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A READER'S JOURNAL
A Psychology of Body, Soul, & Spirit
Anthroposophy, Psychosophy, & Pneumatosophy
12 lectures in Berlin — Oct, 1909/ Nov, 1910/ Dec 1911
Introduction by Robert Sardello
Translation by Marjorie Spock
Published by Anthroposophic Press/NY in 1999
A Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2004
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This book combines three sets of four lectures, each set given in the successive years of 1909, 1910, and 1911 on the three subjects of the subtitle: anthroposophy, psychosophy, and pneumatosophy. The suffix sophy stands for knowledge, so anthroposophy refers to the knowledge of the anthropos or full human being, psychosophy refers to the knowledge of the psyche or soul, and pneumatosophy refers to the knowledge of the pneuma or spirit. Taken together the 12 lectures are a guided tour into the depths of the knowledge of the "Body, Soul, and Spirit". Fasten your seat belts, it will be a bumpy ride, and the unbuckled are likely to be thrown before we glide to a halt.
Lectures 9 to 12: Pneumatosophy — A Psychology of the Spirit
The ninth lecture in this series begins with a recitation of Goethe’s poem “Thoughts about the Descent into Hell of Jesus Christ” which was written in 1765 when he was only sixteen years old. The poem is omitted from the text because “it is quite long and adds little to the lecture itself,” but for completeness this review makes it available to read at this time if you wish at Thoughts on Jesus Christ's Descent into Hell.
The very title of this section of four lectures given in 1911 seems a bit strange to the modern ear, a psychology of the spirit ? What can that be about? Most psychologists talk about the soul, after all, that's what the word psyche is taken to mean anyway. Let's ask the question, "Why does it seem strange to talk about a psychology of the spirit?" and let Steiner answer the question for us.
[page 157] Contrary to modern usage, the human being's total makeup will be described here as consisting of three elements — the physical, the soul, and the spiritual. This division, of course, is no different from what we are accustomed to in spiritual science. In these lectures, however, we want to build a bridge from spiritual science to the natural scientific approach in this area. Consequently, we will also consider what is normal for such deliberation of the human being in the modern sciences outside spiritual science.
For a long time now the total makeup of the human being has been viewed as consisting of only two parts — the physical, or bodily, nature and the soul. This has been true even when no open or veiled materialism was involved. Recognized science is not accustomed to speaking of spirit. Indeed, when the Catholic philosopher Anton Günther reverted to a threefold perspective of the human being as body, soul, and spirit, his books, which were interesting from that perspective, were placed on the list of forbidden books by the Church in Rome (1) . The Catholic Church acted contrary to the Bible, where it can be shown, in both the Old and New Testaments, that human nature is threefold and that we can speak of a body, soul, and spirit.
Somehow during the evolution of dogma during the early centuries several things happened. Jesus was transformed from a human being, who received the Christ Spirit during baptism by John in the Jordan, into a man who was born body and soul as Jesus Christ. It seems that the Church felt that the independent infusion of a Spirit after birth was too risky to allow its parishioners to know about it. Truncating the three aspects of humankind from body, soul, and spirit into simply body and soul removed that risk and did it very successfully. Unfortunately it is a theatrical warping of reality that hides more about humankind than it reveals, and it must be discarded if one is to come to an understanding such as Steiner is about to share with us of a psychology of the spirit.
[page 157, 158] Relatively early, in the very first centuries, the Church prohibited the spirit. That means that, in a certain sense, it led the evolution of dogma in such a way that the human being may consist only of body and soul. Philosophers of the Middle Ages considered it highly heretical to accept a threefold makeup, and this applies today to all those who still base their beliefs on that philosophical outlook. This is still considered to be absolutely heretical in the Catholic Church today. Oddly enough, the Catholic view has made its way into contemporary science. If you try to understand why people working today in the science of psychology — the science of the soul — speak essentially only of body and soul rather than of body, soul, and spirit, there can hardly be any other basis for such a perspective than the fact that, over the course of time, spirit was forgotten. Therefore, people today no longer have within their normal thinking any way of achieving an idea or concept that would enable them to speak of the human spirit as a separate element in addition to the soul.
This lacuna in people's thinking has lasted almost 2,000 years, and it is time for it to be filled in. The process of restoring the missing element of spirit is vital for our time, but one must be sensitive to the strange way it sounds to the modern ear, and to the resistance it will encounter at first. Aristotle established a doctrine of the spirit during pre-Christian centuries, but his view postulated that the spirit was created during birth, survived death, but was never re-born. When the Church Fathers dealt with the idea and promulgated its dogma, it dropped Aristotle's idea of spirit, but kept the idea of a creation at birth, and no rebirth. But in the Church fathers hands, in a design by committee effort during various Councils, the human being was truncated from body, soul, and spirit to only body and soul. Thus a soul was postulated to be created at birth, live on after death, and never be reborn — exactly according to Aristotle's orthodoxy. Aristotle could not accept reincarnation because of a purely logical argument that went something like this: God creates a man's spirit at his birth, therefore God cannot create the same thing again. (Pages 165, 166)
Steiner applies his own logic ala Aristotle, and comes to a completely different conclusion, not to use his logic as proof, but simply to show that logic can be used to prove whatever one wishes.
[page 167] Now picture, as Aristotle did, that this human spirit discarded the body, passing through the gates of death into the spiritual world and looking back on its incarnation. And let us suppose that as it looks back on its life on Earth, it finds that life imperfect. Why should it not be a matter of course for most human spirits passing through the gates of death to feel that the Earth existence has been imperfect? For no matter how perfect it may have seemed, there was still room within this earthly life to achieve something still more perfect. . . . The moment we admit that an Earth life is not perfect, we also have to admit that the divinely created spirit necessarily experiences a longing for another earthly body.
Steiner seems to hold Aristotle's doctrine of the spirit in reverence while indicating that it is time for it to be updated by providing a scientific basis for reincarnation. In a recent book Edward Reaugh Smith provides a Biblical basis for reincarnation. In The Soul's Long Journey Smith lays out for the details of "how the Bible reveals reincarnation." One might say that the Bible reveals reincarnation while the Church adumbrates it with dogma. Steiner uses Aristotle's tool of using "self-contradiction" to undermine his own doctrine of the spirit.
[page 167, 168] We see here how something that had its origin millennia ago still exercises a powerful influence on present-day science. Justifiably so! We will see that Aristotle's greatness and significance are due to the penetrating intelligence of the conclusions arrived at in his doctrine of the spirit and that it is possible to progress beyond them only if a scientific basis is provided for reincarnation. Such a basis was never provided before our times. We have only just reached the point of transition with regard to the doctrine of the spirit where we can, essentially only through spiritual science, go beyond Aristotle in a true and fundamental way. It is interesting that a man as keen as Brentano has had to stop short at Aristotle's point of view but was forced, on the other hand, by that very acuity to end up with nothing more than a psychology, because he took the exclusion of the spirit seriously. We will see from the mistakes made by the fact that the exclusion of the spirit led to a self-contradictory doctrine of the spirit — or rather of the soul — that from the standpoint of modern science, it is impossible to arrive at a non-contradictory view of the world if spiritual science is ignored.
"One must not accept thinking habits as proof," Steiner says, in effect, in this next passage. Like in pre-Columbian times, when people said, "Everybody knows the world is flat." Yes, everybody was also wrong. Apply this habit of thinking today and you can get, "Everybody knows reincarnation is not a reality." Can everybody also be wrong about this?
[page 170] We have often discussed the fact that it is possible only to a small extent to convince contemporary opponents of spiritual science with proofs of any kind. The worldviews of people, in as much as they are opponents of this spiritual science, are based on their thinking habits rather than on proof. Those people whose thought habits preclude their seeing the world in a spiritually scientific way will certainly not be open to proof.
No matter how often or long the crewman of Darwin's ship, the Beagle, tried to convince the local natives of South America that it was a large ship they were seeing and not a bird on the water, they failed. The thought habits of the natives precluded their seeing the world as including large ships and those thought habits could not be overturned by the words of the crew.
When I was led to studying Steiner's works, I was seeking proof of the spiritual world's existence. This seeking was spurred by a deep longing in my soul that seemed like an empty pit into which I threw the occasional gem, but could never hope to fill — until I pored deeply into Steiner's spiritual science, and now the pit is filling nicely.
[page 170] . . . most of those who enter our group do so because of deep longing and a connection to spiritual life. They are not here for scientific proof of the spiritual world's existence, but to understand the reality of what their hearts and souls long for.
And he reminds us also that being in possession of the truth does not prove the existence of the spiritual world, no matter how much it helps us to understand it.
[page 176] Although we comprehend the truth and live in it and according to it, we can never fully arrive at spirit in this way, since we are always confronted by the fact that truth can be a mere reflection of the physical world.
Is it possible he asks for us, short of becoming clairvoyant, to be certain of the existence of the spiritual world?
[page 177] Should we now therefore admit that before penetrating into the world of clairvoyance, there is no possibility of becoming convinced of the existence of the spirit? It could almost seem so. It could appear as though there were no justification for anyone other than clairvoyants who perceive it and those who believe them to speak of the spirit. That is how it could seem, but it is not the case. We come at this point to a question. The external world with its material content does not in itself give us any inkling of a spiritual world if we do not already know of its existence. Nor does the inner world of truth point to any such world, since that may be just a mirror image of the external world.
If truth is unable to give an inkling of a spiritual world, perhaps error can. Descartes posited in the realm of the material world, "I think therefore I am" — he said that since he could not deny the proposition, "I think", he could establish the veracity of the proposition, "I am." Steiner tells us that since we cannot deny that error exists we must be looking at something more than the material world, since a reflection of the material world cannot be an error. Error must therefore originate in a supersensible world. In the realm of the spiritual world, Steiner posits, in effect, "I err, therefore I am." The epistemological impact of this insight of Steiner's almost a hundred years ago has obviously been missed by many scientists, statesmen, and divines, all of whom everyday give the world ample proof that error exists.
[page 177] Have we anything else at all besides the sketchy indications given? Yes, we do! It is error. Not a single item should be overlooked when it is a matter of establishing complete understanding of the world.
Besides the truth, there is error. Now you will say that error cannot, of course, lead to truth, and it would be strange indeed to use error as a starting point. I also absolutely did not say, however, that because it is fruitless to take a stand on truth we should therefore base our stand on error. For it would not lessen the number of our opponents if we were to suggest basing insight into the reality of the spiritual world on error. Error should also not be suggested as a starting point in the quest for truth. That would be worse than foolish; it would be absurd. With regard to error, however, something that cannot be denied is that it exists, has presence, and is real.
We might say to those who might argue with this point, in the words of Jesus, "Let he who is without error cast the first aspersion." For if some man did, he would be contradicting himself.
[page 177, 178] Most important, it can crop up in human nature and become an entity there. If the external world has created an apparatus for mirroring itself in the brain and if the content of truth is the sum of all the mirror images, there is still the possibility of error surfacing instead of truth, in that someone could be like a defective mirror or a mirror that creates caricatures of the external scene. A mirror that distorts instead of reflecting properly is false. Error could be comparatively easily explained by the statement that it is made possible by the false mirroring on the part of an organ of perception that has been formed by the external world. Truth can be seen as a reflection, or mirror image, and error likewise. One thing is impossible, however, and that is to explain the correction, the transforming of the error into the truth as a reflection. Try as you may to persuade a reflection that is presenting a caricature of some external object to turn itself into a correct representation, it will not change; it remains as it is. It shows an incorrect picture and remains in error.
Steiner takes us systematically through his argument and applies it most convincingly. He leaves us certain that in error there is proof that a supersensible world exists. His reasoning and proof does not require that anyone be clairvoyant.
[page 178] Nothing is reflected from the external world that could serve as a basis for accepting the existence of an error. There would have to be a factor not belonging to or in any way directly related to the external world. If the sense perceptible reflects itself as a supersensible picture in truth, then if the sense perceptible is reflected as an error, there must be a reason other than that lying in the sense perceptible itself for the resulting error. What are we looking at, then, when we perceive that the error is there? We are looking at a world that consists of more than a material world of the senses, more than the world of external physical facts. Error can originate in a supersensible world only.
To work one’s way into the supersensible world is to consciously focus on an error, that is, on some object which does not exist in the physical world. For example, one image that will be immediately be recognizable to students of the spiritual world is that of the rosy cross, which is composed of roses growing on black, dead wood in the shape of a cross. Since live roses cannot grow from dead wood, this is an image that must be in error because it cannot exist in the physical world. For this reason, the image of the rosy cross has provided for many centuries a symbol upon which to meditate as a communications gateway into the spiritual world.
[page 178] We must form a mental image that does not correspond with outer reality. Take, for example, the often-recommended meditation on the rose cross. Viewed one-sidedly from the standpoint of external reality, that is an erroneous image, an error. Roses do not grow on dead, black wood. However, we are dealing here with a symbolic image, an allegorical picturing. It does not give a direct representation of a truth; it symbolizes one. From the standpoint of physical fact, it is, therefore, erroneous yet, in a sense, not entirely so, since it then again symbolizes significant spiritual reality. When we meditate on the rose cross, we give ourselves to a mental image that, though it is indeed erroneous looked at with material reality in mind, meets the requirement that we take an error into our souls. It isn't error in the ordinary sense. We are fulfilling quite special requirements by giving ourselves not to ordinary error, but to a significant symbolization.
One should not be deluded that one can gain a healthy access to the spiritual world without possessing a basis in moral qualities. If we seek entry into the spiritual world out of mere curiosity or passion, we will fall prey to all sorts of pathological phenomena. One need only visit a mental ward to observe people in throes of such passions and their resulting phenomena.
[page 180, 181] Translate that into terms in which spiritual science often discusses these matters. It would be said that we can come to know a supersensible world, for we learn to know error. We do not need artificial means of ascending to that world, since it extends into us by way of sending us error. And it has an effect. The world we come to know in this way, however, is not a good one. We must bring, from the other side, a good world in a soul condition out of which alone the error can work in the right way in the soul. . . . We fall prey to Lucifer if we penetrate into the supersensible world by deliberately taking error into our thinking without providing a safeguard through the necessary moral state of soul.
I have greatly condensed and summarized the exposition from pages 171 to 181, so if something does not ring true, then you owe it to yourself to read these pages in full. If you do, you will likely be convinced as I was, that by page 181 Steiner is able to show how Aristotle erred in his claims that 1) we were each created anew when we were born into this life, and 2) we enter the spiritual world after death having lived only one imperfect life on Earth. In other words, you will have been offered convincing proof on a logical basis that reincarnation exists. Here is a summary of Steiner's case against Aristotle, which is rather ironic since it is thought by some that Steiner's spirit had earlier been incarnated as Aristotle. Presumably any one of us might one day return as someone who has some corrections to what we said in one of our earlier incarnations. It is the very nature of evolution of consciousness that we say the best we can in one lifetime and when we return the evolution of humankind is such that we are able to consider things rightly that we may have considered wrongly before.
[page 181, 182] For if God were to create the supersensible element in human beings at their entrance into the physical world, a state of unfulfillment would be the lot of everyone living after death in that supersensible world, a situation observable in Aristotle's own development. It would have to be assumed that God created human beings to be dissatisfied. That cannot be right in Aristotle's opinion, either. We cannot possibly agree with any wise person that what comes into existence through the ancestral line is linked with a direct God-given supersensible element. In the first place, this is founded on a proof out of the truth. Aristotle seeks to give only a proof out of the truth, but that is impossible, as we have seen, for the existence of truth is no proof of anything supersensible. Therefore, proof of a supersensible world on the basis of truth is of no use. In the second place, if we assume that our supersensible element is created by God as we enter the physical world, it would be beyond explaining that we could go on after death into an imperfect state of being.
What was described yesterday as "Aristotle's supposition" is consequently illogical. He fails to consider the luciferic principle, which is the nearest supersensible element that has been given to human beings . . .
The thrust of suppressing the idea of reincarnation begun by Aristotle and carried forward first by the Church and then by modern science was a necessary point through which the evolution of humankind had to pass. Just as being exposed to the temptation of error was a process humankind has to pass through in its evolution. Other species on Earth are not susceptible to error, as Steiner points out in the work of the naturalist Huber (1777-1840) in his studies of caterpillars. He took a caterpillar which had just completed stage 3 of spinning and placed it into a different cocoon which had been spun through stage 6 by another caterpillar. Did the caterpillar notice that it did not have to re-spin through stages 4, 5 and 6? No, it went on its merry way spinning instinctively stages 4, 5, and 6 again with obvious problems doing so. The caterpillar "followed an unerring directive within its own being, an inner life that can follow only itself." What does this show?
[page 189] This is an extraordinarily interesting fact, for it shows that in creatures of the animal kingdom, external impressions cannot bring about the effect that in human beings can be described as right or wrong, as belonging to the sphere of the possibility of error. We human beings are susceptible to error from external causes because we are so organized that we do not simply follow inborn drives and impulses; in our acts, we are obliged to follow impulses entering us from without.
Steiner then takes us through understanding the simple statement, "the tree is green" as a combination of two mental concepts of "tree" and "green". Only by combing the two mental concepts and adding a perception can we make the existential statement, "a green tree is". How can we attribute existence to mental images and emotions in the soul if they cannot afford us a judgment? Steiner asks on page 192. Or asked in a different way and then answered in the passage below:
[page 193] Now how do we arrive at mental images that have something in common with error in that they are not in keeping with the external world of perception but nevertheless awaken healthy higher soul forces in us in an entirely sound and proper way? How, in other words, do we come from a merely false mental image to a symbolic image such as has often been described and of which the rose cross is one of the most outstanding examples? We do so when we do not allow ourselves to be guided by the external sense world, the world of perception, or by the forces responsible for causing us to err. We must turn away from both kinds of influence, that of the external world of sense perception and that of the world that induces us to err.
In effect, we must generate these three spiritual organs of perception which we do not currently have, but which exist in each of us as a potential. Like learning to ride a bicycle, we must attempt something we cannot do, and we may fail miserably on the first few attempts. The problem is with these three processes is this: we have no picture or object like we would have with the bicycle. It is ourselves we have to figure out how to handle — we are the object we must learn to ride.
In effect we must generate these three spiritual organs of perception which we do not currently have, but exist in each of us as a potential. Like learning to ride a bicycle, we must attempt something we cannot do and we may fail miserably on the first few attempts. Only with these three processes we have no vehicle or object before us to figure out how to handle and how to ride, we have only ourselves to learn to ride.
[page 193] We must appeal to forces in our souls that have first to be awakened. They were characterized two days ago as stirrings prompted in us only by the moral and the beautiful. We have to break with our drives and passions in the way they are impressed into us by a world that can be described only as external. We must work upon ourselves to call forth on a trial basis soul forces that we do not as yet actually possess.
To begin the development of the first force or process of Imagination, we must put together mental concepts that would never be found together in the outside world, neither past, present, or future. The image of choice for this task will be a familiar one and now you may for the first time begin to understand why the image has persisted for so long: because of its utility for the purpose of developing the first process, Imagination.
[page 193, 194] It is an image that expresses the fact that human beings sense that they must strive to develop a higher nature, one that enables us to become master of everything not yet recognized as belonging to us in our present form. Then, out of such inner stirrings, we put together mental images that the world of percepts would never prompt us to connect. We put together the black cross, the symbol of everything that must be eradicated, and the red roses, the symbol of life that must sprout from it. In meditation, we picture the rose cross as a mental image that can only be described as unreal, but that we have not been able to put together in the way a simple error originates, but rather as born of the loftiest striving of the soul.
To help understand this, I have combined the elements of the diagrams from pages 195, 198, 200, 202, and 205 into the Pneumatosophy Diagram below. It will be a useful reference as we go through the development of the three processes of Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition which are shown in the diagram.
Before we proceed, I would to share a personal note which is triggered by Steiner's repetitive reference to a tree of gold as an example of something "difficult to imagine while we are connected with external reality." At a point in my life when I was connected to external reality, but was searching for something more than I found in my physics education, I stumbled into a bookstore filled with metaphysical books.It was run by a lovely and gentle lady named Donna France, who began the bookstore as a result of some metaphysical classes she took. She took charge of ordering books for the classes, and always had a few left over. Then she began special ordering books for friends in the classes, and always ordered one extra. She put those on shelves and made them available for purchase. When I first went to her place, it was a side room in a motel office area. Soon she moved into a larger building and rented rooms for various classes. Her bookstore, which became famous in this area as the first metaphysical bookstore was called "Golden Leaves Bookstore" and on her checkout area she had a foot high model of a tree with golden leaves on it. It was in her bookstore, on the bottom shelf, where I found my first Rudolf Steiner book. If you visit Hot Springs, Arkansas, today you can find the Golden Leaves Bookstore still going strong, and if you're lucky, you'll get to say hello to Donna France. (March 9, 2016 Update: Golden Leaves Bookstore closed sometime in the early 2000s.)~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you've had trouble understanding the three forces of spiritual insight, Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, from reading Knowledge of Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (2) then a thorough study of the diagram above and the third lecture in the Pneumatosophy set of lectures should help you enormously. In this review I will share some of the salient points and help you to learn all about it before you start — a process that is the essence of all education, rightly understood.
[page 197] So, imaginations, too, can live in the soul without registering in our consciousness; they cannot appear immediately as imaginations. Then they enter into our awareness in a way similar to the perceptions just described. Such perceptions that we have had without registering them appear occasionally in the semiconsciousness of dreaming. In the same way, imaginations that we have not had the power to register in consciousness can shine into our waking life and become active there, transformed as dreams are, fluctuating and flowing into such perceptions that would ordinarily stand clearly before us. Thus it happens that such imaginations actually intrude into what is otherwise everyday awareness, undergoing thereby a transformation when what is termed fantasy is active in our consciousness, genuine fantasy based on cosmic truth, the true source of all artistic and other creation that springs from human productivity.
[page 198] Thus we really have in genuine fantasy something midway between mere mental picturing and imagination. When fantasy is not conceived as something of which it can be said (as often happens), "Fantasy is not true," but rather when it is realistically grasped, it bears witness to a further development of mental images in the direction in which they can pour themselves into the realm of the supersensible, the world of imagination. Here we have one of the points where we can witness the streaming of the spiritual world directly into our ordinary world.
The usual development of the three processes goes from Imagination to Inspiration to Intuition, both in the way one develops them in oneself and in the way Steiner discusses them in all of his other works I have found, up until this one. Here he develops Intuition next and ties Imagination and Intuition together with Inspiration last.
[page 201] We can, therefore, say that when we grasp with our own consciousness something that lives entirely within it, not as mere knowledge but as a process, we are dealing with intuition, intuition in the higher sense described in How to Know Higher Worlds. Thus, within intuition we are dealing with the wielding will. That extremely intelligent psychologist Brentano finds only emotions among the ordinary aspects of the soul and not a trace of will, because it is not present there, since the will lies outside ordinary consciousness. Only the consciousness rising into the higher regions finds in itself something that at the same time is a process. That is where the world enters into consciousness. That is intuition.
Our deeds are executed by our will and the quality of our acts are determined by our conscience, which works at the transition of our emotion and intuition. Referring to the Pneumatosophy Diagram, Steiner explains how our soul is open on two sides (at the arrows):
[page 201] If we try to locate conscience, we find it in this transition. We can, therefore, say that our soul is open on two sides — to imagination on the one side and to intuition on the other. It is closed on the side where, through perception, we come up against our physical bodies. Our soul experiences fulfillment on entering the imaginative realm and again, coupled with an event, on entering the realm of intuition.
[page 202] Since both intuition and imagination have to occupy a single soul, how can some sort of mediation, a kind of connection, come about between them? We have in imagination a picture, a filled image, of the spiritual world, and in intuition an event that the spiritual world precipitates. An event that approaches us in the ordinary physical world disturbs our peace. We try to find out about it and discover its underlying essence. That is also true of that event that is in the spiritual world and penetrates our consciousness. Let us examine that more closely. How does intuition enter our awareness? We must first seek it in the direction of the emotions. It penetrates into our consciousness, into our soul, but from the side of the emotions rather than from that of mental picturing. That is how things stand with intuition; it can penetrate our consciousness, our soul, without our being able to make a mental image of it. We said of imaginations, too, that we can have them without being aware of them. They come into fantasy because they work directly within mental picturing, but we must put intuition on the other side, on the side of emotions. In the whole of human life, intuition lies completely on the side of emotions.
These concepts Steiner develops further in a couple of amazing dreams which demonstrate how "soul experience becomes what is dreamed." If we seek to connect Imagination with Intuition, we come to the third process, Inspiration, which is shown in the Pneumatosophy Diagram as completing the circuit of the other two processes. If you consider that there was a time when the ancient Greeks were able to see “the essence of these beings” streaming into them and inspiring them, you would guess that these beings streaming inspiration were their Muses.
[page 205, 206] If we wanted to progress further through this intuition that plays into our feelings, we would not succeed very well, for that is better undertaken from the other side. In order to avoid a general wallowing in emotions and to come instead to a concrete seeing of the spiritual world, we must try to develop imaginations and turn our attention to them regarding that world. Then a connection is gradually established in our lives between intuition, which is still more merely sensed rather than understood, and imagination, which consists of images only and is still more or less afloat in unreality. We discover the connection when we finally approach the thought that we have now come to the beings that can carry out the spiritual deed. Our arrival at those beings, we call inspiration. . . . It is only when the two come together and imagination works via inspiration into intuition, when, in other words, our mental imaging leads further to imagination and we sense the imagination as coming to us from beings, that the essence of these beings streams into us as a process. So, imagination provides us with something that streams in from intuition, and we perceive in the event a content that may be likened to the content of the mental image. We perceive these thoughts, for which we have prepared ourselves by means of imagination, to be contained in the event that intuition has given us.
Steiner closes this penultimate lecture by saying that in the last lecture he will describe for us "the essential and unique nature of the spiritual world itself." He often lectures as though he were a traveler returned from a foreign country describing what he saw on his journey, and telling us how to get there and what we might see if we made a similar journey.
The last lecture opens with a discussion of what we might call "Frohschammer's Prison" which Steiner describes this way:
[page 208] At the end of the second lecture, we familiarized ourselves with the typical struggles exemplified by the psychologist Frohschammer, whose scientific honesty led him to ask how it could be that our eternal spirit could be thought to descend again and again into a physical body that resembles a kind of purgatory or a kind of dungeon or prison. Must we, he asked regard everything that has to do with love relationships and the contrast between the sexes only as devices for imprisoning people's souls for the period between birth and death? . . . It seemed to him that the reincarnation doctrine was attempting to say that there is an eternal spirit in the human individual that is capable of leading a good and blissful life in the spiritual world and that is being thrust into and imprisoned in a world not in the least suited to its lofty nature.
It would seem redundant to point out that Frohschammer's view "are just a collection of vague ideas about repeated earthly lives, not what spiritual science is in a position to offer as the fruit of spiritual research", but Steiner uses that as an opening for a beautiful metaphor to replace the prison, that of a home. A place that we choose for ourselves and dwell within in love.
[page 209] . . . it would have to be admitted that we are not transferred to a prison but set down, on being reincarnated, in a wonderfully beautiful place, into a glorious dwelling. Does it actually depend on the house and its size and beauty whether we feel that we belong there and can be at home in it , or, rather, does it depend more upon whether we have traits that imprison us there? Does what we feel really depend on the house at all, or does the fact that we, as individuals inhabiting it, feel it imprisons us because, despite this beauty and grandeur, we do not know how to use and feel chained there? The fact that the house we live in is beautiful and that the bad part is at worst th it is just we ourselves who are lifelong prisoners in it, is demonstrated by the spiritual observation that rises, by way of imagination to inspiration and intuition, to true insight into the element in the human being that passes through different earthly lives.
Can we possibly orient ourselves in a world of imagination, which consists of pictures and mental images? Steiner explains to us how by calling to mind how young children orient themselves to the objects they see in the world. Oliver Sacks wrote about Virgil, a competent blind man of middle age who recovered his sight lost shortly after birth. Virgil, now fully capable of seeing everything in his environment, had great difficulty orienting himself in this world of images. He had trouble just walking across the living room of his apartment where previously he could maneuver sightlessly. He finally mapped out a walkway through the room which, if he stayed on the path, he could walk quickly and safely through the room, but if he strayed to either side, his view of the room skewed into Cubist assemblages of light, colors, and planes. His seeing was now perfect, but he lacked the childhood indoctrination phase into understanding the world. Virgil bought himself some toy animals, buildings, and things and spent hours examining them, just as any toddler does in the course of play. He rotated them and inspected them from every angle. He learned to tell the difference between a tiny frog and a large elephant, between a cardboard box and a skyscraper, either of which might be confused for the other at some distance or angle. When we enter the world of imagination, Steiner tells us, we must similarly learn to orient ourselves.
[ page 211] People initially confront the world of imagination as though they were in the physical world and were about to confuse a frog with an elephant, unable to differentiate between them. The world of imagination seems homogeneous and it all appears to have a uniform level of importance. We must first learn to be able to give one thing more weight and another less. A peculiarity of that world is that it does not appear large or small to us because of its own nature but because of our own.
In Virgil's world, there was an objective size to a frog or to an elephant that could be easily discerned if one tried to, say, pick each one up. In the world of imagination, that ability no longer exists. The size of something depends on our own nature, and the imagination will show us our own inner nature.
[page 211] Suppose, for example, that a man is very arrogant. His arrogance is pleasant to him. But if the world of imagination now opens to him, the feeling of pleasure in his arrogance carries over to become the size of the beings he sees there. Everything in the world of imagination that represents arrogance or pride appears gigantic. To him, it appears to have tremendous importance. On the other hand, something would seem large to a humble person appears to him to be small, like a tiny frog. The perspective that world presents all depends on the characteristics of the viewer. It is a question of human development that the proper relationships, intensities, and qualities of that world be accurately recognized. Everything there is quite objective, but people can distort it and then see caricatures. The important thing is that along with this knowledge of the supersensible, people must, in a certain way, experience what they themselves are.
On the Temple of Apollo was the dictum, "Know Thyself". On the "Temple of the Imagination" there should be the dictum, "Confront Yourself" to warn all those who enter that they will be meeting parts of themselves within the temple, parts that they may not already know.
[page 212] What does it really mean to say that we have to learn to understand ourselves through imagination ? It means that we have to confront the self in the world imagination as an objective image among all the imaginations and images there. Just as we confront a bell or any other object in the physical world, we must confront ourselves in the world of imagination in objective reality, as we truly are.
We are all familiar with the type of inflation or megalomania that afflicts mental patients who come to believe that they are Napoleon Bonaparte, for example. Steiner says a similar thing happens to beginning clairvoyants who "become convinced that they were Charlemagne, Napoleon, Julius Caesar, Marie Antoinette, or some other great historical figure in a previous incarnation. Steiner says we can only overcome this tendency by undertaking a full-time job of criticizing ourselves. And only under extraordinary circumstance should we complain about others. The effects such abstention will have on us can be quite salubrious.
[page 214] If, after occupying themselves with spiritual science a long time, people ask why they have not advanced or achieved sight in the spiritual world, the answer that they could give themselves may be quite obvious. It might be that they should take care to abstain from all criticism of others except when extreme necessity requires it and, above all, to learn what such abstention really means. For many people forget, as they begin their day, what that means. It means occasionally to accept from others treatment that can be unpleasant and unfortunate in life. We must be able to accept it, for we know, if we take karma seriously, that what others do to us is something that we have inflicted upon ourselves. Karma requires that it be done to us.
As a way of summarizing this next point that Steiner makes, let me paraphrase a slogan of the US Army in recent years, "Be All That You Can Be: Reincarnate!"
[page 215, 216] We have to keep coming back. We long for new incarnations so that we can gradually become what we cannot become in a single life. It just when we develop insight and a feeling for what we could be in a single incarnation, but cannot be because of our inner nature, that we know what our predominating feeling must be as we pass through the gates of death. It must be to come again in order to become in the next and all following earthly lives what we cannot be in a single life. This must be the strongest driving force, this longing of ours for ever further incarnations during Earth evolution.
We live life forward and at any point we are the summation of all the things that have happened to us. A day full of unpleasant experiences can leave you cross and irritable. A day full of pleasant experiences can leave you feeling happy and satisfied. Whatever experiences are immediately behind us in our past affect the way we feel now. If you take the time to review your life backwards from the present moment, you will reverse the normal process. This is the process called in German, "Rückschau", or backward looking, best applied shortly before going to sleep as you have the entire day to work your way backwards through. In the cartoon below I imagine Padre Filius being carried by himself backwards through his day in a rickshaw, allowing him to see, experience, and react to in reverse order the events of his day.
[page 217] When we review the experiences behind us, going backward through them, then we set them in front of us and we are ourselves behind them. If you do that seriously, not in a routine, mechanical way, but if you really live further into them in a very vivid way, even if for only a few hours, then something enters your soul, if it is sufficiently able to pay attention to itself, that one might call a fundamental tone that you yourself seem to be. We can sometimes experience that we appear to ourselves to be a bitter, acid-bitter fundamental tone. If you then go to work on yourself thoroughly, which again really depends on your development, that process will rarely show you to yourself as a sweet being. Rather, you will, as a rule, find yourself to be a bitter being; you will find a bitter fundamental tone in yourself.
When I took mortar sighting in Army ROTC at LSU, I learned a lesson that has proven invaluable to me in understanding how to approach some new subject or skill: "Make your biggest mistakes first." In sighting a mortar, you have a forward observer [FO] who can see the target and relays its coordinates to you. Your job is to adjust those coordinates so you will lob the mortar on the far side of the target. The FO confirms that your mortar landed on the other side of the target. Then you adjust the same amount short of the target and fire again. The FO lets you the mortar landed short of the target. Then you halve the distance you're aiming past the target and short of the target. By this process, in the shortest possible time and expense of mortars, one of your mortars will hit the target area and you will be instructed to commence firing one after another. If you tried to hit the target on the first lob and missed, you would be at a loss how much to adjust and could spend valuable time and ammo trying to locate the target. This is called "bracketing in" and it has been proven to be the most efficient method of locating some unknown target. Life presents us with unknown targets everyday. How much do we need to water the grass before the next rain? Too much and we waste time and money. Too little and the grass dies in the sun. We make our biggest mistakes first and adjust what we do based on those mistakes. From disharmony, we learn to create harmony.
[page 217] That is the truth. One who is capable of applying the requisite attention to oneself will in this way gradually arrive at what may be called an inspired self-cognition. The path leads through bitter experiences, but then one truly appears to oneself to be like an instrument badly out of tune. In the world of the harmony of the spheres, we usually cause a discord at first.
In life we must work our way through the discord we create in the world, and that take repeated lifetimes and thus requires reincarnation if we are to achieve the harmony that the spiritual world requires for our permanent entry. We would not try to enter the University upon completing Kindergarten, but we would come back to enter First Grade, etc, and return to successive grades until by progressing through gradual stages, we have graduated ourselves to the appropriate level of experience and skill to enter the University. As logical and obvious as this may seem to some, others abhor the idea of reincarnation. Why?
[page 217, 218] The desire to be reincarnated is one of the most important consequences of attaining self-knowledge. People who are repelled by the thought are simply revealing how far all that they have garnered of the glorious divinity of the nature they were born into falls short of what is possible.
The other way of understanding reincarnation outside of the box of Frohschammer's Prison is the way theosophists of the 18th Century put it:
[page 221] They had a very beautiful formula for expressing the basic attribute of the divine spirit. They said, "Bodily nature, the world of matter, is the end of the paths of God." That is a wonderful saying. It meant that the impulses inherent in godhead had prompted it to traverse many worlds of the spirit and descend in order to come to a kind of end, an end from which it turns around in order to rise again. This end is the shaping, the crystallizing of divine beings in the bodily form.
[page 221, 222] What was missing in their insight was something that was lacking due to suppression by the development of Christianity in the West: the knowledge of repeated earthly lives. The early theosophists knew that material embodiment was the goal of the spirit-path of the godhead, but they did not recognize it as applying to human beings also. In human beings they would have had to see that human nature is such that at every further incarnation, the longing must arise for still further embodiment, until our incarnations have rendered us mature enough to be able to go on to other forms of existence.
With the above passages, we glide to a halt, having completed our journey through a psychology of body, Anthroposophy, a psychology of soul, Psychosophy, and a psychology of spirit, Pneumatosophy. We have learned how the body, soul, and spirit operate in and with each other. All this learning will come to naught unless we each apply our learning to our everyday lives in practical ways. We can learn to comprehend our body's sensory organs with which we grasp the world, we can learn to notice when a time wave from the future approaches our soul, and we can learn the salubrious effect from reviewing our lives backward in time at the end of each day. All these and other things we can do volitionally, of our own free will, and in the process we can learn to grow where we are planted and bloom into the spirit world as is our destiny.
---------------------------- Footnotes -----------------------------------------
Footnote 1. Anton Günther (1783-1826), a speculative Catholic theologian, placed on the Index in 1857. (Footnote from page 157 of book.)Return to text directly before Footnote 1.
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