From Mammoths to Mediums
VIII. Developing independent thinking and the ability to think backwards
28 June 1923, Dornach
We still have some questions that were asked the last time. I'm going to answer them in a slightly different order than the one in which they were put. The questions are the following.
How can one gain insight into the secrets of the world for one's view of the world and of life?
How far does a person have to go in modern science to find higher worlds?
Do the forces active in the universe have an effect on the whole of humanity?
How do plants relate to the human being, to the human body? Now what I want to do — these are, of course, very complex questions — is to proceed in a way where the answer emerges gradually. One can't really do it any other way with such complex issues. For the question 'How does one gain insight into the secrets of the world?', for instance, really means: 'How does one get to the real science of the spirit?' This is something you certainly should not imagine is an easy thing to do today. For the truth is that when they hear that there is such a thing as anthroposophy or a science of the spirit, most people will think: 'I'll now also gain the ability to see things of the spirit. I reckon that'll take a week, and then I'll no doubt be able to know everything for myself.'
Well, the matter is not that easy, of course. We have to be quite clear in our minds that even ordinary science calls for quite a lot. To make even the simplest scientific observations one has to learn to use the necessary instruments. It is of course relatively easy to use a microscope, but to do proper scientific work with a microscope you can't just say: 'I'll now put a piece of muscle or something like that under the microscope and then I'll look down the microscope and know what is going on in there.' If you were to do that, you'd see nothing, of course. To see things under a microscope you must first of all make very thin sections. A piece of muscle will not do, therefore, but you have to cut thin sections with a fine razor, take off what may sometimes be a very small amount, make another thin section, and so produce a very thin layer. And in most cases even this will not get you anywhere. For if you put such a very thin layer of muscle or cells under the microscope and look at it, you'll see nothing at all as a rule. What you have to do is ask yourself: How can I make the material I am unable to see under the microscope visible? And one often has to impregnate the material with special stains, making it visible by staining. And one must then know that one has changed the material a little bit by doing so. One also needs to know what the material is like when one does not change it. All these are still quite simple things, however. If you want to study the stars using a telescope, you firs have to learn how to use the telescope. Mind you, that's still quite simple. You know there are itinerants who set up telescopes in the street for people to look through. But this, too, won't get you far. It will only get you somewhere if you know that you also have to have a small scope to go with it and a timepiece which you need to set, and so on. These are just examples to show you how complicated it is to investigate even the simplest things in the physical world we perceive through the senses.
When it comes to investigations made in the world of the spirit, things are truly very much more difficult. This calls for a great deal more preparation. People imagine you can learn it in a week. But that is definitely not the case. Above all you have to consider that we must first of all activate something that already exists within us. Something which really is not active in us all the time has to be made active.
To show you how things really are, let me first of all tell you this. You know that for investigations that penetrate into the world of the spirit, and also in ordinary science, one often has to start by gaining insight into something that is not normal. You only gain real knowledge of things if you have first considered something that is not normal. I have given you particular examples of this before. We have to consider this because people in the world outside often call someone who makes spiritual investigations mad, however normal he may in fact be. So we do indeed have to investigate things a little bit in such a way that we finally arrive at the truth. You should not think, of course, that your goal can be fully achieved by considering something that is not normal but pathological, but you will learn a lot from it.
There are people, for example, who are not normal because they have a mental disorder, as it is put. What does it really mean to say someone has a mental disorder? There an be no worse term in the world than this 'mental disorder'. For the mind can never be out of order. The mind simply cannot be in disorder. Take the following, for instance. If someone has a 'mental disorder' for 20 years — such things do happen — and then is normal again, what is really going on there? Now, of course, it can happen that for 20 years this person insists he is being persecuted by others; he is suffering from persecution mania, as it is called. Or the situation may be that he sees all kinds of spectres that do not exist, and so on. This may continue for 20 years. Now, gentlemen, someone who has such a 'mental disorder' for 20 years may certainly recover. But you'll always find one thing. If someone has been 'mentally deranged' for 3,5 or 20 years and then recovers, he'll not be quite the same as he was before. You'll above all note the following. He'll tell you, once he has recovered: 'Yes, during my illness I was able to see into the world of the spirit all the time.' He'll tell you all kinds of things he perceived relating to the world of the spirit. And if you then check his story, having gained knowledge of the higher worlds whilst in sound mind, it will be true that he'll say much that is rubbish but on the other hand also much that is correct. So that is the strange thing. Someone may suffer from a 'mental disorder' for years, recover, and then tell you he was in the world of the spirit, where he experienced this and this and this. And if you know about this yourself, having been in sound mind, you have to agree that much of it is correct.
If you talk to someone during the time when his mind is deranged, he'll never be able to tell you anything that makes sense. He'll tell you the rubbish he experiences. For the truth is that people who have had a mental disorder for years did not in fact experience these things whilst they had their 'mental disorder', as it is called. They did not experience anything of the world of the spirit. But afterwards, when they have recovered and are, in a way, able to look back on the time when they were not of sound mind, things they did not in fact experience during their illness will seem to them to have been glimpses of the spiritual world. This awareness of having seen much of the world of the spirit thus really only comes at the moment when these people recover.
You see, we can learn a very great deal from this. We can learn that there is something in the human being that is not used at all when he is mentally ill. But it was there, it was alive in him. And where was it? He did not see anything of the outside world, for he'd tell you that the sky was red and the clouds were green — all kinds of things. He did not properly see anything that existed in the outside world. But this deeper human being who is inside him, whom he cannot use at all during his illness — that human being is then in the world of the spirit. And when he's able to use his brain again and to look back on the experiences this spiritual human being has had, the experiences gained in mind and spirit will come to him.
We see from this that when someone is in the condition we call 'mental illness' he is actually living in the world of the spirit with the part of him that is of the spirit. This part is in very good health. What is it, therefore, that is sick when someone is mentally ill? You see, it is the body which is sick when someone is mentally ill, and the body is then unable to use the soul and the mind and spirit. When someone is said to be mentally ill, it is always something in the body that is sick, and if the brain is sick you cannot think properly, of course. Nor can you feel things properly if your liver is sick.
Because of this, 'mentally ill' is really the worst term you can choose, for 'mentally ill' means that the body is so sick that it cannot use the mind and spirit, which in itself is always healthy. Above all else you need to understand that the mind and spirit is always sound. Only the body can get sick, and is then unable to use the mind properly. If someone's brain is sick, it is just the way it is when someone has a hammer that breaks every time it is used. If I say to someone who does not have a hammer, 'You are simply lazy, you can't use your hammer at all,' that's nonsense, of course. He can hammer perfectly well, but he does not have a hammer with which to do it. And so it is nonsense to say someone is 'mentally ill'. The mind is perfectly sound, but it does not have the body it needs to be effective.
We can get a particularly good idea of what can be learned from this if we consider the true nature of our thinking. You will have seen from what I have been saying that people have a mind but need a tool, the brain, to be able to think. It is not the least bit clever for a materialist to say that we need a brain. Of course we do. But saying this does not tell us anything about the mind. You also see from this that the mind itself may withdraw completely in the human being. And it is important to know this, for only then will one realize that at the present time — I am now going to say something that'll really surprise you — people cannot think at all. They think they can, but actually they cannot think at all. Let me show you why people are unable to think.
You'll say: 'But people go to school, and today you learn to think marvellously well even at primary school!' Well, that's certainly the way it seems. But the truth is that people are quite unable to think. It only seems that they are able to think. Now you know, at a primary school we have primary school teachers. They have also learned things, and it is said they have also learned to think. The people who taught them are 'brainy', as we say, meaning that from the modern point of view they are thought to be people of great wisdom. They have been to university. Before they went to university they went to grammar school or the like, and there they learned Latin. Now if you consider the matter a bit you'll of course be able to say: 'My teacher certainly did not know Latin!' But he studied under someone who did know Latin. And because of this the things you learned at school also depended on the Latin language, and everything people learn today is dependent on the Latin language. You can see this from the mere fact that when someone writes a prescription, he'll do so in Latin. This goes back to the times when everything was still written in Latin. It is not that long ago — 30 or 40 years — that people were required to write their exam papers in Latin at the universities.
Everything we learn today therefore depends on the Latin language. And this has happened because in the Middle Ages — going back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, which really is not that long ago — everything was taught in Latin. The first person to lecture in German in Leipzig, for example, was a man called Thomasius. 32Christian Thomasius (1655-1728), philosopher and lawyer, the first university teacher to give lectures in German at Leipzig University in 1687. That was not long ago, in the seventeenth century. People would always lecture in Latin. People who had some learning would also have Latin, and in the Middle Ages absolutely everything people were able to learn was in Latin. So if you wanted to learn anything else, you first had to do Latin. You'll say: 'But not at primary school.' But primary schools have only existed from the sixteenth century onwards. They only came into existence gradually, when people's everyday language also began to include terms for learned ideas. All our thinking is therefore influenced by the Latin language. All of you, gentlemen, think the way people have learned to think through the Latin language. And if you were to say, for instance, that the Americans, say, did not learn Latin so early, you have to remember that today's Americans are immigrants from Europe! Everything comes from the Latin language.
The Latin language has a particular characteristic, however. It evolved in ancient Rome and did so in such a way that the language itself is actually thinking. It is interesting to see how Latin is taught at grammar school. One learns Latin, and then learns to think — to think properly by studying the Latin sentence. All thinking then becomes dependent on something which is not done by the person himself but by the Latin language. You have to realize, gentlemen, that this is tremendously important. Anyone who has learned anything today, therefore, does not think for himself, and the Latin language does the thinking even in people who have never learned Latin. And so the strange thing is that independent thinking is today really only found in some people who have not got much education. Now please note that I am not saying we should return to illiteracy. This is something we cannot do. I never want to see regression. But we have to see the situation as it is. Because of this it is so important that we can sometimes also go back to the things a simple person, who has not had much education, still knows. He finds it hard to tell people, because they'll always laugh at him, of course. But still, it is extraordinarily important to know that people do not think for themselves today; the Latin language is thinking in them.
You see, unless one is able to think for oneself one will be unable to enter into the world of the spirit. Here you have the reason why today's academic world is against all insight into the spirit. It is because Latin education makes them unable to think for themselves. The first thing one has to learn is to think for oneself. People are quite right when they say today that the brain is thinking. Why does the brain think? Because the Latin sentences come into it, and the brain then thinks quite automatically in modern people. They are Latin language automatons who walk about and do not think for themselves.
Something quite remarkable has happened in recent times. I mentioned it to you the other day we met, something you'll not have noticed, for it is not so easy to notice. But something quite special has happened in recent times. Now you know we have our physical body in us, and also our ether body and the others as well — I'll leave these aside for the moment. The brain is of course part of the physical body, but the ether body is also in the brain, and we are only able to think for ourselves with the ether body. We cannot think with the physical body as such. But it is possible to think with the physical body if the situation is as it is with the Latin language, when the brain is used like an automatic machine as we use it to think. But for as long as we only think with the brain we cannot think things of the spirit. We have to start to think with the ether body, with the ether body which often is not used for years when someone is mentally ill. This has to be made inwardly active.
The important thing, therefore, is that we learn to think independently. It is not possible to get into the world of the spirit unless one is able to think independently. This does, of course, mean that one must first of all realize: 'Wow! You never learned to think for yourself in your young days. You only learned to think the things that have been thought for centuries by using the Latin language.' And when one rightly knows this, one also knows that the very first requirement for entering into the world of the spirit is to learn to think independently.
We now come to the thing I wanted to mention when I said that something remarkable had happened in recent times. It was the academics who were most of all thinking entirely along Latin lines. And academics developed the science of physics, for instance. They thought up physics, thinking it up entirely with their physical brains the way one does with the Latin language. When we were young, when I was the age of young Erbsmehl over there, for instance, we only learned the kind of physics that had been thought up with a Latin brain. That was all we learned then, the things thought up with the Latin brain. But much has happened since then, gentlemen. You see, when I was young the telephone was just being developed. It did not exist before that. Then came all the other great inventions which people today grow up with as if they'd always been there. They only came in the last few decades. Because of this, more and more people studied science who had not been drilled in Latin. This is a remarkable thing. For if you consider the scientific life of recent decades you'll find that growing numbers of engineers came into the world of science. They did not bother much with Latin and so their thinking did not become so automatic. This non-automated thinking was then also taken up by the others. And the result is that today many of the concepts, ideas, used in physics today are falling apart. They are most interesting. Professor Gruner 33Dr P. Gruner, professor of theoretical physics. Die Neuorientierung der Physik, vice-chancellor's address at the 87th anniversary of Bern University on 26 November 1921; Bern 1922. in Bern, for instance, spoke about a new orientation in physics two years ago. He said that all their concepts had changed in recent years.
You do not easily realize this because people will still tell you the things that were thought 20 years ago if you go to popular lectures today. They can't tell you the things that are being thought today because they are not able to think them themselves. If you take the concepts that were still valid 30 years ago, it is just as if you have a small piece of ice and it melts. The ideas are melting. They're no longer there if you want to think them through carefully. This is something we have to realize. The situation is that if someone who studied physics 30 years ago now looks at what has become of it, he feels like tearing out his hair, for he has to say to himself: 'I cannot manage this with the concepts I have learned.' That is the way it is. And why is it like this? It is so because in the course of evolution people have in recent years reached the point where the ether body should begin to think. And they don't want to do that. They want to go on thinking with their physical bodies. But the concepts simply fall apart in the physical body. And they don't want to learn to think with the ether body. They don't want to learn to think independently.
And you see, the situation is such that it became necessary for me to write this book on the philosophy of freedom in 1893. This book, The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, 34Steiner, R., The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. A Philosophy of Freedom (GA 4). Tr. R. Stebbing. London: Rudolf Steiner Press 1989. is not really important because of what it says. Of course, the things it says are something one wanted to tell the world at the time, but that is not the most important point of it. The important thing about the book is that for the first time all of it is completely independent thinking. No one who is only able to think in a dependent way will be able to understand it. From the very beginning he has to get used, page by page, to go back to his ether body so that he'll actually be able to have the thoughts which are in this book. The book is therefore an educational tool — it is a most important educational tool — and it should be taken as such.
When the book was published in the 1890s, people had no idea what to do with it. For them, it was as if someone in Europe was writing in Chinese which no one could understand. It was, of course, written in German, but in thoughts that were completely unfamiliar, for anything Latin had deliberately been stripped away. For the first time care had been taken, consciously and deliberately, to have no thoughts in the book that were still under the Latin influence, but only completely independent thoughts. The physical brain is truly a Latin scholar. The human ether body is no Latin scholar. And one therefore has to make an effort to express in words the thoughts one has in one's ether body.
Let me tell you something else. People did, of course realize that all ideas had changed in recent decades. When I was young the teacher would write lots of things on the blackboard. We had to learn them to do well in our exams. Well and good. And now, in recent years, people have discovered exactly what Gruner said in his address, which is that all our concepts would be meaningless if there were no longer any solid but only fluid bodies. He imagined the whole world as a fluid body. And in that case our concepts would no longer have meaning, he said, and we'd have to think in a very different way.
Well, of course we'd have to think differently if there were no solid bodies any more! For then you'd no longer be able to do anything with all the ideas you learned at school. So if you were to grow really intelligent as a fish, let us say, and got the idea of going to a human university as a fish, you would learn something there which simply does not exist for fishes, seeing that they live in water. They only know solid bodies at the boundaries of their world, which they touch only to recoil immediately. If a fish were to start to think, therefore, its thoughts would have to be of a very different kind than those of a human being. But these are the kind of thoughts human beings, too, need today, for those other thoughts are slipping from their grasp, and they have to say to themselves: 'Wow, if everything were fluid, we'd have to have very different kinds of thoughts.'
However, gentlemen, did I not tell you of a stage in the development of the earth when no solids existed as yet, and everything was fluid, even the animals? I have told you about this. And surely you can understand that our present thinking cannot go back to such conditions. It simply cannot think them! Our present-day thinking therefore cannot tell us anything about the beginning of the world. And, we have to say that if the world were fluid, we'd have to have completely different ideas. There are no solid bodies in the world of the spirit! It is therefore quite impossible to enter into this world with the concepts in which people were drilled through the Latin language. We must first get out of the habit of using them.
You see, this is indeed a great secret. In the ancient Greek civilization, which preceded the Latin civilization — Roman civilization only developed five or six centuries before Christ, whilst Greek civilization was much earlier — in Greek civilization people still knew of the spirit. They were still able to see into the world of the spirit. When Roman civilization came, and with it the Latin language, the spirit was gradually eradicated. At this point I again have to say something you'll find rather strange, but you'll understand. Who used Latin through the centuries, nothing but Latin? The Church itself contributed most to this development. The fact is that the Church, which pretends to teach people about the spirit, has done most to drive the spirit out. And in the Middle Ages all universities were Church institutions. We do, of course, have to be grateful that the Church founded the universities in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but it founded them on the basis of Latin scholarship, in which there is no possibility of getting to the spirit. And so it came about that people gradually only came to have concepts relating to solid bodies. Just consider how this was with the Romans. They introduced these dry, objective concepts that had no spirituality. Because of this, everything then came to be seen in material terms. Just think — if the Greeks had described a rite such as Holy Communion they would not have described it as if the physical matter used for this were blood and flesh! This has come about through materialism. Even Holy Communion is seen in a materialistic way, because it is all connected with the Latin language.
The Latin language is entirely logical all the way. You see, I have worked with many people whose culture was completely Latin, even though they spoke German. To be clear about anything, they would quickly translate it into Latin, because all thinking in Latin has become logical in more recent times. But this logical thinking only relates to solid bodies. To enter into the world of the spirit we need fluid ideas.
There's the Theosophical Society, for instance. They also wanted to enter into the world of the spirit. In this Society people also say that man has a physical body, an ether body, and so on. But it is a materialistic view, for they merely think: 'The physical body is dense; the ether body is a little less dense, and the astral body even less so.' But that's always bodies, it will never be spirit, for to enter into the spirit one has to develop ideas that are always changing. You see, when I make a drawing I even take account of this in the way I draw. I may draw the physical body, let us say, and in that case try to reflect the way the human being is as a physical body. But when I try to draw the ether body, I would not dream of drawing a figure for you in the same way as before. Instead I try to show that the human being has an ether body which spreads like this [Fig. 16]. You have to know, however, that what I am drawing there is not so much the ether body I am drawing, not so much a picture of it, but only a momentary picture. It will be different the next moment. To draw the ether body, therefore, I'd have to draw it now, quickly erase it again, draw it differently again, erase, draw again, erase. It is in continuous motion. And with the kind of ideas people have today they cannot keep up with this. The most important thing for you tc consider, therefore, is that your ideas have to grow mobile, flexible. This is something people will first have to get used to. And it is necessary for people today to become completely independent in their thinking.
But that is not all, gentlemen. Let me tell you something else. Human beings develop, as you know. Not much thought is usually given to their development in the course of later life, but attention is paid to it when they are young. People know perfectly well that a 4-year-old child cannot yet write, do sums or read, whilst an 8-year"°^ may be able to do these things. There you see that development is taking place. In later life, however, once we are 'made men , we are so arrogant that we no longer admit to being in a process of development. But we actually continue to develop all our lives, and it is quite remarkable how we develop. You see, our development proceeds like this. Let us assume this is a human being — just a rough sketch [Fig. 17]. When the child is very young, all development comes from the head. Once the second teeth have developed, and one is therefore older, all development comes from the chest. This is why one has to be so careful about children's breathing between their 7th and 14th years, making sure they breathe enough, and so on. So that would be the age of an older child — today we'd really have to use another word, for today's children will no longer accept it; from their 14th year on one really has to call them 'young ladies' and 'young gentlemen'. Well, let's say 'older children'. And it will only be when a person has reached sexual maturity that development comes from the whole human being, from the limbs. We are thus able to say that human beings are only in their full process of development when they have reached sexual maturity. This then continues. We develop further in our 20s and 30s. But you see, gentlemen — some of you can now see it in yourselves — when we get older, many things regress again. It is really true that many things will then deteriorate. It need not be like that if one has entered into a life in mind and spirit, but in normal human life there is deterioration when one gets older. It is actually the task of anthroposophy to see that in future people will no longer deteriorate in old age. But that, too, will of course have to happen slowly and gradually.
Now the situation is that there are people whose mental powers deteriorate quite dreadfully. But it is not the mind that deteriorates, but again only the body. It is interesting to note that it is often particularly intelligent people who show a terrible degree of deterioration in old age. You'll have heard, for example, that people consider Kant 35Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). to have been one of the greatest minds. Kant grew senile in his old age. His body deteriorated so much, therefore, that he was no longer able to use his wise mind. And that is how it is for many people. It is especially the intelligent people who have often grown really senile in old age. Again this is of course only a more powerful, intensive form of something that happens to everyone. As one gets older, one gradually is less able to use the physical body, apart from anything else because enormous amounts of calcium are deposited, mainly in the arteries. And the more calcium is deposited in the arteries, the less are we able to use the physical body. The degree to which development coming from the head went into the whole body up to one's 40th year, let us say, is also the degree of deterioration that happens. Coming from the 40s into the 50s, one needs to use the chest more again, and in old age one needs to use the head more again. But at that time, in old age, one should not use the physical head but the more subtle ether head. This, however, is something people do not learn to do with their Latin education. And it was above all the people who in recent decades had a materialistic Latin education who were most exposed to this senility.
We have to go back to childhood level in our old age, and this is something that gets quite powerful in some people. They grow mentally weaker and weaker, as it is put. The mind remains quite sound, however; it is only the body that grows weaker and weaker. In the end these people can no longer do the things they had been able to do first of all. Such things certainly happen. Let us say someone has grown old. He is now no longer able to do something he did previously. He can only do the things he did as an older child. Finally he'll also no longer be able to do these, but only play and understand the ideas he originally gained from play. There have actually been people who at a very advanced age were only able to understand the things their parents or nurse told them in their very earliest years. The saying that we grow childish in old age has its good reasons. We do truly return to our childhood again.
But so long as we have a life in the mind and spirit this is no misfortune, no misfortune at all. It is really a good thing. For as a child we are still able to use the ether body. When a child romps about, shouting and doing all kinds of things, it is not the physical body that does this — or at most only if the child has a tummy ache, but even then the tummy ache must first be transmitted to the ether body and astral body, so that the child moves because of the tummy ache. It definitely is not the physical body that is romping about there. Then you grow old and return to childhood level. You have gradually got out of the romping habit and now use the ether body which you used for romping about as a child for something better in your old age. It may be a good thing, therefore, that we go back again in this way.
This, then, would be the second thing. The first thing we have to learn in order to enter into the world of the spirit is the right way of thinking. We'll talk another time about the way one achieves this. Today let us first of all try and understand how these things go. The first thing is wholly independent thinking. It means abandoning much of what modern education offers, for modern education means the opposite of independent thinking, a thinking derived from Latin. Do not imagine that the thinking developed with socialist theories today is independent thinking! All of them have been learning from something that has come from Latin; they just did not know this. You know, a worker may decide to do one thing or another in the sphere of his will; but when he starts to think, he is using entirely middle-class concepts, and these have come from thinking in Latin. The first thing we need, therefore, is independent thinking.
The second thing is to learn to live not just in the present moment but always to be able to go back again into the life we lived whilst we were children. You see, someone wanting to enter into the world of the spirit will often have to say: 'Now discover how things were when you were a boy of 12. What did you do then?' And we need to do this not just superficially, in outer terms, but really imagine every detail. There's nothing more useful, for example, than to begin to say to yourself: 'Yes, I was 12 then — I can get quite a good picture of it. There was a pile of stones by the roadside and I climbed up on top. I fell off once. Then there was a hazel bush and I took out my knife and cut off branches, and I cut my finger.' To see again what one did many years ago, this will help us to enter into a condition where we do not just live in the present. Thinking the way people have learned to think today, you are thinking with your present physical body. But when you try to discover what you were at the age of 12, you cannot think with the physical body you then had, for it no longer exists. I told you that the physical body is a new one every seven years. You then have to think with your ether body. You therefore call up your ether body when you think back to something in the past, when you were 12 or 14 years old. This will get you into the inner activity that you need.
And we can above all get in the habit of thinking altogether differently from the way we usually think. You see, how do you think? Now you know we met at 9 o'clock today. I started by reading out the bit of paper with your questions. Then I considered a number of things, and we have now reached the point where we say: 'We have to think back to the life we knew when we were 12 or 14 years old.' Now when you get home you may, perhaps, if the matter is of special interest to you, think these thoughts through once more. Well, this is something one can do. Most people do this; they'll go through it again. But you might do something else. You might say: 'What did he say last?' The last thing he said was that one should think of one's earlier life, up to the age of 12 or 14. Before that he said one should be independent in one's thinking. And before that about the way Latin gradually came into people's lives. Even earlier he spoke of how someone who has not been of a sound mind will afterwards look back and say he had special experiences. He showed that people do not get mentally ill, but that only the body gets sick. You see, you'd now have gone through the whole lecture backwards.
Well, gentlemen, things do not go back to front in the outside world. I might perhaps have given the lecture backwards from the very beginning, but then you would not have been able to understand, for one starts from the beginning and develops the theme so that it is gradually understood. Once you've understood it, however, you can also think it through the other way round. But factual things don't go back to front, and so I come away from the facts. I then think like this: 'Just now I am not thinking the way things happen outside, but back to front.' This needs some effort. I have to grow inwardly mobile to think backwards. Just as someone must learn to use a telescope if he wants to look through it, so someone who wants to see into the world of the spirit must often think backwards, again and again think backwards. And one day he'll reach the point where he knows: 'Ah, this is where I enter into the world of the spirit.'
Once again you can see from this, gentlemen, that all your life you've got your physical body into the habit of thinking forwards. If you now start to think backwards, the physical body won't do it and something peculiar happens. When people ask again and again, 'How do I get into the world of the spirit?' the first piece of advice one gives — you'll also find it in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds — is to say: 'Learn at least to go back through the day's events; and then other things.' People have of course first of all learned to think with their physical body. They note this. They then make great efforts to think backwards, but they have only learned to think with their physical body, not with the ether body. And then the ether body goes on 'general strike'. Yes, it really is a general strike. And if people did not go to sleep so often when they think backwards, they would know: 'When I begin to think backwards I should get to the world of the spirit.' But they go to sleep the very moment they might begin to see, for the effort is too much for them. It therefore needs tremendous good will and all one's energy not to go to sleep. You need patience for this. It often takes years, actually. But you have to have patience.
You see, if someone were able to tell you the things you experience unconsciously when you've gone to sleep after thinking backwards, you'd see that it is something terribly intelligent. The stupidest people begin to have extra150 ordinarily intelligent thoughts when they then go to sleep, but they don't know this.
So the first thing I told you was that one must first of all learn to think independently. It is something one can do. I won't say, for instance — not being conceited — that only my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity will serve the purpose, but it has been deliberately written in such a way that one will get in the habit of independent thinking.
Independent thinking, therefore.
Thinking back accurately to things that happened at the age of 10 or 12.
Or accurately thinking things one has learned over again, backwards.
With this, we have at least considered how we can tear ourselves away from the physical body; how we enter into the world of the spirit. And we'll continue with this on Saturday, taking the matter further, so that all four questions will gradually be resolved.