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Anthroposophical Guidelines

 

Rudolf Steiner

These guidelines were originally published in the members' supplement of "Das Goetheanum", the Anthroposohical Society's weekly newsletter, Dornach, Switzerland, during the period February 17, 1924 through April 12, 1925. They have been translated into English as "Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts". This new translation is by Frank Thomas Smith.


 

1. Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge which would guide the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the cosmos. It manifests as a necessity of the heart and feeling. It must find its justification in being able to satisfy this need. Only those who find in anthroposophy what they seek in this respect can appreciate it. Therefore only those who feel certain questions about the nature of man and the world as basic necessities of life, like hunger and thirst, can be anthroposophists.

 

2. Anthroposophy imparts knowledge obtained by spiritual means. Yet it only does this because everyday life and the science dependent only upon sense perception and intellectual activity lead to a boundary where the human being’s soul must wither if it cannot cross. This everyday life and this science do not lead to the boundary in a way that one is prevented from crossing it; rather at this boundary of sense perception the view of the spiritual world is revealed by the soul itself. 

 

3. Some people think that all insights end at the boundaries of sense perception. If they were attentive to how they become conscious of these boundaries, they would also find in this very consciousness the capacity to transcend these boundaries. A fish swims to the boundaries of water; it must go back because it lacks the physical organs to live out of water. Man arrives at the boundaries of sense perception; he can realize that on the way there sufficient strength of soul has been acquired to live in the elements which are not limited by sense perception.


 

4. Man requires knowledge of the spiritual world for security in his feelings and for the healthy development of his will. Then he can sense to a large extent the greatness, beauty and wisdom of the natural world. The latter does not, however, answer the questions about his own being. This being holds the matter and forces of the natural world together in the living human bodily form only until the person crosses the threshold of death. At that point nature takes over the form. It cannot hold it together, only tear it apart. Great, beautiful, wisdom-filled Nature may answer the question of how the human form disintegrates, but not how it is held together. No theoretical objection can erase this question from the sensitive human soul if it does not wish to deceive itself. Its presence must ceaselessly maintain the desire for spiritual paths to knowledge of the cosmos in every human soul which is truly awake.       

 

5. The human being needs spiritual self-knowledge for inner peace. He finds himself in his thinking, feeling and willing. He sees how thinking, feeling and willing are dependent upon the natural human being. Where health and illness are concerned, they must follow the physical body in its strength and debilitation. Sleep extinguishes them. Life’s experiences show how dependent spiritual experience is on the physical body. One may therefore come to the conclusion that self-knowledge is lost amidst these everyday experiences. Then the essential question arises: whether self-knowledge and therewith certainty about the true self, beyond ordinary experience, is even possible. Anthroposophy wishes to answer this question based upon sound spiritual experience. It is not based on mere opinion or belief, but on experience of the spirit, which is as certain as the experience of the body. 

 

6. When we look at lifeless nature we find a world revealed in coherent relationships. We investigate these relationships and find that they are the functions of natural laws. But we also find that through these laws lifeless nature unites with the earth as a whole. From this unification of the lifeless with the earth, we can then proceed to a contemplation of the plant-world. We see how the cosmos beyond the earth sends the forces from outer space which extract life from the lap of the lifeless. We become aware of the essence in the living which extracts from the mere earthly and manifests what works down upon the earth from the distance of cosmic space. In the most insignificant plant we become aware of the essence of the cosmic light beyond the earth, just as a luminous object is reflected in the eye. By such enhanced contemplation we can observe the difference between the earthly/physical, which governs the lifeless, and the outer-earthly/etheric, which acts in living things.         


 

7. We find man as an ensouled, spiritual being placed in this earthly and outer-earthly world. As long as he is in the earthly element, which contains the lifeless, he carries his physical body with him; when he develops the forces which insert the living from the cosmos into the earthly, he has an etheric or life-body. This contrast between the earthly and the etheric has been completely overlooked by modern thinking. For this reason, the most irrational views about the etheric have ensued. Fear of losing one’s self in the fantastic has prevented discussion of this contrast. Without consideration of this contrast, however, no insight into Man and World is possible. 

 

8. One can contemplate the nature of man insofar as it is revealed by his physical and his etheric body. We find, however, that whatever is revealed from these sources does not lead to consciousness, but remains in the unconscious. Consciousness is not illuminated, but darkened when the physical and etheric bodies’ activity is increased. Even fainting spells can be the result of such increases in activity. Through such observations we realize that something is active in the human organization – and in animals as well – which is not the same as what is active in the physical and etheric. It is not active when the physical and the etheric elements are active through their own forces, but when these cease their activity. We arrive thus at the concept of the astral body.

 

9. The reality of the astral body is found when we advance from meditation by the thinking which is stimulated from without to inner contemplation. For this one must inwardly seize the thinking stimulated from without and intensively experience it in the soul as such, without relation to the outer world; and then, by means of the soul-strength acquired by this seizing and experiencing, become aware of the fact that inner organs of perception exist, which spiritually see, there, where the animal and human physical and the etheric bodies are bounded in order that consciousness can arise.      


 

10. Consciousness does not arise through a continuation of those activities which derive from the physical and etheric bodies; rather both of these bodies must reach rock- bottom, or even below that, in order to “make room” for consciousness. They are not the originators of consciousness, but merely provide the platform on which the spirit must stand in order to generate consciousness in earthly life. As man on earth needs a platform on which to stand, the spirit needs the material foundation of earth on which it can evolve. And [however] as a planet in space does not need a ground under it in order to claim its place, so the spirit – whose contemplation is not directed through the senses towards the material, but by its own forces towards the spiritual – does not need this material foundation in order to trigger its conscious activity.  

 

11. Self-consciousness, which summarizes itself in the “I”, alights from consciousness. This happens when the physical and etheric bodies are deconstructed by their own forces, thereby allowing the emergence of the spiritual in man. The deconstruction of these bodies creates the ground on which consciousness is born. Reconstruction must follow, however, if the organism is not to be destroyed. Therefore, if for the experience of consciousness deconstruction takes place, the deconstructed must be reconstructed. Self-consciousness lies in the perception of this construction. One can follow this process by interior vision. One can sense how the conscious is transformed into the self-conscious in that one creates from one's self an afterimage of the merely conscious. The merely conscious possesses its own image in the organism vacated, as it were, through deconstruction. It becomes self-consciousness when the emptiness is re-filled from within. The being capable of this fulfillment is experienced as “I”.

 

12. The reality of the “I” is found when inner contemplation – by means of which the astral body is cognitively grasped – is developed further and living thinking is permeated with the will in meditation. At first one has devoted one’s self will-less to this thinking. Thereby one has allowed a spiritual element to enter into this thinking, just as color and sound enter the eye and the ear when perceived by the senses. In this way, what one has passively been able to bring to life in consciousness can be recreated by an act of will, and in this act of will the perception of one’s own “I” is enabled.  


 

13. By means of meditation, one can find the “I” that emerges in ordinary consciousness in three additional forms: 1. In the consciousness which the etheric body perceives the “I” appears as an image - which at the same time is an active being and as such imparts shape, growth and formative forces to man. 2. In the consciousness which the astral body perceives, the “I” is a member of a spiritual world from which it derives its forces. 3. In the consciousness just described, the “I” reveals itself as an autonomous being, relatively independent of its spiritual environment.  

 

14. The second form of the “I”, that which was indicated in the thirteenth Guideline, emerges as an “image”. By becoming aware of this image-nature, light is also thrown on the essence of thinking in which the “I” appears in normal consciousness. One seeks the “true I” by all kinds of reflections. But a serious insight into the experiences of this consciousness shows that one does not find the “true I” therein. What appears is rather a reflection in thought, one which is less than an image. One is taken by the truth of this fact when one progresses to the “I” as an image that lives in the etheric body. And by this means one is finally urged on correctly to seek the I as the true being of man. 

 

15. The insight into the form in which the “I” lives in the astral body leads to a correct feeling for the relations between man and the spiritual world. This I-form is submerged in the dark depths of the unconscious for normal experience. In these depths man connects with the spiritual cosmic being through inspiration. Only an extremely weak feeling-like reflection of this inspiration, which resides in the depths of the soul and derives from the distant breadth of the spiritual world, is accessible to normal consciousness.


 

16. The third form of the “I” gives the insight into the autonomous being of man within a spiritual world. It stimulates the feeling that the human being’s visible earthly-material nature is the mere manifestation of what he is in reality. Thus the starting point for true self-knowledge is given. For the self which shapes man in his reality is only revealed to knowledge when he advances from the thought of the I to its image, from the image to the image’s creative force, and from there to the spiritual bearers of these forces.      

 

17. Man is a being who evolves in the middle of two worlds. In the development of his physical body he is integrated in a “lower world”; with his soul he forms a “middle world”, and he strives towards a “higher world” through his spiritual forces. He develops his physical body with what nature has given him; he bears his soul-being as his own contribution; he finds the spiritual forces in himself as the gifts which lead him beyond himself towards participation in a divine world.     

 

18. The spirit is creative in these three worlds. Nature is not spiritless. One also loses knowledge of nature if one is not aware of the spirit in it. Nevertheless, one will find the spirit in nature as though sleeping. Just as sleep has its function in human life and the “I” must sleep for certain periods in order to be fully awake at others, so must the cosmic spirit sleep in “nature’s realm” in order to be fully awake in another.   


      

19. In respect to the cosmos, the soul of man is a dreamer if he doesn’t pay attention to the spirit which works in him. This spirit awakens the soul-dreams - which play out in his inner life - to participation in the cosmos, from which man’s true being originates. Just as the dreamer shuts himself off from the physical environment and closes himself in his own being, so his soul must lose its connection to the World-Spirit from which it originates if he refuses to hear the wake-up call of the spirit within.

 

20. The correct development of man’s soul-life requires that he be fully conscious of the spirit’s actions within him. Many adherents of the modern scientific Weltanschauung are so caught up in their prejudices that they consider general causality to be dominant in all the world’s phenomena. And if man thinks that he can be the cause of something, it is an illusion. Modern science wishes to follow observation and experience with the best of intentions. But due to the prejudice about the hidden causality of human motivation, it sins against this principle. For free acts deriving from the inner human essence is an elementary result of self-observation. It must not be denied, but be brought into harmony with insight into the general causality in natural law.

 

21. Non-recognition of this motivation from the spiritual core of the human being is the greatest hindrance to attainment of insight into the spiritual world. For the inclusion of one’s own being in the natural scheme of things means to divert attention from this being. One cannot penetrate into the spiritual world unless one grasps the spirit where it is directly revealed: in objective self-observation.


 

22. Self-observation establishes the beginning of spirit-observation. And it can establish the correct beginning because through correct reflection one cannot stop short at it, but must advance to further spiritual cosmic substance. Just as the human body atrophies when it does not receive physical nourishment, so does the correctly self-observing person feel his Self atrophying if he doesn’t see how the power of an active spiritual world outside him is working into it.   

 

23. The human being enters into the spiritual world when he passes through the portal of death and feels all that he has acquired through the bodily senses and brain in impressions and mental content during earthly life fall away. In a comprehensive tableau he is then conscious of images of his life on earth which were retained in memory in the form of image-less thoughts; or what was unnoticed during earthly life, but which made an unconscious impression on the soul. These images grow faint after a few days until they disappear. When they are completely gone, he knows that he has also laid aside his etheric body, which he recognizes as the bearer of these images. 

 

24. After the etheric body has been laid aside, man’s astral body and his “I” remain. As long as the former is still with him, it allows consciousness to experience all the unconscious contents formed when sleeping during earthly life. The judgments which the spiritual beings of a higher world instilled in the astral body during sleep are contained in these contents which, however, are hidden from earthly consciousness. The person re-lives his earthly life - in such a way, however, that the assessment of his soul-content, of his deeds and thoughts, is determined from the viewpoint of the spirit-world. He experiences his life in reverse: first the last night, then the next to last, and so on.      


 

25. The judging of a person’s life, which is experienced in the astral body after passing through the portal of death, lasts as long as the time which passed in sleep during earthly life. 

 

26. Only after the astral body has been laid aside, after the completion of the life judgment, does man enter into the spiritual world. Therein he stands in relation to the purely spiritual beings as he did on earth to the beings and processes of nature. In spiritual experiences, everything which was exterior to him becomes interior. He doesn’t merely perceive the outer world, but he experiences it in its spirituality - which was hidden from him on earth - as his inner world.   

 

27. Man, as he is on the earth, becomes outer-world in the spirit-realm. One looks [from there] at the human being as one looks at the stars, clouds, mountains, rivers from the earth. And this outer world is no less rich in content than is the appearance of the cosmos when viewed from the earth. 


 

28. The forces created by man’s spirit in the spiritual realm continue to be active in the formation of the earthly man, just as the deeds carried out in physical life continue to be active as soul-content in life after death.

 

29. What acts in enhanced imaginative cognition is what lives in man’s psychic-spiritual interior and forms his physical body; and on this foundation human existence unfolds in the physical world. The physical body, ever and again renewing itself in its metabolism, stands from birth (or rather conception) until death before the continuously unfolding inner human being: the physical space-body becoming a time-body.

 

30. In inspired cognition, imaginative images depict what the human being experiences in the time between death and a new birth in a spiritual environment. Here is visible what man is in a cosmic context, without his physical and etheric bodies through which he lived out his earthly existence.


 

31. In intuitive cognition the effects of previous incarnations on the present one enter consciousness. These previous incarnations, in their further development, have erased the connection they once had with the physical world. They have become the pure spiritual core of the person and as such are active in his current life. They are also an object of the cognition that is the result of the unfolding of imagination and inspiration. 

 

32. In the human head the physical organization is a copy of the spiritual individuality. The physical and etheric parts of the head stand as a self-contained image of the spiritual, and alongside them the astral and “I” parts stand as autonomous psychic-spiritual being. Therefore, the human head represents a juxtaposition of the relatively autonomous physical and etheric on one hand, and the astral and I-organization on the other.

 

33. In the limbs/metabolism system, the four members of the human being are intimately interconnected. The I-organization and the astral body are not alongside the physical and etheric parts; they are in them; they vivify them, activate their growth, capacity for movement and so on. Therewith, however, the limbs/metabolism is like an evolving seed which continually strives to become “head”, and which is continually prevented from doing so during man’s earthly life.


 

34. The rhythmic organization is in the middle. Here the I-organization and the astral body alternately unite with and separate from the physical and etheric parts. The physical facsimile of this unification-separation process is breathing and blood circulation. The inbreathing process depicts unification; the outbreathing process separation. The processes in arterial blood depict unification; the processes in venous blood separation.

 

35. We understand the physical human being only if we think of him as an image of the spiritual-psychic. By itself the physical human body is incomprehensible. But in its various members it is an image of the spiritual-psychic in various ways. The head is the most perfect, complete sense-image. Everything which comprises the metabolism-limbs-system is like an image whose form has not yet been fully realized, but is still being composed. Everything which belongs to the human rhythmic organization stands, in respect to the relationship of the spiritual-psychic to the physical, between these contrapositions.

 

36. Whoever contemplates the human head from this viewpoint finds help in understanding spiritual imaginations; for in the head’s form imaginative forms are, so to speak, solidified to physical density.  


 

37. In the same way one can find help understanding Inspiration by contemplating the rhythmic part of the human organization. The physical aspect of life’s rhythms bears the character of Inspiration as a sense-image. In the metabolism-and limbs system one has, when one contemplates it in full action, in the development of its necessary or possible functions, a sensible-supersensible image of the purely supersensible Intuitive.


 

Proceed to:On the preceding Guidelines about the image-nature of man