturn period. In other words, we are able to investigate our physical Sun nature at a somewhat lower level. We can call this [writes on the board] the world of the perception of physical human nature on the Sun.

For investigating physical human nature as it evolved during the Moon period, a still less elevated level of perception is required. As soon as we become capable of body-free perception, we are able to comprehend everything that corresponds to our physical Moon nature. Let us call this third stage in the relationship of the human being to objective fact [writes on the board] the world of the perception of physical human nature on the Moon.

Continuing in the same vein, we come to our physical nature during the Earth stage of evolution. In order to understand this, we do not even need to leave the physical body; we can grasp it with our physical organs of perception. This level of cognition is the natural one for human beings during life on Earth, and we can call it [writes on the board] the world of the perception of physical human nature on Earth.

So, my friends, we have looked at four different levels of the worlds of perception, levels that can also be called [writes on the board] physical plane, soul world or astral plane, spirit world or Devachan plane, and higher spirit world or higher Devachan plane.

If you follow what I have been describing, you will know that we have to place the physical human being of the Saturn stage here, the physical Sun-human here, the Moon-human here, and the earthly physical human being here [small circles]. This in no way contradicts our usual concepts, but is indicated quite clearly in my book An Outline Of Occult Science, where I described at length how what we recognize as human physical nature at the Moon stage is not to be observed on the physical plane, but at a higher level, and so forth. [ Note 1 ] It's all explained there very clearly.

Today we know that human beings have descended during the course of their physical evolution [line connecting the small circles]. The human being, to the extent that we are speaking of our present-day physical nature, is a descending spiritual being. This is one of the basic ancient principles of any spiritual science. Thus, when considering our physical body, we must realize that everything we can see of it at this Earth stage in evolution is that aspect of ourselves that has descended the furthest.

However, there is also something concealed in the physical body. It conceals something that is actually Moon-like in nature, something more hidden that is Sun-like in nature, and something still more deeply hidden that is Saturn-like in nature. Thus, within the revealed physical body, inner character and inner essentiality are concealed. In a sense, we can actually perceive only a quarter of our physical body. The other three quarters are concealed behind the perceptible body and are nobler and more spiritual in nature than the aspect visible on the physical plane.

Looking at any part of our physical body as it exists now on the physical plane, we have to realize that all our physical organs are in constant inner movement; they are constantly descending and evolving from the spiritual toward the physical. We must understand that as they are growing and developing into their proper form on the physical plane, all our organs are involved in a descending course of evolution. They are in the process of evolving downward from a more spiritual form of existence to a more material one.

In assessing the nature and character of anything belonging to a human being, we must be guided by the rule of always finding the right point of view. We are led to the right perspective when we realize that from a certain point of view — the one I have been discussing today — physical human nature is in a process of descent. Therefore, when we look at human development from childhood to maturity, the childhood stage of evolution must be regarded as more spiritual and the mature stage as more material, since a descent from the spiritual to the material has taken place in between. We will not understand human physical development if we look at it from any other point of view. It is only possible to understand it if we are aware that a descent of the physical human being takes place during growth and development, that a growing human being allows something spiritual to descend deeper into matter.

The same principle applies to the world as a whole. Thus, we also speak of cultural evolution. For instance, once upon a time there was an ancient Indian cultural epoch that evolved into the ancient Persian epoch, then into the Egypto-Chaldean-Babylonian epoch, then into the Greco-Latin epoch, and finally into our own cultural epoch. However, we also know that former cultural epochs continue to exist alongside more recent ones. I have showed you how this manifests in language.

Applied to the human being, this can show us how physical organs that have proceeded further along the course of descent can exist side-by-side with others that are still at earlier stages. We will gradually come to see that according to this principle, we can distinguish two systems of organs within the human being, although for today, I will only point this out aphoristically.

Let us first consider our senses and all the organs that allow us to have sensory perceptions. In terms of their physical structure, these sense organs are all at a certain level; the spiritual has streamed downward to a certain level in these organs. I'll make you a diagram of that [sketches on the board]. Now, we said that human nature in its entirety consists of a downward flow; it is moving in this direction [arrow]. The upper horizontal mark indicates the position of the senses within this downward flow, so we must think of all the organs of sensory perception as being at level A.

Next, let's look at a different system of organs, for instance the respiratory system. In order to consider this, too, from the right point of view, we must find the level to which it has descended. Eventually, we will find that the respiratory system stopped at level B. While our sensory system descended to level A, our respiratory system continued to descend until it reached level B.

As you might imagine, this process of descent can go on still further, so there could even be a system of organs that has descended still further, to level C. And in fact, our sexual organs have done just that.

Eventually, our physical evolution reached its lowest point and a gradual re-ascent began. However, we will not be able to talk about that today. I will indicate the lowest point of descent with this curved shape at the bottom of the diagram. This is where the earthly process of descent stopped. You can tell from all this that our sensory organs are much more spiritualized than our respiratory organs and everything else. And, as we will come to understand ever more clearly, our sexual organs represent the lowest level of descent. Therefore, all other components of our physical human nature are more spiritual than that particular system of organs.

That was easy enough to understand, wasn't it? However, the point I want to make is that psychoanalytic theory, that disgusting philosophy, has been incapable of becoming aware of this simple fact. Psychoanalysts claim that all of people's actions, including mystical experiences, are nothing more than transformed sexual energies. Psychoanalysts, or we might even say materialists in general, take sexuality as their starting point and explain all other human phenomena as metamorphoses of sexuality. I have already pointed out how in Freud's theory everything that happens in a person's life is explained in terms of transformed sexuality. For example, that babies suck on pacifiers is explained as an expression of infantile sexuality, and so forth.

But what is the truth of the matter? In reality, my friends, any other human daily activity is more spiritual than sexual activity, and to arrive at the right perspective on this subject, we have to look at things the other way around. Any attempt to explain what people do by dragging in sexuality and eroticism is completely wrong. The right way of looking at things is to explain sexuality as the transformation of higher human activities into their lowest earthly form.

Since I have been forced to mention the ghastly claims of the psychoanalysts because they are an unavoidable phenomenon of our times, let us take a look at one of the worst of them, namely their contention that the loving childhood relationship of a boy to his mother or a girl to her father is actually a sexual relationship. Psychoanalysts claim that a girl's feelings for her father and a boy's for his mother are sexual feelings, and that boys always view their father as a rival and are unconsciously jealous of him; girls, so they say, are similarly jealous of their mother. This is one of the most terrible of the distortions psychoanalysts have perpetrated. In their writings, as you know, they have even used this assumption as the basis for explaining certain literary works such as the story of Oedipus. [ Note 2 ]

In looking for the right perspective on this subject, we need to ask how adult sexuality develops. As we have seen, it comes about through something spiritual sinking down into matter. Our adult sexuality comes about through the descent of something that was spiritual when we were children. The correct approach is to avoid getting anything not specifically sexual mixed up with sexuality, either consciously or unconsciously, and to realize that sexuality is not yet present in children. Only when we are fully aware of all the ramifications of this can we find the right perspective on the matter. This is an extremely important point with regard to the education of children, because all kinds of things can go wrong if childish mischief is automatically interpreted as premature sexuality. All kinds of things other than sexuality can be the reason for children misbehaving. Claiming that there is already a sexual side to a child's character is just about the same as insisting that tomorrow's rainy weather is already inherent in today.

By now you will have realized what we are dealing with here — the perspective that has been applied is totally upside down and backward. Coming to such a distorted perspective does not happen naturally, but only by forcing the issue and arbitrarily dragging in our instincts. The whole psychoanalytic approach is tinged with the lowest human instincts; it turns the world upside down. Such an interpretation of the mother-daughter or father-son relationship can only come about if the researcher's subjective instincts get mixed up with the objective course of the investigation. Consequently, in this instance (providing we go about it with all due exactitude), it is perfectly all right to apply expressions usually reserved for subjective human actions. While it would be foolish to apply subjective expressions to a legitimate and objective science, it is possible to do so in this case without relinquishing the objectivity of our point of view.

Just imagine someone believes that the hands of a clock are turned by little demons sitting inside — we would call that foolish, of course. Clocks are mechanical devices; there are no little devils inside. Reacting to it objectively, however, we would never say that the person who attributes the clock's functioning to demons is insulting the clock. But when psychoanalysts attribute this sort of sexuality to children, instinctual subjectivity invades their theory. Then it is justified to use subjective expressions and say that the psychoanalytic theory insults human nature. We must make an effort to be truthful and call a spade a spade. In our materialistic world, a number of people have made it their task to cultivate a theory that demeans not only individuals, but human nature in general, to the extent that their whole scientific theory is nothing more than a compilation of insults. When a sufficient number of people realize that this is happening, we will start to see psychoanalytic theory for exactly what it's worth. Then we won't be merely peddling with words any more, but will be able to see things as they are. That's how we can come to clarity on this issue.

Only after we have completely understood everything we have discussed today can our understanding be allowed to lead to name-calling. When we call psychoanalysis a smutty theory, that obviously really is name-calling; however, our insight into the objective fact of the matter is what compels us to call it by this name. After all, it would not be right for the criticism to come from the same kind of subjective instincts as the theory itself.

The unique thing about spiritual science, however, is that an apparently abstract theory is transformed into justified feelings and reactions. Those who have gone through a real struggle to understand what psychoanalysis actually is can freely call it a smutty theory without losing their objectivity. It is as objective to call psychoanalysis a smutty theory as it is to say that canvas is white and charcoal black. It is objective terminology derived from true insight into human nature in its totality.

The purpose of our spiritual scientific philosophy is to deepen our concepts, and not only our concepts but our whole character, my friends. If we say that a Society intended as the vehicle for this philosophy must be a living organism, then we must also be able to see how the emotions expressed within the context of the Society also develop out of this spiritual scientific philosophy, so that even a radical expression such as “smutty theory” can only be applied when it is firmly rooted in spiritual science and when no personal instincts play a part in its use.

I am sure we will soon find an opportunity for further discussion of related matters.