Thursday, April 30, 2015

Color gives soul to a form

Rudolf Steiner:  "Forms are at rest, stationary. But the moment a form is given color, the inner movement of the color lifts the form out of its resting condition, so that the liveliness of the world and of the spirit flows through the form. As soon as you color a form you endow it with cosmic soul because the color does not belong exclusively to the form; it forces the form to relate to its environment, indeed to the whole universe. Coloring a form feels like going toward it and endowing it with soul qualities. You breathe soul into the dead form when you bring it alive with color."

Of deeper matters, and God’s hidden judgments which are not to be inquired into. The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 3, Chapter 58


Chapter 58: Of deeper matters, and God's hidden judgments which are not to be inquired into.

“My Son, beware thou dispute not of high matters and of the
hidden judgments of God; why this man is thus left, and that man
is taken into so great favour; why also this man is so greatly
afflicted, and that so highly exalted. These things pass all
man’s power of judging, neither may any reasoning or disputation
have power to search out the divine judgments. When therefore
the enemy suggesteth these things to thee, or when any curious
people ask such questions, answer with that word of the Prophet,
Just art Thou, O Lord, and true is Thy judgment, [Psalm 119:137] and with
this, The judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous
altogether.[Psalm 19:9] My judgments are to be feared, not to be disputed
on, because they are incomprehensible to human understanding.
“And be not given to inquire or dispute about the merits of
the Saints, which is holier than another, or which is the greater
in the Kingdom of Heaven. Such questions often beget useless
strifes and contentions: they also nourish pride and vain glory,
whence envyings and dissensions arise, while one man arrogantly
endeavoureth to exalt one Saint and another another. But to wish
to know and search out such things bringeth no fruit, but it
rather displeaseth the Saints; for I am not the God of confusion
but of peace;[1 Corinthians 14:33] which peace consisteth more in true humility
than in self-exaltation.
“Some are drawn by zeal of love to greater affection to these
Saints or those; but this is human affection rather than divine.
I am He Who made all the Saints: I gave them grace, I brought
them glory; I know the merits of every one; I prevented them with
the blessings of My goodness.[Psalm 21:3] I foreknew my beloved ones from
everlasting, I chose them out of the world; they did not
choose Me.[John 15:19] I called them by My grace, drew them by My mercy, led
them on through sundry temptations. I poured mighty consolations
upon them, I gave them perseverance, I crowned their patience.
“I acknowledge the first and the last; I embrace all with
inestimable love. I am to be praised in all My Saints; I am to
be blessed above all things, and to be honoured in every one whom
I have so gloriously exalted and predestined, without any
preceding merits of their own. He therefore that shall despise
one of the least of these My people, honoureth not the great;
because I made both small and great.[Wisdom 6:8] And he who speaketh
against any of My Saints speaketh against Me, and against all
others in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
They are all one through the bond of charity; they think the
same thing, will the same thing, and all are united in love one
to another.
“But yet (which is far better) they love Me above themselves
and their own merits. For being caught up above themselves, and
drawn beyond self-love, they go all straightforward to the love
of Me, and they rest in Me in perfect enjoyment. There is
nothing which can turn them away or press them down; for being
full of Eternal Truth, they burn with the fire of
inextinguishable charity. Therefore let all carnal and natural
men hold their peace concerning the state of the Saints, for they
know nothing save to love their own personal enjoyment. They
take away and add according to their own inclination, not as it
pleaseth the Eternal Truth.
“In many men this is ignorance; chiefly is it so in those who,
being little enlightened, rarely learn to love any one with
perfect spiritual love. They are still much drawn by natural
affection and human friendship to these or to those: and as they
reckon of themselves in lower matters, so also do they frame
imaginations of things heavenly. But there is an immeasurable
difference between those things which they imperfectly imagine,
and these things which enlightened men behold through
supernatural revelation.
“Take heed, therefore, My son, that thou treat not curiously
those things which surpass thy knowledge, but rather make this
thy business and give attention to it, namely, that thou seek to
be found, even though it be the least, in the Kingdom of God.
And even if any one should know who were holier than others, or
who were held greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; what should that
knowledge profit him, unless through this knowledge he should
humble himself before Me, and should rise up to give greater
praise unto My name? He who considereth how great are his own
sins, how small his virtues, and how far he is removed from the
perfection of the Saints, doeth far more acceptably in the sight
of God, than he who disputeth about their greatness or
“They are altogether well content, if men would learn to be
content, and to refrain from vain babbling. They glory not of
their own merits, seeing they ascribe no good unto themselves,
but all unto Me, seeing that I of my infinite charity have given
them all things. They are filled with so great love of the
Divinity, and with such overflowing joy, that no glory is lacking
to them, neither can any felicity be lacking. All the Saints,
the higher they are exalted in glory, the humbler are they in
themselves, and the nearer and dearer are they unto Me. And so
thou hast it written that they cast their crowns before God and
fell on their faces before the Lamb, and worshipped Him that
liveth for ever and ever.[Rev. 4:10; 5:14]
“Many ask who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, who know
not whether they shall be worthy to be counted among the least.
It is a great thing to be even the least in Heaven, where all are
great, because all shall be called, and shall be, the sons of
God. A little one shall become a thousand, but the sinner being
an hundred years old shall be accursed. For when the disciples
asked who should be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, they
received no other answer than this, Except ye be converted and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of
Heaven. But whosoever shall humble himself as this little child,
the same shall be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”[Matt. 18:3]
Woe unto them who disdain to humble themselves willingly with
the little children; for the low gate of the kingdom of Heaven
will not suffer them to enter in. Woe also to them who are rich,
who have their consolation here;[Philippians 2:21] because whilst the poor
enter into the kingdom of God, they shall stand lamenting
without. Rejoice ye humble, and exult ye poor, for yours is the
kingdom of God if only ye walk in the truth.

Recommended version: 

Concerning the Nature of Spiritual Perception

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.

Perceptions in the field of noetic reality do not persist within the psyche in the same way as do representations gained through sense-perception. While it is true that such perceptions may be usefully compared with the ideas of memory, on the lines indicated in Section II, their station within the psyche is nevertheless not the same as that of its memories. This is because what is experienced as spiritual perception cannot be preserved there in its immediate form. If a man wishes to have the same noetic perception over again, he must occasion it anew within the psyche. In other words the psyche's relation to the corresponding noetic reality must be deliberately re-established. And this renewal is not to be compared with the remembering of a sense impression, but solely with the bringing into view once more of the same sense object as was there on the occasion of the former impression.
What can, within the memory, be retained of an actual spiritual perception is not the perception itself but the disposition of soul through which one attained to that perception. If my object is to repeat a spiritual perception which I had some while back, it is no use my trying to remember it. What I should try to remember is something that will call back the psychic preparations that led me to the perception in the first place. Perception then occurs through a process that does not depend on me.
It is important to be very conscious of this dual nature of the whole proceeding, because it is only in that way that one gains authentic knowledge of what is in fact objective spirit. Thereafter, it is true, the duality is modified for practical purposes, through the circumstance that the content of the spiritual perception can be carried over from the intuitive into ordinary-level consciousness. Then, within the latter, it becomes an abstract idea. And this can be later recollected in the ordinary manner. Nevertheless, in order to acquire a reliable psychic relation to the spiritual world, it is a very great advantage to cultivate assiduously the knowledge of three rather subtly differentiated mental processes: 1, psychic, or soul, processes leading up to a spiritual perception; 2, spiritual perceptions themselves; 3, spiritual perceptions translated into the concepts of ordinary consciousness.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

 Come, thou Fount of every blessing, 
 tune my heart to sing thy grace; 
 streams of mercy, never ceasing, 
 call for songs of loudest praise. 
 Teach me some melodious sonnet, 
 sung by flaming tongues above. 
 Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, 
 mount of thy redeeming love. 

 Here I raise mine Ebenezer; 
 hither by thy help I'm come; 
 and I hope, by thy good pleasure, 
 safely to arrive at home. 
 Jesus sought me when a stranger, 
 wandering from the fold of God; 
 he, to rescue me from danger, 
 interposed his precious blood. 

 O to grace how great a debtor 
 daily I'm constrained to be! 
 Let thy goodness, like a fetter, 
 bind my wandering heart to thee. 
 Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, 
 prone to leave the God I love; 
 here's my heart, O take and seal it, 
 seal it for thy courts above. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory

Rudolf Steiner, June 16, 1921:

Today we have come so far that we see a polemic unfolding when it is pointed out that the words in the Lord's Prayer, 'thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen,' inwardly, soul-spiritually, signify Christ, while outwardly what is meant is what corresponds to him in the outer environment: namely the Sun. What this means is that, if we want to summarize the trinity of the kingdom, the power, and the glory outwardly, we say, 'for thine is the Sun'; and if we want to contemplate what is inner and soul-spiritual, we address the Father God, who persists and subsists, and say, 'for thine is the Son, Christ Jesus. He is with you.'

Source: First Steps in Religious Renewal, p. 169

Image: The Isenheim Altar by Gottfried Richter

Bringing in the sheaves

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.  Psalm 126:5-6

Concerning Abstraction

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.

On page 35 the expression “benumbing” (Herablähmung) is used of representations as they turn into imitations of sensory reality. It is in this “benumbing” that we must locate the positive event that underlies the phase of abstraction in the process of cognition. The mind forms concepts of sensory reality. For any theory of knowledge the question is how that which it retains within itself as concept of a real being or event is related to such real being or event. Has the somewhat that I carry around in me as the concept of a wolf any relation at all to a particular reality, or is it simply a schema that I have constructed for myself by withdrawing my attention (abstracting) from anything peculiar to this wolf or that wolf, and to which nothing in the real world corresponds? This question received extensive treatment in the medieval conflict between Nominalism and Realism: for the Nominalists nothing about the world is real except the visible materials extant in it as a single individual — flesh, blood, bones, and so forth. The concept “wolf” is “merely” a conceptual aggregate of the properties common to different wolves. To this the Realist objects: any material found in an individual wolf is also to be found in other animals. There must then be something that disposes the materials into the living coherence they exhibit in the wolf. This constituent reality is given by way of the concept. It cannot be denied that Vincent Knauer, the distinguished specialist in Aristotelian and medieval philosophy, has something, when he says in his book, Fundamental Problems of Philosophy (Die Hauptprobleme der Philosophie, Vienna, 1892):
A wolf, for instance, consists of no different material constituents than a lamb; its material corporeality is composed of assimilated lambs' flesh; yet the wolf does not become a lamb even if it eats nothing but lambs all its life. Whatever it is that makes it wolf, therefore, must obviously be something other than the “Kyle”, the sensory material, and that something, moreover, cannot possibly be a mere “thought-thing” even though it is accessible to thought alone, and not to the senses. It must be something active, therefore actual, therefore eminently real.
How after all does one get around this objection on a strictly anthropological view of what constitutes reality? It is not what is transmitted through the senses that produces the concept “wolf”. On the other hand that concept, as present in ordinary-level consciousness, is certainly nothing effective. Merely by the energy of that concept the conformation of the “sensory” materials contained in a wolf could certainly not be brought about. The fact is that, with this question, anthropology comes up against one of its frontiers of knowledge. — Anthroposophy demonstrates that, besides the relation of man to wolf, which is there in the sensory field, there is another relation as well. This latter does not, in its immediate specificity, reach into ordinary-level consciousness. But it does subsist as a living continuity between the human mind and the sensuously observed object. The vitality that subsists in the mind by virtue of this continuity is by the systematic understanding subdued, or benumbed, to a “concept”. An abstract idea is a reality defunct, to enable its representation in ordinary-level consciousness, a reality in which the human being does in fact live in the process of sense perception, but which does not become a conscious part of his life. The abstractness of ideas is brought about by an inner necessity of the psyche. Reality furnishes man with a living content. Of this living content he puts to death that part which invades his ordinary consciousness. He does so because he could not achieve self-consciousness as against the outer world if he were compelled to experience, in all its vital flux, his continuity with that world. Without the paralyzing of this vital flow, the human being could only know himself as a scion comprised within a unity extending beyond the limits of his humanity; he would be an organ of a larger organism.
The manner in which the mind suffers its cognitive process to peter out into the abstractness of concepts is not determined by a reality external to itself. It is determined by the laws of development of man’s own existence, which laws demand that, in the process of perception, he subdue his vital continuity with the outer world down to those abstract concepts that are the foundation whereon his self-consciousness grows and increases. That this is the case becomes evident to the mind, once it has developed its organs of spirit. By this means that living continuity with a spiritual reality lying outside the individual, which was referred to on pp. 38/9, is reconstituted. But, unless self-consciousness had been purchased in the first place from ordinary-level consciousness, it could not be amplified to intuitive consciousness. It follows that a healthy ordinary-level consciousness is a sine qua non of intuitive consciousness. Anyone who supposes that he can develop an intuitive consciousness without a healthy and active ordinary-level consciousness is making a very great mistake. On the contrary, normal and everyday consciousness has to accompany an intuitive consciousness at every single moment. Otherwise self-consciousness will be impaired and disorder introduced into the mind’s relation to reality. It is to this kind of consciousness alone that anthroposophy looks for intuitive cognition; not to any sedating of ordinary-level consciousness.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

Unenlightened thinking makes Keanu sad

Kurt Vonnegut:  "Scientific truth was going to make us so happy and comfortable. What actually happened when I was twenty-one was that we dropped scientific truth on Hiroshima."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Mystery Solved

From the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, published in 1789:

I have often asked many of the men slaves (who used to go several miles to their wives, and late in the night, after having been wearied with a hard day's labour) why they went so far for wives, and why they did not take them of their own master's negro women, and particularly those who lived together as household slaves? Their answers have ever been — "Because when the master or mistress choose to punish the women, they make the husbands flog their own wives, and that they could not bear to do."

The Prayer of Saint Francis

                              Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
                              Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
                              where there is injury, pardon;
                              where there is doubt, faith;
                              where there is despair, hope;
                              where there is darkness, light;
                              and where there is sadness, joy.

                              O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
                              to be consoled as to console;
                              to be understood as to understand;
                              to be loved as to love.
                              For it is in giving that we receive;
                              it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
                              and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The evil of class privilege

Rudolf Steiner:  "Whoever works in a social organism which is based on the division of labor never really earns his income by himself; he earns it through the work of all the participants in the social organism. A tailor who makes his own coat does not do so in the same sense as a person living in a primitive society who must provide for all his necessities himself. He makes the coat in order to be able to make clothes for others; and the coat's value for him depends on the others' work performance. The coat is actually a means of production. Some would call this hair-splitting. They cannot, however, continue to hold this opinion as soon as they observe how commodity values form in the economic process. They then see that it is not even possible to work for oneself in an economic organism based on the division of labor. One can work only for others, and let others work for oneself. One can no more work for oneself than one can devour oneself. However, arrangements may be made which are in contradiction to the principle of the division of labor. This occurs when goods are produced merely in order to turn over to an individual as property what he is able to produce only because of his position in the social organism. The division of labor exerts pressure on the social organism which has the effect of causing the individual in it to live according to the conditions prevalent in the overall organism; economically, it precludes egoism. Should egoism be present nevertheless in the form of class privilege and the like, an untenable situation arises which leads to severe disturbances in the social organism. We are living under such conditions today."

Heard yesterday on the streets of Baltimore

Paradise Lost, 2:329-340

What sit we then projecting peace and Warr?
Warr hath determin'd us, and foild with loss
Irreparable; tearms of peace yet none
Voutsaf't or sought; for what peace will be giv'n
To us enslav'd, but custody severe,
And stripes, and arbitrary punishment
Inflicted? and what peace can we return,
But to our power hostility and hate,
Untam'd reluctance, and revenge though slow,
Yet ever plotting how the Conqueror least
May reap his conquest, and may least rejoyce
In doing what we most in suffering feel?

Concerning the Limits of Knowledge

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.
The inner nature of man demands that he experience his relation with ultimate reality. Among thinkers who pursue this goal with untiring energy we find a large number discoursing on certain “boundaries” of knowledge. And if we listen attentively, we cannot help noticing how collision with these boundaries, when it is experienced by a candid mind, tends in the direction of an inner psychic apprehension, a “purely noetic experience” such as was indicated in the first paragraph of this book. Consider how the profoundly able mind of Friedrich Theodor Vischer, in the packed essay he wrote on Johannes Volkelt’s book Dream-Phantasy (Traumphantasie), reports its own reaction to one such limit of cognition:
“No mind where no nerve-centre, where no brain”, say our opponents. No nerve-centre, we say, no brain unless it had been first prepared for by innumerable stages from below upwards. It is easy to babble, with a sneer, about Mind careering through granite and chalk — just as easy as it is for us to ask, with a sneer, how the albumen in the brain flies up aloft into ideas. Human knowledge is extinguished at any attempt to span the distance from one step to the other.
It will remain a secret how it comes about that nature — beneath which spirit must somehow or other be slumbering — presents itself as such a backlash of spirit that we bruise ourselves on it. The diremption appears so absolute that Hegel’s formulation of it as “Being other” and “Being outside itself”, brilliant as it is, says almost nothing; it simply drapes the abruptness of the party wall. We may look to Fichte for a really adequate acknowledgment of the abruption and of the shock of the backlash, but we still find no explanation of it. (Compare F. T. Vischer: “Old and New” (Altes und Neues), 1881, Part I, p. 229 f.)
Vischer lays his finger on the kind of issue with which anthroposophy too engages. But he fails to realize that precisely at such a frontier of knowledge as this, another mode of knowledge can begin. He desires to go on living on these frontiers with the same brand of cognition that sufficed until he reached them. Anthroposophy seeks to demonstrate that the possibility of systematic knowledge (science) does not cease at the point where ordinary cognition “bruises” itself, at the point where this “abruption” and these “shocks” from the backlash make themselves felt; but that, on the contrary, the experiences that ensue from them lead naturally toward the development of another type of cognition, which transforms the backlash into perception of spirit — a perception which at the outset, in its initial stage, may be compared with tactile perception in the realm of the senses.
In Part III of Altes und Neues Vischer says: “Very well: there is no soul alongside of the body (he means, for the materialists); what we call matter simply becomes soul at the highest level of organization known to us, in the brain, and soul evolves to mind or spirit. In other words, we are to be satisfied with a half-baked concept, which for the divisive understanding is a simple contradiction.” Anthroposophy echoes and supplements this with: Very well: for the divisive understanding there is a contradiction. But for the soul, the contradiction becomes the point of departure of a knowledge before which the divisive understanding is pulled up short, because it encounters the backlash of actual spirit.
Again, Gideon Spicker, the author of a series of discerning publications, who also wrote Philosophical Confession of a Former Capuchin (Philosophische Bekenntnis eines ehemaligen Kapuziners, 1910) identifies incisively enough one of the confining limits of ordinary cognition:
Whatever philosophy a man confesses, whether it is dogmatic or sceptical, empirical or transcendental, critical or eclectic, every one, without exception, starts from an unproven and unprovable premise, namely the necessity of thinking. No investigation ever gets behind this necessity, however deep it may dig. It has to be simply, and groundlessly, accepted; every attempt to prove its validity already presupposes it. Beneath it yawns a bottomless abyss, a ghastly darkness, illuminated by no ray of light. We know not whence that necessity comes, nor whither it leads. As to whether a gracious God or whether an evil demon implanted it in the reason, we are equally uncertain. (p. 30.)
Reflection on the nature of thought, then, leads of itself to one of the frontiers of normal cognition. Anthroposophy occupies this frontier; it knows how necessity confronts and blocks discursive thought like an impenetrable wall. But when the act of thinking is experienced as such, the wall becomes penetrable. This experienced thinking finds a light of contemplation wherewith to illuminate the “darkness illuminated by no ray of light” of merely discursive thought. It is only for the dominion of the senses that the abyss is bottomless; if we do not halt before it, but make up our minds to risk going ahead with thought, beyond the point at which it has to jettison all that the senses have furnished to it, then in that “bottomless abyss” we find the realities of the spirit.
One could continue almost indefinitely exemplifying the reaction of serious minds before the “frontiers of knowledge”. And it would serve to show that anthroposophy has its proper place as the inevitable product of mental evolution in the modern age. There are plenty of prophetic signs, if we know how to read them.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

Monday, April 27, 2015

The secret of progress for the future of humankind

The Himalayan Institute, Honesdale, Pa.

Rudolf Steiner:  ""This is the secret of progress for the future of humankind: to work out of communities. . . . As little as an eye is still an eye if it is torn out of one's head, so little is a human soul a human soul if it is separated from community. You will see that we educate our talents best if we live in sisterly and brotherly community, that we live most intensely if we are rooted in the totality. Of course, we have to wait till that which forms roots in the totality ripens to fruit in quiet inwardness. We may not lose ourselves into the outside world nor into ourselves, because it is true in the highest spiritual sense what the poet said: that one has to be quiet in oneself if one's faculties are to appear, but those faculties are rooted in the world. We are only able to strengthen them and to improve ourselves if we live in community, because it is true in the sense of genuine mutual help that working in a sisterly and brotherly way makes us strongest in the fight for survival, and we will find most of our powers in the stillness of our hearts if we develop our total personality, our total individuality, in community with our human sisters and brothers. It is true that a talent is formed in quietude. It is also true that in the stream of the world, character is formed — and with it the whole of one's being and the totality of humanity."

Related post:
The Surrendered Life: 34 Years at the Himalayan Institute


To find oneself in spirit

    Means to unite human beings.

To behold oneself in one another

    Means to build worlds.

                     — Rudolf Steiner

"The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship" — William Blake

Rudolf Steiner: "When someone is alone, Christ is not there. You cannot find Christ without first feeling a connection to humanity as a whole. You must seek Christ on the path that connects you with all humankind.... To be connected only with your own inner experiences leads you away from Christ."

The Living Wall

To find oneself in spirit
    Means to unite human beings.
To behold oneself in one another
    Means to build worlds.

                     — Rudolf Steiner

Ernst Lehrs:  "In order to characterize the nature of a real community, Dr. Steiner recalled in one of the beginning discussions how Hermann Grimm spoke of the friendship between Goethe and Schiller. If we wanted to express this friendship in a mathematical formula, we would not say 'G + S' but rather '(G + S) + (S + G).' A true community is more than the mere sum of its members. To what two such people represent, there comes a new, third element in addition."


Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sunburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity

You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Twining Eternally
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
Radiant Calvary
Ultimate Mystery

The Philosophical Bearing of Anthroposophy

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.
No one who aims at achieving a radical relation between his own thought and contemporary philosophical ideas can avoid the issue, raised in the first paragraph of this book, of the existential status of the psyche. This he will have to justify not only to himself, but also in the light of those ideas. Now, many people do not feel this need, since they are acquainted with the authentically psychic through immediate inner experience (Erleben) and know how to distinguish that from the psychic apprehension (Erfahren) effected through the senses. It strikes them as an unnecessary, perhaps an irritating, intellectual hair-splitting. And if they are positively averse, the more philosophically minded are often unwilling for a different reason. They are unwilling to concede to inner soul experiences any other status than that of subjective apprehensions without cognitive significance. They are little disposed therefore to ransack their philosophical concepts for those elements in them that could lead on to anthroposophical ideas. These repugnances, coming from opposite sides, make the exposition extraordinarily difficult. But it is necessary. For in our time the only kind of ideas to which cognitive validity can be assigned are such as will bear the same kind of critical examination as the laws of natural science must satisfy, before they can claim to have been established.
To establish, epistemologically, the validity of anthroposophical ideas, it is first of all necessary to conceive as precisely as possible the manner in which they are experienced. This can be done in several very different ways. Let us attempt to describe two of them. The first way requires that we observe the phenomenon of memory. Rather a weak point incidentally in current philosophical theory; for the concepts we find there concerning memory throw very little light on it. I take my departure from ideas which I have, in point of fact, reached by anthroposophical methods, but which can be fully supported both philosophically and physiologically. Limitations of space will not permit of my making good this assertion in the present work. I hope to do so in a future one. I am convinced, however, that anyone who succeeds in candidly surveying the findings of modern physiological and psychological science will find that they support the following observations.
Representations stimulated by sense-impressions enter the field of unconscious human experience. From there they can be brought up again, remembered. Representations themselves are a purely psychic reality; but awareness of them in normal waking life is somatically conditioned. Moreover the psyche, bound up as it is with the body, cannot by using its own forces raise representations from their unconscious to their conscious condition. For that it requires the forces of the body. To the end of normal memory the body has to function, just as the body has to function in the processes of its sense organs in order to bring about representations through the senses. If I am to represent a sensory event, a somatic activity must first come about within the sense organs; and, within the psyche, the representation appears as its result. In the same way, if I am to remember a representation or idea, an inner somatic activity (in refined organs), an activity polarically counter to the activity of the senses, must occur; and, as a result, the remembered representation comes forth. This representation is related to a sensory event which was presented to my soul at some time in the past. I represent that event to myself through an inner experience, to which my somatic organization enables me.
Keep clearly in mind the character of such a memory-presentation, and with its help you approach the character of anthroposophical ideas. They are certainly not memory-presentations, but they issue in the psyche in a similar way. Many people, anxious to form ideas about the spiritual world in a less subtle way, find this disappointing. But the spiritual world cannot be experienced any more solidly than a happening in the sense world apprehended in the past but no longer present to the sight. In the case of memory we have seen that our ability to remember such a happening comes from the energy of the somatic organization. To the experience of the existentially psychic, on the other hand, as distinct from that of memory, this energy can make no contribution. Instead, the soul must awaken in itself the ability to accomplish with certain representations what the body accomplishes with the representations of the senses when it implements their recall. The former — elicited from the depths of the psyche solely through the energy of the psyche, as memory-presentations are elicited from the depths of human nature through its somatic organization — are representations related to the spiritual world. They are available to every soul. What has to be won, in order to become aware of them, is the energy to elicit them from the depths of the psyche by a purely psychic activity. As the remembered representations of the senses are related to a past sense-impression, so are these others related to a nexus between the psyche and the domain of spirit, a nexus which is not via the sense-world. The human soul stands toward the spiritual world as the whole human being stands toward a forgotten actuality. It comes to the knowledge of that world if it brings, to the point where they awake, energies which are similar to those bodily forces that promote memory. Thus, ideas of the authentically psychic depend for their philosophical validation on the kind of inquiry into the life within us that leads us to find there an activity purely psychic, which yet resembles in some ways the activity exerted in remembering.
A second way of forming a concept of the purely psychic is as follows. The attention may be directed to what anthropological observation has to say about the willing (operant) human being. An impulse of will that is to be carried into effect has as its ground the mental representation of what is to be willed. The dependence of this representation on the bodily organization (nervous system) can be physiologically discerned. Bound up with the representation there is a nuance of feeling, an affective sympathy with the represented, which is the reason why this representation furnishes the impulse for a willed act. But from that point on psychic experience disappears into the depths; and the first thing that reappears in consciousness is the result. What is next represented, in fact, is the movement we make in order to achieve the represented goal. (Theodor Ziehen puts all this very clearly in his physiological psychology.) We can now perhaps see how, in the case of a willed act, the conscious process of mental representation is suspended in regard to the central moment of willing itself. That which is psychically experienced in the willing of an operation executed through the body does not penetrate normal consciousness. But we do see plainly enough that that willing is realized through an act of the body. What is much harder to see is that the psyche, when it is observing the laws of logic and seeking the truth by connecting ideas together, is also unfolding will — will which is not to be circumscribed within physiological laws. For, if that were so, it would be impossible to distinguish an illogical — or simply an a-logical — chain of ideas from one which follows the laws of logic. (Superficial chatter around the fancy that logical consequence could be a property the mind acquires through adapting itself to the outer world need not be taken seriously.) In this willing, which takes place entirely within the psyche, and which leads to logically grounded convictions, we can detect the permeation of the soul by an entirely spiritual activity.
Of what goes on in the will when it is directed outwards, ordinary ideation knows as little as a man knows of himself when he is asleep. Something similar is true of his being regulated by logic in the formation of his convictions; he is less fully conscious of this than he is of the actual content of such convictions. Nevertheless anyone capable of looking inward, albeit only in the anthropological mode, will be able to form a concept of the co-presence of this being-regulated-by-logic to normal consciousness. He will come to realize that the human being knows of this being-regulated, in the manner that he knows while dreaming. It is paradoxical but perfectly correct to say: normal consciousness knows the content of its convictions; but it only dreams of the regulation by logic that is extant in the pursuit of these convictions. Thus we see that, in ordinary-level consciousness, the human being sleeps through his willing, when he unfolds and exercises his will in an outward direction; he dreams his willing, when, in his thinking, he is seeking for convictions. Only it is clear that, in the latter instance, what he dreams of cannot be anything corporeal, for otherwise logical and physiological laws would coincide. The concept to be grasped is that of the willing that lives in the mental pursuit of truth. That is also the concept of an existentially psychic.
From both of these epistemological approaches, in the sense of anthroposophy, to the concept of the existentially psychic (and they are not the only possible ones), it becomes evident how sharply this concept is divorced from visions, hallucinations, mediumship, or any kind of abnormal psychic activity. For the origin of all these abnormalities must be sought in the physiologically determinable. But the psychic, as anthroposophy understands it, is not only something that is experienced in the mode of normal and healthy consciousness; it is something that is experienced, even while representations are being formed, in total vigilance — and is experienced in the same way that we remember a happening undergone earlier in life, or alternatively in the same way that we experience the logically conditioned formation of our convictions. It will be seen that the cognitive experience of anthroposophy proceeds by way of representations and ideas that maintain the character of that normal consciousness with which, as well as with reality, the external world endows us; while at the same time they add to it endowments leading into the domain of the spirit. By contrast the visionary, hallucinatory, etc. type of experience subsists in a consciousness that adds nothing to the norm, but actually takes away from it by eliminating some faculties already acquired; so that there the level of consciousness falls below the level that obtains in conscious sense-perception.
For those of my readers who are acquainted with what I have written elsewhere concerning recollection and memory I would add the following. Representations that have entered the unconscious and are subsequently remembered are to be located, so long as they remain unconscious, as representations within that component of the human body which is there identified as a life-body (etheric body). But the activity through which representations anchored in the life-body are remembered, belongs to the physical body. I emphasize this in case some, who jump hastily to conclusions, should construe as an inconsistency what is in fact a distinction made necessary by this particular context.


From GA21, Riddles of the Soul. Available from Mercury Press:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Doors of Perception

“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.”  — William Blake

Matter is a heap of ruins of the spirit

Rudolf Steiner: "Matter is a heap of ruins of the spirit.... Matter everywhere can be called broken spirituality. Matter is indeed nothing else than spirit, but spirit in a broken-up condition."


"My kingdom is not of this world"

"All the representations and ideas that are related by the mind to an outer sense reality are inner spiritual experiences whose life has been suppressed."   — Rudolf Steiner

The Case for Anthroposophy: Anthropology and Anthroposophy

From Riddles of the Soul, a collection of essays published by Rudolf Steiner in 1917

In Max Dessoir’s book From Beyond the Soul there is a brief section in which the systematic noetic investigation, or spiritual science, called “anthroposophical” and associated with my name, is stigmatized as scientifically untenable. Now it might well be argued that any dialogue between someone with the scientific outlook of Dessoir and an upholder of this anthroposophical method must be a waste of time. For the latter necessarily posits a field of purely noetic experience which the former categorically denies and relegates to the realm of fantasy. Apparently, then, one can speak of spiritual science and its findings only to someone who is antecedently convinced of the factuality of that field.
This would be true enough if the spokesman for anthroposophy had nothing to bring forward but his own inner personal experiences, and if he then simply set these up alongside the findings of a science based on sensory observation and the scientific elaboration thereof. You could then say: the professor of science, so defined, must refuse to regard the experiences of the spiritual researcher as realities; the latter can only expect to impress those who have already adopted his own standpoint.
And yet this conclusion depends on a misconception of what I mean by anthroposophy. It is quite true that anthroposophy relies on psychic apprehensions that are dependent neither on sense-impressions nor on scientific propositions based on these and these alone. It must be conceded therefore that prima facie the two types of apprehension are divided from one another by an unbridgable gulf. Nevertheless this turns out not to be the case. There is a common ground on which the two methodologies may properly encounter one another and on which debate is possible concerning the findings of both. It may be characterized as follows.
The spokesman for anthroposophy maintains, on the basis of apprehensions that are not merely his private and personal experiences, that the process of human cognition can be further developed after a certain fixed point, a point beyond which scientific research, relying solely on sensory observation and inference therefrom, refuses to go. To avoid a lot of tedious paraphrases I propose, in what follows, to designate the methodology based on sensory observation and its subsequent inferential elaboration by the term “anthropology”; requesting the reader’s indulgence for this abnormal usage. It will be employed throughout strictly with that reference. Anthroposophical research, then, reckons to begin from where anthropology leaves off.
The spokesman for anthropology limits himself to the method of relating his experience of concepts of the understanding with his experience through the senses. The spokesman for anthroposophy realizes the fact that these concepts are capable (irrespective of the circumstance that they are to be related to sense impressions) of opening a life of their own within the psyche. Further, that by the unfolding of this energy they effect a development in the psyche itself. And he has learnt how the psyche, if it pays the requisite attention to this process, makes the discovery that organs of spirit are disclosing their presence there. (In employing the expression ‘organs of spirit” I adopt, and extend, the linguistic usage of Goethe, who referred to “spiritual eyes” and “spiritual ears” in expounding his philosophical position). These organs amount to formations in the psyche analogous to what the sense-organs are in the body. It goes without saying that they are to be understood as exclusively psychic. Any attempt to connect them with some kind of somatic formation must be ruled out as far as anthroposophy is concerned. Spiritual organs are to be conceived as never in any manner departing from the psychic and entering the texture of the somatic. Any such encroachment is, for anthroposophy, a pathological formation with which it will have nothing whatever to do. And the whole manner in which the development of these organs is conceived should be enough to satisfy a bona fide enquirer that, on the subject of illusions, visions, hallucinations, and so forth, the ideas of anthroposophy are the same as those that are normally accepted in anthropology. When the findings of anthroposophy are equated with abnormal experiences, miscalled “psychic” or “psychical”, the argument is invariably based on misunderstanding or on an insufficient acquaintance with what anthroposophy actually maintains. Moreover no one who had followed with a modicum of penetration the manner in which anthroposophy treats of the development of spiritual organs could possibly slip into the notion of its being a path that could lead to pathological syndromes. On the contrary, given such penetration, it will be realized that all the stages of psychic apprehension which a human being, according to anthroposophy, experiences in his progress toward intuition of spirit, lie in a domain exclusively psychic; so that sensory experience and normal intellectual activity continue alongside of them unaltered from what they were before this territory was opened up. The plethora of misunderstandings that are current upon this aspect of anthroposophical cognition arise from the fact that many people have difficulty in focusing their attention on what is purely and distinctively psychic. The power to form ideas fails them, unless it is supported by some surreptitious reference to sensory phenomena. Failing that, their mental capacity wilts, and ideation sinks to an energy-level below that of dreaming — to the level of dreamless sleep, where it is no longer conscious. It may be said that the consciousness of such minds is congested with the after-effects, or the actual effects, of sense-impressions; and this congestion entails a corresponding slumber of all that would be recognized as psychic, if it could be seized at all. It is even true to say that many minds approach the properly psychic with hopeless misunderstanding precisely because they are unable, when it confronts them, to stay awake, as they do when they are confronted by the sensory content of consciousness. Such is the predicament of all in whom the faculty of vigilant attention is only strong enough for the purposes of everyday life. This sounds surprising, but I would recommend anyone who finds it incredible to ponder carefully a certain objection raised by Brentano against the philosopher William James. “It is necessary,” writes Brentano, “to distinguish between the act of sensing and that upon which the act is directed, and the two are as certainly different from one another as my present recollection of a past event is from the event itself; or, to take an even more drastic example, as my hatred of an enemy is from the object of that hate.” He adds that the error he is nailing does “turn up here and there”, and he continues:
Among others it has been embraced by William James, who endeavoured to establish it in a longish address to the International Congress on Psychology in 1905. Because, when I look into a room, there is evidently not only the room but also my looking; because fancied images of sensible objects only distinguish themselves gradually from objectively stimulated ones; because, finally, we call some bodies beautiful, and yet the difference between beautiful and ugly relates to different emotions — therefore we must stop regarding physical and psychic phenomena as two different classes of appearance! I find it hard to understand how the speaker himself could be unaware of the weakness of these arguments. To appear simultaneously is not to appear as one and the same. For simultaneity is less than identity. That was why Descartes could recommend his readers, without fear of contradiction, to deny, at least to begin with, that the room which I see is, and to hold fast to the-fact-that-I-see-it as the one thing free from doubt. But if the first argument falls to the ground, then obviously the second one does also. For why should it matter that fancy differs from seeing only by the degree of intensity, since even if the degrees of intensity were the same, total similarity between fancying and seeing could prove no more than the similarity of fancying to a psychic phenomenon? Finally there is the argument from beauty. Surely it is a very odd sort of logic which draws from that fact that pleasure in the beautiful is something psychic, the conclusion that that, with the appearance whereof the pleasure is connected, must also be something psychic! If that were so, every displeasure would be identical with what we are displeased about; and a man would have to be very careful not to regret a past mistakes, because the regret (being identical with the mistake) would repeat the mistake itself.
For all these reasons there ought not to be much fear that the authority of James, which he unfortunately shares with that of Mach among German psychologists, will seduce many people into overlooking such a glaring distinction.
All the same, this “overlooking of glaring distinctions” is far from rare. The reason is that our faculty of ideation only operates vigilantly with the somatic component of representation, the sense-impressions; the concurrent psychic factor is present to consciousness only to the feeble extent of experiences had during sleep. The stream of experience comes to us in two currents: one of them is apprehended wakefully; the other, the psychic, is seized concurrently, but only with a degree of awareness similar to the mentality of sleep, that is, with virtually no awareness at all. It is impermissible to ignore the fact that, during ordinary waking life, the psychology of sleep does not simply leave off; it continues alongside our waking experience; so that the specifically psychic only enters the field of perception if the subject is awake not only to the sense world (as is the case with ordinary consciousness), but also to the existentially psychic — which is the case with intuitive consciousness. It makes very little difference whether this latter (the slumber that persists within the waking state) is simply denied on crudely materialistic grounds or whether, with James, it is lumped in with the physical organism. The results in either case are much the same. Both ways lead to ill-starred myopias. Yet we ought not to be surprised that the psychic so often remains unperceived, when even a philosopher like William James is incapable of distinguishing it properly from the physical.
With those who are no better able than James to keep the positively psychic separate from the content of the psyche’s experience through the senses, it is difficult to speak of that part of the soul wherein the development of spiritual organs is observable. Because this development occurs at the very point on which they are incapable of directing attention. And it is just this point that leads from intellectual to intuitive knowledge.
It should be noted, however, that such a capacity to observe the authentically psychic is very elementary; it is the indispensable precondition, but it assures to the mind’s eye no more than the bare possibility of looking whither anthroposophy looks to find the psychic organs. This first glimpse bears the same relation to a soul fully equipped with the spiritual organs of which anthroposophy speaks as an undifferentiated living cell does to a full-blown creature furnished with sense organs. The soul is only conscious of possessing a particular organ of spirit to the extent that it is able to make use of it. For these organs are not something static; they are in continual movement. And when they are not being employed, it is not possible to be conscious of their presence. Thus, their apprehension and their use coincide. The manner in which their development — and, with that, the possibility of observing them — is brought about will be found described in my anthroposophical writings. There is one point, however, I must briefly touch on here.
Anyone given to serious reflection on the experiences occasioned through sense phenomena keeps coming up against questions which that reflection itself is at first inadequate to answer. This leads to the establishment by those who represent anthropology of boundaries of cognition. Recall, for instance, Du Bois-Reymond’s oration on the frontiers of natural knowledge, in which he maintained that man cannot know what is the actual nature of matter or of any elementary phenomenon of consciousness. All he can do is to come to a halt at these points in his reflection and acknowledge to himself: “there are boundaries of knowledge which the human mind cannot cross”. After that there are two possible attitudes he may adopt. He may rest content with the fact that knowledge is only attainable inside this limited zone and that anything outside the fence is the province of feelings, hopes, wishes, inklings. Or he can make a new start and form hypotheses concerning an extrasensory realm. In that case he is making use of the understanding, in the faith that its judgments can be carried into a realm of which the senses perceive nothing. But, in doing so, he puts himself in peril of the agnostic’s objection: that the understanding is not entitled to form judgments concerning a reality for which it lacks the foundation of sense-perception. For it is these alone which could give content to judgments, and without such content concepts are empty.
The attitude of an anthroposophically oriented science of the spirit to boundaries of cognition resembles neither the one nor the other of these. Not the second, because it is in substantial agreement with the view that the mind must lose the whole ground for reflection if it rests satisfied with such ideas as are acquired through the senses and yet seeks to apply these ideas beyond the province of the senses. Not the first, because it realizes that contact with those “boundaries” of knowledge evokes a certain psychic experience that has nothing to do with the content of ideation won from the senses. Certainly, if it is only this content that the mind presents to itself, then it is obliged, on further introspection, to admit: “this content can disclose nothing for cognition except a reproduction of sensory experience”. But it is otherwise if the mind goes a step further and asks itself: What is the nature of its own experience, when it fills itself with the kind of thoughts that are evoked by its contact with the normal boundaries of cognition? The same exercise of introspection may then lead it to say: “I cannot know in the ordinary sense with such thoughts: but if I succeed in inwardly contemplating this very impotence to know, I am made aware of how these thoughts become active in me”. Considered as normally cognitive ideas they remain silent, but as their silence communicates itself more and more to a man’s consciousness, they acquire an inner life of their own, which becomes one with the life of the soul. And then the soul notices that this experience has brought it to a pass that may be compared with that of a blind creature which has not yet done much to cultivate its sense of touch. Initially, such a creature would simply keep on knocking up against things. It would sense the resistance of external realities. But out of this generalized sensation it could develop an inner life informed with a primitive consciousness — no longer a general sensation of collisions, but a consciousness that begins to diversify that sensation, remarking distinctions between hardness and softness, smoothness and roughness, and so forth.
In the same way, the soul is able to undergo, and to diversify, the experience it has with ideas it forms at the boundaries of cognition and to learn from them that those boundaries are simply events that occur when the psyche is stimulated by a touch of the spiritual world. The moment of awareness of such boundaries turns into an experience comparable with tactile experience in the sense world. In what it previously termed boundaries of cognition it now sees a pneumato-psychic stimulus through a spiritual world. And out of the pondered experience it can have with the different boundaries of cognition, the general sense of a world of spirit separates out into a manifold perception thereof.
This is the manner in which the, so to say, humblest mode of perceptibility of the spiritual world becomes experiential. All that has been dealt with so far is the initial opening up of the psyche to the world of spirit, but it does show that anthroposophy, as I use the term, and the noetic experiences it ensues, do not connote all manner of nebulous personal affects, but a methodical development of authentic inner experience. This is not the place to demonstrate further how such inchoate spiritual perception is then improved by further psychic exercises and achievements, so that it becomes legitimate to use the vocabulary of touch in this context, or of other and “higher” modes of perception. For a cognitive psychology of this kind I must refer the reader to my anthroposophical books and articles. My present object is to state the principle basic to “spiritual perception” as it is understood in anthroposophy.
I shall offer one other analogy to illustrate how the whole psychology of anthroposophical spiritual investigation differs from that of anthropology. Look at a few grains of wheat. They can be applied for the purposes of nutrition. Alternatively they can be planted in the soil, so that other wheat plants develop from them. The representations and ideas acquired through sensory experience can be retained in the mind with the effect that what is experienced in them is a reproduction of sensory reality. And they can also be experienced in another way: the energy they evince in the psyche by virtue of what they are, quite apart from the fact that they reproduce phenomena, can be allowed to act itself out. The first way may be compared with what happens to wheat grains when they are assimilated by a living creature as its means of nourishment, the second with the engendering of a new wheat plant through each grain. Of course we must bear in mind that, in the analogy, what is brought forth is a plant similar to the parent plant; whereas from an idea active in the mind the outcome is a force available for the formation of organs of the spirit. It must also be borne in mind that initial awareness of such inner forces can only be kindled by particularly potent ideas, like those “frontiers of knowledge” of which we have been speaking; but when once the mind has been alerted to the presence of such forces, other ideas and representations may also serve, though not quite so well, for further progress in the direction it has now taken.
The analogy illustrates something else that anthroposophical research discovers concerning the actual psychology of mental representation. It is this: Whenever a seed of corn is processed for the purposes of nutrition, it is lifted out of the developmental pattern which is proper to it, and which ends in the formation of a new plant — but so also is a representation, whenever it is applied by the mind in producing a mental copy of sense-perception, diverted from its proper teleological pattern. The corresponding further development proper to a representation is to function as a force in the development of the psyche. Just as little as we find the laws of development built into a plant, if we examine it for its nutritive value, do we find the essential nature of an idea or a representation, when we investigate its adequacy in reproducing for cognition the reality it mediates. That is not to say that no such investigation should be undertaken. It can all be investigated just as much as can the nutritive value of a seed. But then, just as the latter enquiry throws light on something quite different from the developmental laws of plant growth, so does an epistemology which tests representations by the criterion of their value as images for cognition, reach conclusions about something other than the essential nature of ideation. The seed, as such, gave little indication of turning into nourishment: nor does it lie with representations, as such, to deliver copies for cognition. In fact, just as its application as nutriment is something quite external to the seed itself, so is cognitive reproduction irrelevant for representation. The truth is that what the psyche does lay hold of in its representations is its own waxing existence. Only through its own activity does it come about that the representations turn into media for the cognition of some reality.
There remains the question: how do representations turn into media for cognition? Anthroposophical observation, availing itself as it does of spiritual organs, inevitably answers this question differently from epistemological theories that renounce them. Its answer is as follows.

Representations strictly as such — considered as what they themselves originally are — do indeed form part of the life of the soul; but they cannot become conscious there as long as the soul does not consciously use its spiritual organs. So long as they retain their original vitality they remain unconscious. The soul lives by means of them, but it can know nothing of them. They have to suppress (herabdämpfen) their own life in order to become conscious experiences of normal consciousness. This suppression is effected by every sense perception. Consequently, when the mind receives a sense impression, there is a benumbing (Herablähmung) of the life of the representation, and it is this benumbed representation which the psyche experiences as the medium of a cognition of outer reality. All the representations and ideas that are related by the mind to an outer sense reality are inner spiritual experiences whose life has been suppressed. In all our thoughts about an outer world of the senses, we have to do with deadened representations. And yet the life of the representation is not just annihilated; rather it is disjoined from the area of consciousness but continues to subsist in the nonconscious provinces of the psyche. That is where it is found again by the organs of the spirit. Just as the deadened ideas of the soul can be related to the sense world, so can the living ideas apprehended by spiritual organs be related to the spiritual world. But “boundary” concepts of the kind spoken of above, by their very nature, refuse to be deadened. Consequently they resist being related to any sense reality. And for that reason they become points of departure for spiritual perception.
In my anthroposophical writings I have applied the term “imaginal” to representations that are apprehended by the psyche as living. It is a misunderstanding to confound the reference of this word with the form of expression (imagery) which has to be employed in order to analogously suggest such representations. What the word does mean may be elucidated in the following manner. If someone has a sense-perception while the outer object is impressing him, then the perception has a certain inner potency for him. If he turns away from the object, then he can re-present it to himself in a purely internal representation. But the intrinsic strength of the representation has now been reduced. Compared with the representation effected in the presence of the object, it is more or less shadowy. If he wants to enliven these shadowy representations of ordinary consciousness, he impregnates them with echoes of actual contemplation. He converts the representation into a visual image. Now such images are no other than the joint effects of representation and sensory life combined. But the “imaginal” representations of anthroposophy are not effected in this way at all. In order to bring them to pass, the soul must be familiar with the inner process that combines psychic representation with sense-impression, so familiar that it can hold at arm's length the influx of the sense-impressions themselves (or of their echoes in after-experience) into the act of representing. This keeping at bay of post-sense-experiences can only be achieved if the person has detected the way in which the activity of representing is pre-empted by these after-experiences. Not until then is he in a position to combine his spiritual organs with the act itself and thereby to receive impressions of spiritual reality.
Thus the act of representing is impregnated from quite another side than in the case of sense-perception. And thus the mental experiences are positively different from those evoked by sense-perception. And yet they are not beyond all possibility of expression. They may be expressed by the following means. When a man perceives the color yellow, he has an experience that is not simply optical but is also affective and empathetic, an experience of the nature of feeling. It may be more or less pronounced in different human beings, but it is never wholly absent. There is a beautiful chapter in Goethe’s Farbenlehre on the “sensuous-moral effect of colors”, in which he has described with great penetration the emotional by-effects for red, yellow, green, and so forth. Now when the mind perceives something from a particular province of the spirit, it may happen that this spiritual perception has the same emotional by-effect as the sensory perception of yellow. The man knows that he is having this or that spiritual experience; and what he has before him in the representation is of course not the same as in a representation of the color yellow. But he does have, as emotional by-effect, the same inner experience as when the color yellow is before his eyes. He may then aver that he perceives the spirit experience as “yellow”. Of course he could choose to be more precise, always being careful to say: “the mind apprehends somewhat that affects the soul rather as the color yellow affects it”. But such elaborate verbal precautions ought to be unnecessary for anyone who is already acquainted through anthroposophical literature with the process leading to spiritual perception. This literature gives a clear enough warning that the reality open to spiritual perception does not confront the organ of spirit after the fashion of an attenuated sense-object or event, nor in such a way that it could be rendered in ideas that are intuitions of sense (sinnlich-anschauliche) as commonly understood.
Just as the mind becomes acquainted through its spiritual organs with the spiritual world outside of a man, so does it come to know the spirit-being of the man himself. Anthroposophy observes this spirit-being as a member of the spiritual world. It proceeds from observation of a part of the spiritual world to ideas of human being which represent to it the spiritual man as he reveals himself in the human body. Anthropology, too, coming from the opposite direction, proceeds to ideas of human being. Once anthroposophy has reached the stage of developing the methods of observation already described, it attains to intuitions concerning the spiritual core of the human being as that reveals itself, within the sense-world, in the body. The acme of this self-revelation is the consciousness that permits sense-impressions to persist in the form of representations. Proceeding, as it does, from experiences of the extra-human spiritual world to the human being, anthroposophy finds the latter subsisting in a sensuous body and, within that body, developing the consciousness of sensible reality. The last thing it reaches is the soul’s activity in representation which is expressible in coherent imagery. Thereafter, and at the end, so to speak, of its journey of spiritual investigation, it can extend its gaze further: it can observe how positive activity in representation becomes half-paralyzed through the percipient senses. It is this deadened representation process that anthroposophy sees (illumined from the spirit-side) as characterizing the life of man in the sense-world, in so far as he is a representing being. Its philosophy of man is the final outcome of prior researches conducted purely in the realm of the spirit. Through what has transpired in the course of those researches, it comes at its notion of the human being living in the sense-world.
Anthropology investigates the kingdoms of the sense-world. It also arrives, in due course, at the human being. It sees him combining the facts of the sense-world in his physical organism in such a way that consciousness arises, and that through consciousness outer reality is given in representations. The anthropologist sees these representations as arising out of the human organism. And at that point, observing in that way, he is more or less brought to a halt. He cannot, via anthropology alone, apprehend any inner structural laws in the act of ideation or representation. Anthroposophy, at the end of the journey that has taken its course in spiritual experiencing, continues contemplating the spiritual core of man so far as that manifests itself through the perceptions of the senses. Similarly anthropology, at the end of the journey that has taken its course in the province of the senses, can only continue endeavouring to contemplate the way in which sensuous man acts on his sense-perceptions. In doing so, it discovers that this operation is sustained not by the laws of somatic life, but by the mental laws of logic. But logic is not a region that can be explored in the same fashion as the other regions of anthropological enquiry. Logically ordered thought is answerable to laws that can no longer be termed those of the physical organism. Inasmuch as a man is operating with them, what becomes apparent is the same being whom anthroposophy has encountered at the end of its journey. Only, the anthropologist sees this being after the fashion in which it is illumined from the sense side. He sees the deadened representations, the ideas; he also concedes, in acknowledging the validity of logic, that the laws governing those ideas belong to a world which interlocks with the sense-world, but is not identical with it. In the process of ideation carried on by a logical being, anthropology discovers sensuous man projecting into the spiritual world. By this route it arrives at a philosophy of man as a final outcome of its investigations. Everything that has led up to it is to be found purely in the realm of the senses.
Rightly pursued, therefore, the two approaches, anthroposophical and anthropological, converge and meet in one point. Anthroposophy contributes the image of the living human spirit, showing how, through sense existence, this develops the consciousness that obtains between birth and death, while at the same time its supersensible consciousness is deadened. Anthropology contributes the image of sensuous man, apprehending in the moment of consciousness his selfhood but towering into a subsistence in the spirit that extends beyond birth and death. In this coincidence a genuinely fruitful understanding between anthroposophy and anthropology is possible. It cannot fail, if both disciplines terminate in philosophy and humanity.
Certainly the philosophy of humanity which stems from anthroposophy will furnish an image of man delineated by methods quite other than those of the image furnished by the humanist philosophy stemming from anthropology. Yet close observers of the one image and of the other will find that their ideas accord, as the negative plate of a competent photographer accords with his positive print.
These observations began by posing the question whether fruitful dialogue is possible between anthropology and anthroposophy. They have perhaps succeeded in showing that the answer, at least from the anthroposophical point of view, is in the affirmative.