Present-day knowledge considers only the outside

In relation to obtaining knowledge of the human being nowadays, it must be said, that it is as if people attempt to understand how a watch works, by only looking at it from the outside. One can learn how it indicates time by looking at it, one can also get to know whether it is made of gold or silver, but one cannot become a watchmaker by observing it from the outside. What we currently call biology, physiology or anatomy, is still only knowledge obtained by way of observing the human being from the outside. A true understanding of human nature will only arise through observing body, soul and spirit. And only then can the human being be treated according to knowledge of body, soul and spirit.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens -Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, January 2,  1922 (page 199)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger


Theories have no practical value

Nowadays people feel pleased with themselves when they hear Goethe’s maxim: matter in spirit, spirit in matter. – It is good that people feel comfortable with this saying, because after all, it really corresponds to reality. But for those who are used to seeing the spiritual and the physical together everywhere, it can also be a triviality, if one exhorts him to recognise that which is a matter-of fact truth. And when people feel so pleased with such a theoretical aphorism that is drawn up for them, it just proves that they do not themselves possess the reality that is expressed in the theory. As a rule, categorically stated theories are proof that we have not made it our own in practical life, as history shows. People only started to discuss theories about the Lord’s Supper, when they no longer could muster the necessary feeling for it in practice. Theories are generally drawn up for what we do not have in life, not for what we do have.

Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 303 – Die gesunde Entwickelung des Menschenwesens – Eine Einführung in die anthroposophische Pädagogik und Didaktik – Dornach, 28 December 1921 (page 103-104)

Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger

Greater wars will come

We have to come back to the spirit by way of the intellect. And that, you see, is the task of anthroposophy. It has no wish to do what would please many people, that is, to bring primitive conditions back to humanity-ancient Indian wisdom, for example. It is nonsense when people harp on that. Anthroposophy, on the other hand, sets value on a return to the spirit, but a return to the spirit precisely in full possession of the intellect, with the intellect fully alive. It is important, gentlemen, and must be borne strictly in mind, that we have nothing at all against the intellect; rather, the point is that we have to go forward with it. Originally human beings had spirit without intellect; then the spirit gradually fell away and the intellect increased. Now, by means of the intellect, we have to regain the spirit. Culture is obliged to take this course.

If it does not do so — well, gentlemen, people are always saying that the World War was unlike anything ever experienced before, and it is indeed a fact that men have never before so viciously torn one another to pieces. But if men refuse to take the course of returning to the spirit and bringing their intellect with them, then still greater wars will come upon us, wars that will become more and more savage. Men will really destroy one another as the two rats did that, shut up together in a cage, gnawed at each other till there was nothing left of them but two tails. That is putting it rather brutally, but in fact mankind is on the way to total extermination. It is very important to know this.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 354 – The Evolution of the Earth and Man and The Influence of the Stars: Lecture VIII – Dornach, 6th August 1924

Translated by Gladys Hahn

Previously posted on May 8, 2016

Desires of Body and Spirit

For the ego there are two kinds of desires in life: the desires that have their source in the bodies, and therefore must be satisfied within these bodies, ceasing with the disintegration of these bodies, and the desires that have their source in the spiritual nature of the ego. As long as the ego is within the bodies, these desires also are satisfied by means of bodily organs, for in the manifestations of the bodily organs the hidden spirit is at work, and in all that the senses perceive they receive at the same time something spiritual.

This spiritual element exists also after death, although in another form. All spiritual desires of the ego within the sense world exist also when the senses are no longer present. If a third kind of desire were not added to these two, death would signify merely a transition from desires that can be satisfied by means of the senses to those that find their realization in the revelation of the spiritual world. This third type of desire is produced by the ego during its life in the sense world because it finds pleasure in this world also in so far as there is no spirit manifest in it.

The basest enjoyments can be a manifestation of the spirit. The gratification that the hungry being experiences in taking food is a manifestation of spirit because through the eating of food something is brought about without which, in a certain sense, the spirit could not evolve. The ego can, however, transcend the enjoyment that this fact of necessity offers. It may long for good tasting food, quite apart from the service rendered the spirit by eating. The same is true of other things in the sense world. Desires are created thereby that would never have come into being in the sense world had the human ego not been incorporated in it. But neither do these desires spring from the spiritual nature of the ego. The ego must have sense enjoyments as long as it lives in the body, also in so far as it is spiritual; for the spirit manifests in the sense world and the ego enjoys nothing but spirit when, in this world, it surrenders itself to that medium through which the light of the spirit radiates. It will continue to enjoy this light even when the sense world is no longer the medium through which the rays of the spirit pass.

In the spirit world, however, there is no gratification for desires in which the spirit has not already manifested itself in the sense world. When death takes place, the possibility for the gratification of these desires is cut off. The enjoyment of appetizing food can come only through the physical organs that are used for taking in food: the palate, tongue, and so forth. After throwing off the physical body man no longer possesses these organs. But if the ego still has a longing for these pleasures, this longing must remain ungratified. In so far as this enjoyment is in accord with the spirit, it exists only as long as the physical organs are present. If it has been produced by the ego, without serving the spirit, it continues after death as desire, which thirsts in vain for satisfaction.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 13 – An Outline of Occult Science: III: Sleep and Death

Translated by Maud and Henry B. Monges and revised for this edition by Lisa D. Monges.

The spirit-form after death

We have seen that when a human being has passed through the gate of death and come into the super-sensible world, he reveals himself there to Imaginative vision in a spirit-form. You must understand, of course, that perception of the spiritual is quite different from perception of an object in the world of sense. For instance, those who are endowed with the faculty of spiritual vision will say: “Yes, I saw the phenomenon, but I could not tell you anything about the size of it.” The phenomena of the spiritual world are not spatial in the sense that a material object presented to the eye is spatial. Nevertheless, we can only describe them in such a way that they seem to resemble a visual image seen by the physical eye — or whatever other sense-impression we make use of in our description. You must bear this in mind in connection with all the descriptions I shall now be giving of what takes place in the super-sensible.

When a human being has passed through the gate of death, the spirit-form, of his head gradually fades away. On the other hand, the whole of the rest of his form becomes “physiognomy,” a physiognomy which expresses, for instance, how far the man was, in earthly life, a good man or a bad man, a wise man or a fool. These qualities can remain hidden in the material world; an out-and-out villain can walk about with an absolutely innocent face. But when the gate of death has been passed, they can no longer be concealed. There is no doing it with the face, for the face fades right away; and the rest of the form, which grows more and more like a physiognomy, allows nothing to be hid.

Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 231 – Supersensible Man: Lecture III – The Hague, 17th November 1923 (afternoon)

Translated by Mary Adams