Man as a Being of Spirit and Soul
I. Man as a Being of Spirit and Soul
25 February 1918, Stuttgart
The science of spirit, about which I have had the honor to lecture for many years now, here in Stuttgart, as well as in other places, is, I believe, based upon a need arising out of the cultural and spiritual life of the present time. It does not arise simply because someone may feel it to be a good idea. In order to realize that it is just at the present time that this science has to make a start, it is perhaps necessary to see how particular spiritual impulses arise at certain moments during the whole evolution of human spiritual and cultural life. It is not so difficult to see that the science of spirit has a connection with the present time similar to the connection that the Copernican outlook had with its time. Just as the latter could not have existed at an earlier period, so, too, with the science of spirit. We only have to compare, on the basis of true knowledge, the way the scientific outlook obtains its results — and has obtained them for some time — with the way this outlook is taken up by the widest circles of humanity in order to provide a basis for questions concerning the soul and the spirit. We need only to look at the method of research and the way it has spread and to compare it with the scientific outlook of centuries ago, which had prevailed for thousands of years of human evolution. In those earlier times people looked at nature and its phenomena in quite a different way from today and the last two, three, four hundred years. In earlier times when people looked at nature and its processes they took something spiritual, something of a soul nature, into their own soul and spirit life. It was not like today when the phenomena of nature are investigated purely as phenomena, as far as possible eliminating everything of a spirit-soul nature.
This is not a criticism of the modern scientific outlook — on the contrary. The success of the scientific outlook, which certainly has a significant purpose both for the present and the future, is due to its efforts to eliminate everything of a spirit-soul nature from the observation of natural phenomena. It concentrates solely on observing processes in nature without bringing into these processes anything of a spirit- soul nature. On the other hand it has become absolutely necessary to satisfy the unquenchable need of the human soul to approach the great riddles of existence scientifically from a different viewpoint. It is just because natural science has to keep to its serious and conscientious method and is obliged to eliminate spirit-soul nature that a science of spirit, based on the example and ideal of natural science, must take its place alongside natural science, working in the same way as natural science, but from different sources.
It cannot be said that the present time has got very far in formulating a view about the relationship of natural science to any endeavors of a more spiritually scientific kind. It is just the most serious questions about the life of the soul and the spirit, about the eternal nature of the being of man, about human freedom and all that is connected with it, that are excluded and have been banned from the outlook based on natural science since the middle of the 19th century. And it is a fact that great and outstanding scientists of the present time find themselves in a strange position. We have already seen how it is only recently that outstanding scientists have shaken off the scientific romanticism of Darwinism prevalent in the second half of the 19th century.
We could take hundreds of scientists and thinkers to illustrate our point, but we shall take one as an example. We have seen how a scientist like Oskar Hertwig has managed to bring the fantastic tendencies of naturalism, which have threatened to run wild, back on to a saner basis. And a book such as Oskar Hertwig's Das Werden der Organismen, Eine Darwinische Zufallstheorie, a book by an eminent pupil of Haeckel, — such a book, even from a scientific viewpoint, has great significance. Much could be added in this respect that is equally significant or nearly so. We can see from such achievements, which cannot be sufficiently recognized in their own sphere, what predicament serious scientists are in regarding questions of the soul and spirit. In reading Oskar Hertwig's influential book we have just referred to, we cannot help being aware of a certain feeling or attitude toward questions of spiritual life. We find that a scientist like Oskar Hertwig makes quite clear that he cannot approach questions of the soul or spirit with the means at his disposal, the means of a stringent science. On one page he says this clearly and definitely: Science can only concern itself with the transitory sense world; science cannot approach the eternal in human nature.
So far, so good — and one would think that the way is now open for a science of spirit, for the scientist himself points out that a science of spirit should exist alongside natural science. But, unfortunately, there is something else to be found among scientists, which is not said explicitly, but which can be read quite clearly between the lines. The opinion is spread abroad — albeit unconsciously — that the method employed by the scientist is the only exact one, and that it is possible to be scientific only so long as one keeps to the outer sense world. — People then believe that a departure from the sense world is bound to lead into a world of fantasy and dreams. — What is so dangerous in this is that it is not clearly expressed, but arises as a kind of feeling out of what is achieved and spreads into the widest circles of people. It is to be found in those who believe they understand a lot about the scientific outlook and wish to draw conclusions affecting spiritual life from the scientific outlook, and also in those who think themselves enlightened because they read the supplement of their local paper every Sunday which breathes this kind of feeling I have described as spreading into the widest circles.
Thus, on the one hand, the scientific outlook points with great emphasis to the need for the coming into being of a science of spirit, but on the other it takes the ground away from under its feet. This was crystallized in a famous speech by Dubois-Reymond, the great physiologist, which I have referred to here in Stuttgart, and which he gave before an obviously enlightened meeting of scientists in Leipzig in the 70's. It was crystallized in his lecture, The Limits of Natural Knowledge, where he stated that natural knowledge is not able to give any information about even the simplest phenomena of the life of the soul, and that science comes to an end where the super-sensible begins. — With this it is admitted on the one hand that natural science is not able to say anything about the super-sensible, but on the other it emphatically takes away the ground for all super-sensible investigation. The science of spirit has to struggle against these aims and efforts today. For it sets out to face and treat scientifically the questions which the human soul turns to in great longing — the question of the eternal nature of the human soul, of the freedom of human action and the countless other questions which are connected to these two main questions.
But now from another viewpoint we come to much the same result. If in trying to inform ourselves about such matters we turn, not to science, but to the work of philosophers, we find just as little satisfaction there. What is offered is, on the whole, — for someone really seeking spiritual substance in cultural life — nothing more than a collection of abstract concepts, which do not offer anything pertaining to the pressing questions about the life of the human soul and spirit. But it is perhaps just in this subject that we can ascertain why it is not possible at the present time to find out anything substantial about these questions outside the actual sphere of the science of spirit. And it is just the work of philosophers which reveals something rather odd, which is also the reason why I have called today's lecture a study of man as a being of spirit and soul.
In looking into a modern textbook on psychology or into anything philosophical in order to inform ourselves about the questions we are considering, we come across a way of regarding things which, even if we go beyond purely materialistic thinking, is completely tied up with the idea that man is a being of body and soul. This idea of man as a being of body and soul governs the enlightened and impressive philosophers of today. It is therefore imperative to show that this outlook leads us astray when it comes to investigating the complete being of man. If in investigating the human being we start with the premise that everything that arises in connection with the soul and body should be divided into body and soul, we are doing the same as a chemist who assumes from the start that a substance he is investigating can have only two constituent parts. Therefore when he makes his chemical analysis, he finds he cannot get very far. Another person discovers that a result was not possible because the substance the chemist took was composed of three elements, and not of two as the chemist had imagined. It is just the same with the way people look at the being of man. It is imagined that we have to find two elements, body and soul. In fact, we can make progress only by dividing the being of man into three parts: body, soul and spirit. Otherwise, we always arrive at an impossible mix-up between spirit and soul, which is no more use for acquiring enlightenment concerning the human being than a mix-up of the bodily life and soul life which comes about through not differentiating them .properly. What is really meant by dividing man not only into a being with a soul and a body on the one hand, but into a being with a soul and a spirit on the other, becomes clear in looking at the way the physical sciences of man, biology, physiology, anatomy, and so on, arise out of purely human experience, out of the experience of physical life of the human being. Let us take a particular case. The human being experiences hunger, satisfaction, need to breathe, and so on, in life. These are immediate, I would like to say, inner experiences. In the first place they are really dependent on material substances, but hunger, satisfaction, the need to breathe, are also experienced in the soul. The scientist investigates the bodily basis of hunger, satisfaction, the need to breathe, and the like. If we want to found a physical science, a science of the human body, we cannot stop at the fact that hunger is experienced in different ways. If we wanted to experience being very hungry or not very hungry, very thirsty or not very thirsty, or different kinds of hunger or thirst, we would not be able to found a science of the physical body. We have to go beyond the purely inner experience and investigate the body with scientific methods. We then discover that hunger, thirst, the need to breathe, evolve certain chemical, physical processes in the physical body and we arrive at a physiological and biological science of man. We have to go beyond what we experience purely inwardly, and subject the body by itself to scientific investigation.
Just as on the one hand we have to go beyond our immediate experience to lay the basis for a physical science, just as the body provides the physical basis for our soul experience, so on the other we have to go beyond our soul experience to find the spiritual reality that underlies it.
In examining our physical nature the ordinary scientist discovers certain physical processes in the digestive system which correspond to the inner experiences of hunger, thirst and the need to breathe. The question is bound to arise: Is there something — if I may use what is naturally a paradoxical expression — that corresponds to the soul experience from the other direction, which could be called a kind of “spiritual digestion” as compared to physical digestion? Of course it sounds like a paradox, speaking on the one hand about ordinary digestion, which is perfectly acceptable because it belongs to the province of a recognized science, and on the other hand about a spiritual digestion, a change which takes place in the spirit. Nevertheless we shall attempt to show today that this paradoxical expression does in fact correspond to a real situation.
It is no more possible to arrive at a science of spirit by investigating inwardly the nature of the soul, which surges to and fro in our thinking, feeling and willing as our inner experience, than it is to found a physical science only on the basis of an inward observation of hunger, thirst, and the need for breath. We have to appreciate that as far as our normal, everyday consciousness is concerned, our physical nature only reveals its outer surface. What does the human being in his everyday life know about all the complicated processes, the physical, chemical processes, which physical science brings to the light of day as the basis of what we experience as hunger, thirst and the need to breathe? Just compare what we see of the body in everyday life, which is more or less its outward form, its capacity for movement, its physiognomy, just compare this, which is something everyone can know about without bothering about science, with the picture of the human being as shown in anatomy, physiology or biology, and you will see how our ordinary experience of our bodies is related to the investigation of science.
But now on the other hand it is also a fact that the spirit reveals itself no more to the human being than does the body reveal itself beyond its outward form, and that from the sphere of the spirit just as little or just as much is hidden to the human being as is hidden to him in ordinary life of those processes which have first to be investigated by science.
What is it then that belongs to the spirit which is actually orientated toward our inner experience? We shall see today that the part of his spiritual life that is orientated toward the human being, but which he does not always even recognize as such, is nothing other than what is encompassed in the simple, unequivocal but significant word “I.” This “I” we shall see belongs to the spirit, but it is related to the whole spirit in the same way that our outward form, our physiognomy, the movement of our limbs which is all orientated toward the ordinary body, are related to physiology, biology, to the science of the body. We can never arrive at a science of the body by feeling a little or very hungry, or by comparing one state of hunger with another, or by immersing ourselves in our hunger; neither can we arrive at a science of the spirit of the human being by immersing ourselves in our experience of feeling, thinking and imagination. We have to realize that so-called mysticism, which is supposed to be an immersion in one's own inner being, and which seeks to experience this inner being in a somewhat different way from our normal experience, that mysticism, this kind of inward immersion, cannot lead to a science of spirit any more than a differentiated experience of hunger, thirst and the need to breathe can lead to a science of the body. We have to start with our purely inner experience of hunger and thirst and proceed from there to the body, to the things that are arrived at through scientific method. Likewise we have to start with our purely mystical soul life and proceed from there to what lies spiritually outside this soul life. And this spiritual nature has naturally to be investigated according to scientific method in the strictest possible way, just as the life of the human body is investigated.
Now it is true that the methods of investigating spiritual life are in fact spiritual, and therefore are quite different from the means employed by natural science. And so my first task is to indicate the purpose and significance of the methods used by the science of spirit. It is not possible to embark upon the investigation of spiritual life without first having arrived at certain things in ordinary, everyday soul life. Without having reached a certain point in our ordinary soul life, in which we follow the course of our own inner being, we are not able to train ourselves to be a scientist of spirit. As long as we are satisfied with our ordinary, everyday soul life, as long as we derive full satisfaction from mystical experience and revel in it in order to immerse ourselves in our soul life, we shall never be able to train ourselves as real scientists of spirit. The preliminary qualification for the science of spirit is that in a particular respect we feel the insufficiency of our ordinary soul life as a result of our own experience of it.
I have pointed out in earlier lectures that it is particularly a study of the so-called border areas of science that can help us to acquire this feeling. In dealing with this subject I am fond of citing a really significant question which arises in connection with these border areas, and which the eminent scientist, Friedrich Theodor Vischer, came upon as he was struggling to clarify his own outlook. He came to ask — and you can find this in his beautiful treatise, Die Traumphantasie — what is the real connection between the soul and the bodily nature? And here he lighted upon a real question relating to the border-area of human knowledge. Vischer says: it is quite certain that the soul nature cannot be in the bodily nature, but it is also just as certain that it cannot be sought outside the body. — Hence he arrives at a complete contradiction. Such contradictions often arise where we do not simply consider knowledge as concerning outward, tangible facts alone, but where we really have to struggle inwardly to acquire our knowledge. Those who know what it is to have to struggle for knowledge speak of hundreds of such border-points occurring in knowledge. It is only a superficial mind which, when faced with such questions, is content to say that human cognition can go only a certain distance and no further. In contenting ourselves with this information, we are blocking our own way to a real science of spirit. For here we are not concerned with evolving all sorts of logical thoughts about such questions, but with steeping our wrestling souls in them and really experiencing them, and this means giving up the logical approach where it can no longer be applied. We have to get to the heart of what for normal human cognition is a contradiction in such a border-area, and feel the full weight of it on our souls.
If we do not simply regard these questions as comfortable cushions upon which to rest and proceed no further, but if on the contrary we really seek to experience them, then we find that it is just what lives and moves in such a living contradiction that kindles our inner soul life in a way that does not happen in normal life, that it is at just such a point as this that our inner soul life can reach a stage beyond its normal experience. In order not to become lost when we reach such a point in the experience of a border-area, we have to be able to grasp inwardly how in certain moments of his life the human being is unable to get beyond himself, but yet is able to point to something beyond himself. What is needed is that a particular inner feeling is developed which can be the result of living at such border-points of knowledge. This feeling can be characterized in the following words. It can be characterized very easily, for the experience which this feeling brings is something that cuts deep down into the soul. If we experience the questions of the border-areas properly, we do not say that there are limits to human knowledge, but we say that we are unable to cross the threshold with all the things we have acquired through our thinking and research into the outer sense world. We can impose a certain resignation, a certain renunciation upon ourselves, we can learn at such points not to want to judge the super-sensible with what we have learned and experienced in the sense world.
It is here that the main obstacles lie for most people in entering upon the science of spirit. They see the limits of knowledge but they do not then have the courage to renounce or resign. They do not say that they cannot try to enter into the spiritual world with what they have learned and experienced in the sense world, but they try to penetrate beyond these limits, even if only in a negative sense, by using the kind of concepts and ideas acquired in studying the sense world. The one person does it by constructing all sorts of hypotheses about what could exist in the super-sensible, the other by rejecting the super-sensible completely on the basis of his study of the sense world; in other words, taking upon himself the capacity to make judgments about the super-sensible with the concepts he has acquired from the sense world. Those also have not understood the experience of the border-areas of knowledge who, like materialists, monists and the like, begin to decide that nothing exists beyond the sense world on the basis of the ideas and concepts acquired through the life of the senses.
This is the point where something quite special must arise within human soul life, where what I have just characterized, this renunciation of the concepts acquired through living in the sense-world, where we do not just wish to make a statement or bring something intellectual and logical to expression, but that this renunciation becomes an inner intellectual virtue, something that — if I may be excused the phrase — cuts into human soul life, so that at certain points we really acquire a subtle feeling that we should not proceed further with what we have learned in the sense-world. For if this renunciation is not just a logical admission or an intellectual conclusion, but an inner virtue, then this virtue arising out of the renunciation radiates toward the inner life of the soul, and then what we have renounced outwardly is taken up into the inner life of the soul. The renunciation makes us fit for undertaking in course of time the two spiritual functions necessary to penetrate from the sphere of the soul in human experience into the spiritual world. For this two inner functions are necessary, but which, as you can see from my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, involve many individual functions and exercises, which are contained in these two main aims, for which there are two main functions. The first is that we achieve real self observation; the second consists in striving to experience the soul-spirit sphere that is no longer dependent on the bodily nature, but proceeds purely in the spirit. However paradoxical it may appear to present-day humanity, it must nevertheless be said that this second function consists in the human being forming his soul-spirit life in such a way that when he investigates the spirit, his soul-spirit experience is no longer in the body, but outside it. This is no doubt something that appears quite ridiculous to those who think they keep firmly within the province of the scientific outlook. But the science of spirit will bring home to people that many of our ideas will have to be changed, even into the opposite of what we are accustomed to, just as the Copernican outlook meant a complete reversal in the way people thought about the relationship of the planets to the sun.
What is normally called self-observation, an introversion of the soul, is not what is meant by true self-observation by the science of spirit. It is true that one can start from this brooding in oneself in order to find the way one has to go toward true self-observation, but real self-observation has to be taken in hand much more seriously and much more energetically. For it includes something which even earnest psychologists maintain is impossible. I have already pointed out in earlier lectures that when philosophers speak about the human soul they find it characteristic that in certain respects the life of the soul is not able to observe itself. They point out that if we have learned a poem by heart and then wish to recite it, but at the same time observing ourselves as we recite, we begin to falter and interrupt ourselves. It is not possible to carry out something and at the same time stand by and observe ourselves. This is cited as being something characteristic of the human soul, that it cannot do this. Now it must be said that those who find that this is in fact so, that it is impossible, will not get anywhere with the science of spirit, because this “impossibility” is just what the scientist of spirit has to achieve. The ability or capacity which is brought to our notice in normal life when we observe ourselves reciting and make ourselves falter, this ability has to be acquired by the scientist of spirit. We have to be able to split our soul-life wide open so that we can observe scientifically what we ourselves do. It is not all that important to learn a poem to achieve this, although this is one way of doing it, providing we do the necessary practice, and it is also good preparation for the real exercise of self- observation if we do it. It is a form of preparation to achieve reciting a poem with all its shades of feeling sufficiently automatically — if I may use such a crude expression — that we do not interrupt ourselves when we observe ourselves while reciting. The important thing, however, is not to concentrate on the outer aspects, but to apply such activity to the life of the soul itself. This means that we have to observe how one thought follows another, our thinking and imaginative life, so that at the same time we can allow the thought processes to proceed while on the other hand we can observe them in full consciousness. It would lead too far now to describe how this is done, but you can read about it in my books, Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment, in Riddles of Man, and similar books. It is absolutely possible to achieve real self-observation in this way. It is not then a mere intellectual process, but it is something real, for it is a first beginning of the emergence of the spirit- nature out of the soul-nature. The experience of the soul is observed by the spirit which has really tried to separate itself from the soul-nature. But this is only one aspect of what can be observed.
Now it is necessary to add that renouncing entering the super-sensible with the concepts and according to the laws taken from the sense world becomes a virtue and permeates the entire life of the soul, and when this has happened it not only produces the kind of modesty we are used to from normal life, but it produces an inward, intellectual modesty and humility which make us suited in the first place to exercising self-observation of the kind I have just been speaking about. We are not intimately organized enough, as it were, to be able to carry out such self-observation until we have radiated this intellectual virtue over our own souls.
But, on the other hand, something else is necessary. What then is attained when we achieve such self-observation? What is achieved when self-observation is practiced is that what normally disturbs the human being when he carries out a soul function is taken in hand, and our will is strengthened and driven out of the sphere of the soul into the sphere of the spirit. Then there is something further that has to be striven for: the will itself has to take on a new direction, has to acquire a new mode of activity in the soul. This can happen only if the human being does not employ the will as he normally does in ordinary life in carrying out outward functions, but if he employs it in carrying out inner functions. In living in his sense perception and in the ideas and images derived from these perceptions, the human being is accustomed in the way and sequence in which his thoughts are constructed to being led by the sense world. He allows one thought to follow another because he first experiences one event in the sense world, then a second one, and so on.
The human being allows his thoughts to follow the sequence of outer events and in ordinary life he hardly ever gets used to leading his will into his thought life, into the inner processes of his soul, which are to be perceived just by this true self-observation. But this he has to do if he is to become a scientist of spirit. He has to try — for a long time, energetically and patiently — to lead his will into his thinking and power of imagination. Again and again he has to try to carry out a process of the soul which in an objective and genuine sense can be called meditating, an inner reflection, though not a dreamy, mystical reflection, but one which represents a real process in the inner life, so that the will is really led into the thinking. Whereas we are normally accustomed to arranging our ideas according to outer events, we endeavor in moments set aside for the purpose, to formulate ideas whose sequence is determined solely by the inner will working according to a much greater view of life. We guide the will into our life of images and ideas. In this way we come to recognize what sort of relationship can exist between the inner will of man and his life of images and ideas. We do not become acquainted with this at all in our normal consciousness. In order to make this point perfectly clear, I would like to give the following illustration. Imagine a person living in a semi-sleeping state in dreams. He knows full well that these dreams are pictures passing before his soul according to certain laws. These pictures surge to and fro. Because they appear, so far as normal life is concerned, as dream pictures, the human being cannot control them with his will. If in his semi-sleeping state he were able to pull himself together to such an extent that he could control the sequence of dream pictures, he would then more or less be in the position I have been talking about, where our own will controls the ideas and images we ourselves make.
But this is not the point that matters ultimately. Everything we have discussed so far is only a preparatory exercise. For we naturally do not arrive at anything real only by the inner will controlling the sequence of ideas, which we know are not remembered, but arise out of the body. We do not arrive at anything special by piecing together ideas we have made, and can survey. But we do attain something when we set to work on the exercises with the mood which makes the renunciation into an intellectual virtue. Then we gradually notice something quite special in the life of the soul. And I may be allowed to say that what I have to say here about the science of spirit, by means of which we can really penetrate into spiritual spheres and which should be imagined as already having attained a certain development, and which also empowers one to say something about the spiritual world, that it should not be thought that it is like maintaining that natural science has its strict method which takes years to learn, and now the science of spirit comes along and talks about such inner ideas and images. This is not the case. Those who have acquainted themselves with biology and physiology, and know about their scientific methods and have then taken up the science of spirit know that however difficult it may be and that however much patience is demanded over the years by scientific method, significant results can be experienced in the science of spirit only if even more patience and even more work, even when this work is purely spiritual, are employed. Years of inner work are necessary to achieve anything of any consequence that can penetrate into the spiritual world, work which has been characterized as the leading of the will into our thought life by means of the inner functions or exercises which you can find in the above-mentioned books. We only have to know the one and the other to realize that the seriousness of the one is not inferior to the seriousness of the other. But what is important is not that we do the exercises, but that we achieve what we are able to achieve by means of the mood of renunciation. And we gradually notice that it is not our will alone, not the will which we have led into our thinking and imagination, that lives in what happens in our souls, but something else lives in them.
In our observation of the outer world we see how one event follows another, how one object is related to another, and how the sequence of our ideas follows what we see, follows the thread of outer events. Now we discover what it is that permits one idea to arise out of another, what it is that ensures that we do not add just any soul experience to another, but order such experiences according to an inner process. We discover a continual current in the life of the soul. Just as outer sense-nature is inner physical nature, so spiritual nature lives in the life of the soul. Whoever believes that we can still act arbitrarily or out of prejudice does not know this inner necessity. It is just as much a necessity as is necessity in ordinary life, and it fashions an inner, spiritual experience just as our ordinary experience comes to us by necessity according to the course of events in the physical world.
One who has had to do with the science of spirit for decades may well be allowed to speak of his experience, and this is, that this experience reveals what it is like through its own nature, its own character; arbitrariness ceases, and it is the spirit that orders the sequence of soul experiences. This comes to light when we set out to penetrate a particular sphere of the spiritual world with assumptions, acquired according to our images of the sense world, that spiritual beings or processes have to behave in a particular way. In countless cases — and this is so significant, so incisive for a true scientist of spirit — we experience that things turn out to be quite different from what we had expected, having formed a judgment according to the standards of the outer sense world. It transpires that on this path once we have grasped the inward spiritual necessity, we achieve results that cannot in any way be imagined on the basis of what we know from the sense world, because as far as the sense world is concerned they are quite contradictory. In experiencing this, which can in no way be compared to anything in the sense world, we know what it means to say that the spirit, which we have discovered, orders the sequence of our soul experiences just as our ideas which we formulate about the outer sense world are ordered according to the physical sequence of events.
And these two things come together: what we have acquired in inner strength by means of true self-observation, and what we have acquired of the objective course of the spirit, which is like the course of the outer sense-world. These come together and lead the human soul into a region of the spirit to which it belongs with its spiritual organs, just as the ordinary scientist is led into the bodily organization when he proceeds from hunger to non-physical processes in the body. When we use the soul as the starting point for investigating the spirit, certain phenomena of human soul life take on a new aspect. When the scientist of spirit is touched in this way by the real form, the real character, of the spirit, certain phenomena of human soul life become quite different. This happens, above all, when, by means of the spiritual nature he has acquired through self-observation, the human being has come to recognize the spiritual which gives direction to the soul life. It is only then that he is able to formulate a true idea, a true concept, of what we call the ego of the human being, which bestows as much of the spirit on the human soul as is bestowed of the body on normal human consciousness by the visible form and physiognomy. We cannot investigate the ego by philosophizing about it, but only by making the will into thinking and the thinking into an act of will. By means of self-observation the will becomes an instrument of thinking and the thinking an instrument of will. This is a 'change of spirit' rather like the change of matter which is sought and found in the physical world in our digestion. We then approach the ego not by philosophizing, speculation or hypotheses, but we first acquire a real spiritual observation of the ego and are only then in a position to formulate a correct view of it. This correct view of it proves to us that it is impossible to achieve such a view of the ego in ordinary life, in our ordinary consciousness. The picture which this ordinary consciousness (which is also prevalent in natural science) has of the ego, is that the latter gradually evolves as the body grows. A child does not appear to have an ego. As the body develops and gradually acquires its proper configuration the ego appears to wrestle its way out of the body. This view is held as a matter of course, and with the normal outlook of today it is not possible to arrive at any other view. And this is just what one has to achieve as a scientist of spirit — that one has to give the ordinary outlook its due in its own sphere and not become intolerant because one realizes that only one view is possible in the sphere in which materialism can operate.
In achieving spiritual observation and observation of the ego it is possible to see where the error of the ordinary outlook lies. It can be characterized in the following way. If we reflect about the relationship of the lungs to the air, we know that lungs and air belong together. But because in this case ordinary observation suffices to ascertain the true relationship, no one knowing things only from a superficial viewpoint would come to any other view than that air comes from outside, penetrates into the lungs, is then breathed out of the lungs and returns to the atmosphere outside. Because this kind of observation suffices, no one could maintain that the lung itself creates the air, that the air which is breathed out somehow has its origin in the lung itself, that the lung produces air. Our ordinary observation gives us insight into the relationship of the lungs to the air. Likewise our higher, spiritual observation gives us insight into the human ego. When we can use this observation which I have described, we know that the human ego is no more connected to the bodily nature, that is, to everything we have inherited from our father and mother, than the air which comes from outside has to do with the lungs. We get to know the ego as it really is and we know that in taking over what is inherited at birth or conception, in a sense it inhales out of the spiritual world. As a mass of air that at a particular moment is in our lungs, has flowed in from outside, so the ego flows out of the spiritual world into the bodily nature, out of the world in which it existed before the body could even be thought of in terms of conception and birth. Likewise, when the human being goes through the gate of death it flows out again, just as air which has been used up by the body flows out again from the lungs. We get to know the connection of the ego to a spiritual world that is independent of the world of the human body, just as in physics we learn about the connection of air to a greater mass of air which is independent of the human lung. This is how we rise to real knowledge of the ego, and it is the first thing we come to know about the nature of the ego. From this point we learn more and more by intensifying our spiritual observation by means of the methods described in the above-mentioned books. We learn about the ego as something independent of the life of the body in the same way that we learn about the body by using hunger and thirst as our starting points for investigating the chemical and physical processes of the body with physical methods. Only we discover the spiritual, which gives us our first view of the ego, as a state where the ego is embedded in spiritual beings. In order to know the physical body in all its aspects, we divide it into its various members. In a similar way we have to link the ego to other spiritual beings, which can be observed by spiritual observation with the methods I have described. The ego is linked to them and we find a complete ego-organism. This then extends beyond the individual life of the body.
Starting from the ego, from the part of our soul life that is directed toward the ego, we find that it is embedded in a spiritual life that exists before birth and continues after the gate of death is passed through. In the spiritual world we find a soul-spirit world that in the first instance is independent of the physical world. The ego belongs to this soul- spirit world. The first entities that we find there are spirit- soul beings with whom the ego of man is connected, beings that are human souls before or after death, with whom the human being is himself connected, and also other beings. When we observe the sense world we find a kingdom below man, the animal kingdom. In the soul-spirit world we find first of all a sphere to which the human ego belongs, which it fits into organically, where it performs its transformation of spirit, its spiritual digestion — a spirit-soul sphere which in the first instance is of a purely spirit-soul nature. Then we find a sphere ranking above this one, just as the animal kingdom ranks above the plant kingdom, and it ranks higher because in these higher spheres beings are to be found which are not only connected to us in our soul and spirit nature, in our inner life, but which are still more powerful because they bring about the harmony existing between the spirit-soul and the physical-bodily nature. For our spirit- soul nature has to be brought into relationship with our physical-bodily nature. This relationship is brought about by higher spiritual beings than we first meet.
Having made a start with spiritual investigation, we should not hesitate to speak about these real, concrete, spirit- soul beings that we really discover. The spiritual regions are discovered in which the ego performs its transformation of spirit, just as the physical kingdoms are discovered when we direct our attention to the animals, plants and minerals. And we discover further where lies the mystery of the soul entering and leaving the body. For we come to know how the relationship of the ego to the body of the human being works.
Here, it is true, we are entering a sphere which is quite remote from the present-day outlook, but which in future will have to become more and more a part of this outlook. If we observe the ego in this way we find it is related with the spirit-soul beings of the higher spiritual spheres, which range above the purely natural spheres. But in the transformation of spirit, which is analogous to the transformation of matter in digestion, the ego undergoes a certain process. To begin with, it can only be associated with spirit- soul beings. This is the case before birth and after death, where it has a purely spiritual being for its organization and this is linked to the rest of the spirit world. As the ego proceeds through the spirit world, as it develops in the spirit world, it increasingly acquires a self-orientation and becomes gradually separated from the spirit world. The picture we have of the ego from the science of spirit is that long before birth or after death it has a special connection to many, many spiritual beings. Then as its development proceeds, it separates itself off and becomes in a sense dependent upon itself. It is in undergoing this separation and limitation that it evolves the power of attraction toward the bodily nature. This power of attraction impels it to unite itself — as the air unites itself to the lungs — with the bodily nature that arises in the course of human generations as a result of heredity. The ego enters into this when it comes from the spirit world.
Thus we gain a true view of the eternal working within the bodily nature of man, within the human being as a whole, not by philosophical speculation, but by laying bare this eternal, by entering into the eternal ourselves with our souls. This is the way spiritual observation works. We must be quite sure to realize that everything I have described — the striving for self-observation, the striving to guide the will into our thought and imaginative life, the striving to attain the transformation of spirit — that all this is really only a preparation. Everything else has to be waited for. Just as we have to wait for what the sense world speaks to us when it approaches the soul from outside, so we have to wait for what the spirit-world speaks to us. Self-observation, the guidance of the will into the thought and imaginative life, these have to be striven for in order to prepare the soul to experience the spirit. Spiritual life then begins, but it has to penetrate toward the sphere of the soul and of the spirit.
Thus I have outlined the ways which lead us to see our real soul life in thinking, feeling and willing as an expression of the spiritual, just as hunger, thirst and the need to breathe are an expression in the soul of what lives in the body. This then leads to the differentiation of the eternal-spiritual from the soul nature.
Tomorrow we shall have to describe how something of the eternal in the human being finds its way into ordinary consciousness as a revelation of the unconscious. My intention today was to show how we rise from the sphere of the soul to the spirit. This description, which is a description of knowledge gained by the science of spirit, appears, it is true, to be paradoxical to the normally accepted concepts of today. But you will perhaps have seen that the science of spirit takes its science just as seriously as does natural science. Natural science leads to the perishable and transitory, the science of spirit leads to the eternal, to the imperishable, without which the perishable can[not], in fact, be explained. Thus we can say that from the vantage point of the science of spirit we are able to have an overall view of what is portrayed in natural science. It is only then that we can really appreciate the value of natural science, and are then in a position to judge it. If we get no further than natural science we arrive at the judgment or belief that a stringent science is only possible within the sense world, that it cannot rise to the eternal. If we take up the science of spirit, we know why the natural scientist has to say this if he does not get beyond the position of natural science. But by developing our normal consciousness, by laying bare the spiritual forces slumbering in the soul, we recognize that man can penetrate into the eternal of his own being, into what is really immortal in himself, for this immortal part of him, in fact, makes its own existence known itself. The red color of the rose does not have to be proved. The spirit in us that goes through birth and death also testifies to its own existence when we are able to observe it.
Anyone basing his observation on the science of spirit has an overall view of natural science as well, and he also gives the latter its due. He does not do what those who follow only natural science do, who — consciously or unconsciously — undo what the science of spirit does and wish to take the ground away from under its feet. We may well say that the scientist of spirit has nothing to be afraid of. He need not fear the objections which come from various quarters, for he knows what these objections are worth, and can also recognize why they have to be made. He is quite justified in thinking that he does not need to try to prevent someone from recognizing the methods and progress of natural science. On the contrary. The scientist of spirit is able to say to someone wishing to go into natural science: Go your way to natural science and if you do not only look at it with the eyes of the natural scientific outlook, but with the eyes of the spiritual way of investigation, you will not only find no contradiction between natural science and the science of spirit, but you will also find everywhere in natural science the confirmation and revelation of what the science of spirit says. And we should not believe that the scientist of spirit has any wish to prevent those whom he addresses from following any particular religious confession. It is the greatest misunderstanding of all to believe that we wish to set up any sort of religious gulf between a religious approach and the science of spirit. Dr. Rittelmeyer has shown quite clearly in an admirable article in Christliche Welt how in a quite objective way the science of spirit can be a foundation for religious life, that it does not take anyone away from true religious life, but, on the contrary, leads them toward it.
The science of spirit does not need to keep people away from religious life. Just as it can say: go to natural science in order to realize what the science of spirit is, so it can also say: go to religion, come to know religion, experience religion, and you will find that what the science of spirit is able to give to the soul gives religious life its foundation and strengthens it.
Go out into life itself and you will find that the concepts given in the science of spirit do not deaden you to life or make you unfit for life, but that they make the spirit mobile, agile, and place the human being into life, ready for action. Practical life, too, will be a confirmation and proof of what the science of spirit is able to give to the human being.
Because natural science has to keep to its own course, has to direct its attention solely to nature and may not mix nature with anything of soul and spirit, it is imperative for the science of spirit to find its place alongside it as equally justified. The science of spirit must penetrate from the soul to the spirit, just as natural science has to penetrate from the soul to the physical body. The time will then come when the real essence, the real basic concept of the science of spirit, will be understood, when the intentions of the scientists — to take the ground away from the science of spirit — will be seen in their true light. Forty or fifty years ago Dubois-Reymond was able to say: “Science ends where the super-sensible begins.” In the future this saying will be confronted by another arising out of the spiritual scientific view: What was really happening when natural science wanted to formulate a system of thought, a view of the world that is super-sensible, when it restricted itself to nature above? In a sense one could see that there is something that surrounds the human being in his existence and in which he has his roots, that comes from a particular origin. One saw it rooted in the spirit, but could not penetrate into this spirit.
The science of spirit shows how we can penetrate into spiritual life. The kind of position which natural science has occupied regarding the spirit — if I may use the comparison — is rather as if one were to see a tree which has its roots in the ground. The tree cannot be seen entirely, for the roots are in the ground. The tree is then dug up in order to see it in its entirety, for nothing of the tree may remain hidden. The tree will dry up and will no longer be able to flourish. — This is what has been done by the scientific outlook. It has dug up the being of man out of its foundations in order to acquire an overall view. The resulting view is then like the tree that has been taken out of the ground. The tree has to wither away, and the life that arises out of this view of the world has to wither away. Once this is realized, the way to the science of spirit will be found.
In order to acquire an overall view, the being of man has been deprived of its roots. For the sake of life, for the sake of real life, the human being will once again be immersed in what is popularly called the unconscious, but which, when it is revealed in the sphere of consciousness, can be raised into the sphere of real knowledge of the super-sensible. Then the time will come when the view will be firmly implanted in the human mind that the eternal core of man's being is rooted in the spirit and that if we want to get to know the human being in his entirety we have to penetrate to the spirit. Then it will no longer be said, as Dubois-Reymond did, that science cannot find the super-sensible, not even in its simplest form of manifestation, that this is where science stops, but the science of the future will say that all science that is not rooted in the super-sensible will not be in a position to explain existence, will not be able to lead us into the life of existence, but will only be able to kill existence. It will not be said that science ends where supra-naturalism, the super-sensible, begins, but, the life of science ends where the human being no longer takes his stand in the super-sensible, and the death of science enters where the super-sensible is abandoned.