On the preceding Guidelines about the image-nature of man†


Rudolf Steiner


It is of great importance that through Anthroposophy it should be made clear that the ideas which one obtains by the observance of nature are inadequate for the contemplation of man. The way of thinking which has taken possession of human sentiment during the last centuries through spiritual evolution sins against this challenge. One becomes used to thinking about natural laws; and by means of these laws the natural phenomena observed by the senses are explained. One then looks at the human organism and thinks that it can also be explained by applying natural laws to it.

This is like considering a picture which a painter created to be the same as the substance of the colors used, as the strength used to apply the colors to the canvas, or the method with which the colors are painted on the canvas, and similar viewpoints. But all that does not reveal what the picture manifests. Completely different principles live in what the picture manifests than can be obtained by those methods.

One must be quite clear about the fact that in the human being something also manifests itself which is not comprehensible from the point of view of natural laws. If one is able to make this idea his own in the right way, then one will be able to understand the human being as image. In this sense, a mineral is not image. It only manifests what the senses can directly perceive.

With images, sense observation is directed through what is perceived to the content, which is grasped in the spirit. This is also the case when contemplating the human being. If one contemplates man according to natural laws in the right way, one does not approach what man truly is, but only what is manifested through these laws.

One must realize in the spirit that when the natural laws are applied to man it is as if one were standing before a picture and only knows Ė thatís blue, thatís red Ė and is incapable, though inner soul activity, of associating the blue and the red to what these colors manifest.

One must perceive something quite different when applying natural laws to a mineral substance and to a human being. From a spiritual viewpoint, in the case of the mineral it is as though one were directly touching what one sees; when applying natural laws to man it is as though one stands as apart from him as one stands apart from a picture which one does not see with the eye of the soul, but merely brushes with the fingertips.††††

Once one understands in contemplating man, that he is the image of something, then one is in the right soul-disposition to advance to what this image represents.

And the image nature of man does not manifest itself in one explicit way. A sense organ is essentially least of all an image, at most a kind of manifestation of itself like a mineral. One can come closest to the sense organs through natural laws. Just look at the wonderful organization of the human eye. One roughly grasps this organization by means of natural laws. And it is similar with the other sense organs, although it is not so clearly the case as with the eye. It is because the sense organs demonstrate a kind of self-containment in their forms. They are included in the organism as completed formations, and as such they impart perception of the outer world.

This is not the case with the rhythmic functions in the organism. They do not manifest themselves as something complete. A continual generation and degeneration of the organism takes place in them. If the sense organs were like the rhythmic system, man would perceive the outer world as being in a state of continuous becoming.

The sense organs manifest themselves like a picture that hangs on a wall. The rhythmic system appears before us like what happens when we contemplate the canvas and the painter in the process of creating a picture. The picture does not yet exist, but it is in the process of coming into existence. What has come into being remains, at first, existent. This contemplation has to do only with a process of becoming. In contemplating the human rhythmic system, the expiring, the deconstruction, immediately connects to the coming into being, to the construction. The rhythmic system manifests a becoming image.†

The soulís act of dedicating itself to the observation of an object which is a finished image may be called Imagination. The experience which must unfold in order to grasp an image in the state of becoming is, on the other hand, Inspiration.

It is a different story when one contemplates the metabolism and movement system of the human organism. It is as though one were standing before an empty canvas, paint-pots and an artist who has not yet begun to paint. If one wishes to grasp the metabolic and limbs system, one must develop a capacity for observance which has as little to do with what the senses see when observing the paint pots and empty canvas as these have to do with the artistís finished picture. And the activity which the person experiences in his soul spiritually from the metabolism and [limb] movements is comparable to when observing the painter, empty canvas and paint-pots, he experiences the subsequently painted picture. Intuition must be at work in the soul in order to grasp the metabolic and limbs system.

It is necessary that the active members of the Anthroposophical Society concentrate in this way on the Being which is the basis of anthroposophical considerations. For not only should what is gained from anthroposophical cognition be recognized, but also how one is able to experience this knowledge.

What has been explained here will lead to the following Guidelines.††

More Guidelines will appear in the next issue of Southern Cross Review.

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