The Nature of Man
The following words of Goethe point in a beautiful manner to the starting point of one of the ways by which the nature of man can be known. “As soon as a person becomes aware of the objects around him, he considers them in relation to himself, and rightly so, for his whole fate depends on whether they please or displease, attract or repel, help or harm him. This quite natural way of looking at or judging things appears to be as easy as it is necessary. Nevertheless, a person is exposed through it to a thousand errors which often make him ashamed and embitter his life. A far more difficult task is undertaken by those whose keen desire for knowledge urges them to observe the objects of nature in themselves and in their relations to each other; for they soon feel the lack of the test which helped them when they, as men, regarded the objects in reference to themselves personally. They lack the test of pleasure and displeasure, attraction and repulsion, usefulness and harmfulness. This they must renounce entirely: they ought as dispassionate and, so to speak, divine beings, to seek and examine what is, and not what gratifies. Thus the true botanist should not be moved either by the beauty or by the usefulness of the plants. He has to study their formation and their relation to the rest of the vegetable kingdom; and just as they are one and all enticed forth and shone upon by the sun, so should he with an equable, quiet glance look at and survey them all and obtain the test for this knowledge, the data for his deductions not out of himself, but from within the circle of the things which he observes.”
The thought thus expressed by Goethe directs man's attention to three kinds of things. First, the objects concerning which information continually flows to him through the portals of his senses, the objects which he touches, smells, tastes, hears and sees. Second, the impressions which these make on him, characterising themselves through the fact that he finds the one sympathetic, the other abhorrent; the one useful, the other harmful. Third, the knowledge which he, as a so-to-speak “divine being,” acquires concerning the objects — that is, the secrets of their activities and their being which unveil themselves to him.
These three regions are distinctly separate in human life. And man thereby becomes aware that he is interwoven with the world in a threefold way. The first way is something that he finds present, that he accepts as a given fact. Through the second way he makes the world into his own affair, into something that has a meaning for himself. The third way he regards as a goal towards which he has unceasingly to strive.
Why does the world appear to man in this threefold way? A simple consideration will explain it. I cross a meadow covered with flowers. The flowers make their colours known to me through my eyes. That is the fact which I accept as given. I rejoice in the splendour of the colours. Through this I turn the fact into an affair of my own. Through my feelings I connect the flowers with my own existence. A year later I go again over the same meadow. Other flowers are there. New joy arises in me through them. My joy of the former year will appear as a memory. It is in me; the object which aroused it in me is gone. But the flowers which I now see are of the same kind as those I saw the year before; they have grown in accordance with the same laws as did the others. If I have informed myself regarding this species and these laws, then I find them in the flowers of this year again just as I found them in those of last year. And I shall perhaps muse as follows: “The flowers of last year are gone; my joy in them remains only in my remembrance. It is bound up with my existence alone. That, however, which I recognised in the flowers of last year and recognise again this year, will remain as long as such flowers grow. That is something that has revealed itself to me, but is not dependent on my existence in the same way as my joy is. My feelings of joy remain in me; the laws, the being of the flowers remain outside me in the world.”
Thus man continually links himself in this threefold way with the things of the world. One should not for the time being read anything into this fact, but merely take it as it stands. There follows from it that man has three sides to his nature. This and nothing else will for the present be indicated here by the three words body, soul, and spirit. Whoever connects any preconceived opinions, or even hypotheses with these three words will necessarily misunderstand the following explanations. By body is here meant that through which the things in man's environment reveal themselves to him; as in the above example, the flowers of the meadow. By the word soul is signified that by which he links the things to his own being, through which he experiences pleasure and displeasure, desire and aversion, joy and sorrow in connection with them. By spirit is meant that which becomes manifest in him when, as Goethe expressed it, he looks at things as a “so to speak, divine being.” In this sense the human being consists of body, soul and spirit.
Through his body man is able to place himself for the time being in connection with things; through his soul he retains in himself the impressions which they make on him; through his spirit there reveals itself to him what the things retain for themselves. Only when one observes man in these three aspects can one hope to be enlightened about his nature. For these three aspects show him to be related in a threefold way to the rest of the world.
Through his body he is related to the objects which present themselves to his senses from without. The materials from the outer world compose this body of his; and the forces of the outer world also work in it. And just as he observes the things of the outer world with his senses, so he can also observe his own bodily existence. But it is impossible to observe the soul-existence in the same way. Everything in me which is bodily process can be perceived with my bodily senses. My likes and dislikes, my joy and pain, neither I nor anyone else can perceive with bodily senses. The region of the soul is one which is inaccessible to bodily perception. The bodily existence of a man is manifest to all eyes; the soul-existence he carries within himself as his own world. Through the spirit, however, the outer world is revealed to him in a higher way. The mysteries of the outer world, indeed, unveil themselves in his inner being; but he steps in spirit out of himself and lets the things speak about themselves, about that which has significance not for him but for them. Man looks up at the starry heavens; the delight his soul experiences belongs to him; the eternal laws of the stars which he comprehends in thought, in spirit, belong not to him but to the stars themselves.
Thus man is citizen of three worlds. Through his body he belongs to the world which he also perceives through his body; through his soul he constructs for himself his own world; through his spirit a world reveals itself to him which is exalted above both the others.
It seems obvious that because of the essential differences of these three worlds, a clear understanding of them and of man's share in them can only be obtained by means of three different modes of observation.
The Corporeal Being of Man
We learn to know the body of man through bodily senses. And the way of observing it can differ in no way from that by which we learn to know other objects perceived by the senses. As we observe minerals, plants, animals, so can we observe man also. He is related to these three forms of existence. Like the minerals he builds his body out of the materials of Nature; like the plants he grows and propagates his species; like the animals, he perceives the objects around him and builds up his inner experiences on the basis of the impressions they make on him. We may therefore ascribe to man a mineral, a plant, and an animal existence.
The difference in structure of minerals, plants and animals corresponds to the three forms of their existence. And it is this structure — the shape — which we perceive through the senses, and which alone we can call body. Now the human body is different from that of the animal. This difference everybody must recognise, whatever he may think in other respects regarding the relationship of man to animals. Even the most thorough-going materialist, who denies all soul, cannot but admit the truth of the following sentence which Carus utters in his Org anon der Natur und des Geistes: “The finer, inner construction of the nervous system, and especially of the brain, still remains an unsolved problem for the physiologist and the anatomist; but that this concentration of the structures increases more and more in the animal, and in man reaches a stage unequalled in any other being, is a fully established fact; a fact which is of the deepest significance in regard to the mental evolution of man, of which, indeed, we may go so far as to say it is really in itself a sufficient explanation. Where, therefore, the structure of the brain has not developed properly, where smallness and poverty are revealed as in the case of microcephali and idiots, it goes without saying that we can as little expect the appearance of original ideas and of knowledge, as one can expect propagation of the species from persons with completely stunted organs of generation. On the other hand, a strong and beautifully developed build of the whole man, and especially of the brain, will certainly not in itself take the place of genius, but it will at any rate supply the first and indispensable condition for higher knowledge.”
Just as we ascribe to the human body the three forms of existence, mineral, plant, animal, so we must ascribe to it a fourth, the distinctively human form. Through his mineral existence man is related to everything visible; through his plant-like existence to all beings that grow and propagate their species; through his animal existence to all those that perceive their surroundings, and by means of external impressions have inner experiences; through his human form of existence he constitutes, even in regard to his body alone, a kingdom by himself.
The Soul Being of Man
Man's soul-nature as his own inner world is different from his bodily nature. That which is his very own comes at once to the fore, when attention is turned to the simplest sensation. Thus no one can know whether another person perceives even such a simple sensation in exactly the same way as one does oneself. It is known that there are people who are colour-blind. They see things only in different shades of grey. Others are partially colour-blind. They are unable, because of this, to perceive certain shades of colours. The picture of the world which their eyes give them is different from that of so-called normal persons. And the same holds good more or less in regard to the other senses. It will be seen, therefore, without further elaboration, that even simple sensations belong to the inner world. I can perceive with my bodily senses the red table which another person also perceives; but I cannot perceive his sensation of red. Sensation must therefore be described as belonging to the soul. If we grasp this fact alone quite clearly, we shall soon cease to regard inner experiences as mere brain processes or something similar. Feeling is closely allied to sensation. One sensation causes man pleasure, another displeasure. These are stirrings of his inner, his soul-life. In his feelings man creates a second world in addition to that which works on him from without. And a third is added to this — the will. Through the will man reacts on the outer world. And he thereby stamps the impress of his inner being on the outer world. The soul of man as it were flows outwards in the activities of his will. The actions of the human being differ from the occurrences of outer nature in that they bear the impress of his inner life. Thus the soul as that which is man's very own stands in contradistinction to the outer world. He receives from the outer world the incitements, but he creates in response to these incitements a world of his own. The body becomes the foundation of the soul-being of man.
The Spiritual Being of Man
The soul-being of man is not determined by the body alone. Man does not wander aimlessly and without a purpose from one sense impression to another; neither does he act under the influence of every casual incitement which plays upon him either from without or through the processes of his body. He reflects upon his perceptions and his acts. By reflecting upon his perceptions he gains knowledge of things: by reflecting upon his acts he introduces a reasonable coherence into his life. And he knows that he will fulfil his duty as a human being worthily only when he lets himself be guided by correct thoughts in knowing as well as in acting. The soul of man, therefore, is confronted by a twofold necessity. By the laws of the body it is governed by natural necessity; but it allows itself to be governed by the laws which guide it to exact thinking because it voluntarily acknowledges their necessity. Nature subjects man to the laws of metabolism, but he subjects himself to the laws of thought. By this means he makes himself a member of a higher order than that to which he belongs through his body. And this order is the spiritual. The spiritual is as different from the soul as the soul is different from the body. As long as we speak only of the particles of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen which are in motion in the body, we have not got the soul in view. The soul-life begins only when within the motion of these particles, the feeling arises: “I taste sweetness” or “I feel pleasure.” Just as little have we the spiritual in view as long as we consider merely those soul-experiences which course through a man who gives himself over entirely to the outer world and his bodily life. This soul-life is rather the basis of the spiritual just as the body is the basis of the soul-life. The scientist, or investigator of nature, is concerned with the body, the investigator of the soul (the psychologist) with the soul, and the investigator of the spirit with the spirit. To make clear to oneself through thought upon and observation of one's own self the difference between body, soul, and spirit, is a demand which must be made upon those who seek by thinking to enlighten themselves regarding the nature of man.
Body, Soul and Spirit
Man can only come to a true understanding of himself when he grasps clearly the significance of thinking within his being. The brain is the bodily instrument for thinking. Just as man can only see colours with a properly constructed eye, so the suitably constructed brain serves him for thought. The whole body of man is so formed that it receives its crown in the organ of the spirit, the brain. The construction of the human brain can be understood only by considering it in relation to its task, which consists in being the bodily basis for the thinking spirit. This is borne out by a comparative survey of the animal world. Among the amphibians we find the brain small in comparison with the spinal cord; in mammals it is proportionately larger; in man it is largest in comparison with the rest of the body.
Many prejudices are prevalent regarding such statements about thinking as are brought forward here. Many persons are inclined to undervalue thinking, and to place higher the “warm life of feeling” or “emotion.” Some, indeed, say it is not by “sober thinking,” but by warmth of feeling, by the immediate power of “the emotions,” that one raises oneself to higher knowledge. People who talk thus fear to blunt the feelings by clear thinking. This certainly does result from the ordinary thinking that is concerned only with matters of utility; but in the case of thoughts that lead to higher regions of existence, the opposite happens. There is no feeling and no enthusiasm to be compared with the sentiments of warmth, beauty and exaltation enkindled through the pure, crystal-clear thoughts which relate to higher worlds. For the highest feelings are as a matter of fact not those which come “of themselves,” but those which are achieved by energetic and persevering work in the realm of thought.
The human body is so built as to be adapted to thinking. The same materials and forces which are present in the mineral kingdom are so combined in the human body that by means of this combination thought can manifest itself. This mineral construction, built up in accordance with its task, will be called in the following pages the physical body of man.
This mineral structure which is organised with reference to the brain as its central point, comes into existence through propagation and reaches its fully developed form through growth. Propagation and growth man shares in common with plants and animals. Through propagation and growth what is living differentiates itself from the lifeless mineral. Life gives rise to life by means of the germ. Descendant follows forefather from one living generation to another. The forces through which a mineral originates are directed upon the substances of which it is composed. A quartz crystal is formed through the forces inherent in the silicon and oxygen which are combined in the crystal. The forces which shape an oak tree must be sought for in an indirect way in the germ in the mother and father plants. The form of the oak is preserved through propagation from forefather to descendant. There are inner determining conditions innate in all that is living. It was a crude view of Nature which held that lower animals, even fishes, could evolve out of mud. The form of the living passes itself on by means of heredity. How a living being develops depends on what father or mother it has sprung from, or in other words, on the species to which it belongs. The materials of which it is composed are continually changing; the species remains constant during life, and is transmitted to the descendants. Therefore the species is that which determines the combination of the materials. This force which determines species will be here called Life-force. Just as the mineral forces express themselves in the crystals, so the formative life-force expresses itself in the species or forms of plant and animal life.
The mineral forces are perceived by man by means of his bodily senses; and he can only perceive that for which he has such senses. Without the eye there is no perception of light, without the ear no perception of sound. The lowest organisms have only one of the senses belonging to man: a kind of sense of touch. Nothing can be perceived by such organisms, in the way a human being perceives, except those mineral forces which make themselves known through the sense of touch. In proportion as the other senses are developed in the higher animals does their surrounding world, which man also perceives, become richer and more varied. It depends, therefore, on the organs of a being whether that which exists in the outer world exists also for the being itself, as perception, as sensation. What is present in the air as a certain motion becomes in man the sensation of hearing. Man does not perceive the manifestations of the life-force through the ordinary senses. He sees the colours of the plants; he smells their perfume; the life-force remains hidden from this form of observation. But the ordinary senses have just as little right to deny that there is a life-force as has the man born blind to deny that colours exist. Colours are there for the person born blind as soon as he has been operated upon; in the same way, the objects, the various species of plants and animals created by the life-force (not merely the individual plants and animals) are present to man as objects of perception as soon as the necessary organ unfolds within him. An entirely new world opens out to man through the unfolding of this organ. He now perceives, not merely the colours, the odours, etc., of the living beings, but the life itself of these beings. In each plant, in each animal, he perceives, besides the physical form, the life-filled spirit-form. In order to have a name for this spirit-form let it be called the ether-body, or life-body. 1The author of this book, long after it was written, applied to what is here called etheric or life-body, the name “formative-force-body” (also cf. Das Reich, 4th book of the first year's issue.) He felt moved to give it this name, because he believes that one cannot do enough to prevent the misunderstanding due to confusing what is here meant by etheric body with the “vital force” of older natural science. In what concerns the rejection of this older concept of a vital force in the sense of modern natural science, the author shares in a certain respect the standpoint of those who are opposed to assuming such a vital force. For the purpose of assuming such a vital force was to explain the special mode of working in the organism of the inorganic forces. But that which works inorganically in the organism, does not work there in any other way than it does in the inorganic world. The laws of inorganic nature are in the organism no other than they are in the crystal, and so forth. But in the organism there is present something which is not inorganic: the formative life. The etheric body or formative-force-body lies at the base of this formative life. By assuming its existence, the rightful task of natural science is not interfered with: viz., to observe the workings of forces in inorganic nature and to follow the workings into the organic world: and further, to refuse to think of these operations within the organism as being modified by a special vital force. The spiritual investigator speaks of the etheric body in so far as there manifests in the organism something other than what shows itself in the lifeless. In spite of all this the author does not here feel impelled to replace the term “etheric body” by the other “formative-force-body,” since within the whole connected range of what is said here, any misunderstanding is excluded for everyone who really wants to see. Such a misunderstanding can only arise when the term is used in a development which cannot exhibit this connection. See also under Addendas 1, 2,& 3 p.26
To the investigator of spiritual life, this matter presents itself in the following manner. The ether-body is for him not merely a product of the materials and forces of the physical body, but a real independent entity which first calls forth these physical materials and forces into life. It is in accordance with spiritual science to say: a purely physical body, a crystal for example, has its form through the action of the physical formative forces innate in that which is lifeless. A living body has its form not through the action of these forces, because the moment life has departed from it and it is given over to the physical forces only, it falls to pieces. The ether-body is an organism which preserves the physical body every moment during life from dissolution. In order to see this body, to perceive it in another being, one requires the awakened “spiritual eye.” Without this, its existence can be accepted as a fact on logical grounds; but one can see it with the spiritual eye as one sees colour with the physical eye. Offence should not be taken at the expression “ether-body.” “Ether” here designates something different from the hypothetical ether of the physicist. It should be regarded simply as a name for what is described here. And just as the physical body of man in its construction is a kind of reflection of its purpose, so is this also the case with man's etheric body. Moreover, it can be understood only when considered in relation to the thinking spirit. The etheric body of man differs from that of plants and animals, through being organised to serve the purposes of the thinking spirit. Just as man belongs to the mineral world through his physical body, he belongs through his etheric body to the life-world. After death the physical body dissolves into the mineral world, the ether-body into the life-world. By the word “body” is denoted that which gives any kind of being “shape” or “form.” The term “body” must not be confused with a bodily form perceptible to the physical senses. Used in the sense implied in this book the term “body” can also be applied to such forms as soul and spirit may assume.
In the life-body we still have something external to man. With the first stirrings of sensation the inner self responds to the stimuli of the outer world. You may trace ever so far what one is justified in calling the outer world, but you will not be able to find sensation. Rays of light stream into the eye, penetrating it till they reach the retina. There they call forth chemical processes (in the so-called visual-purple); the effect of these stimuli is passed on through the optic nerve to the brain where further physical processes arise. Could one observe these, one would simply see physical processes, just as elsewhere in the physical world. If I were able to observe the ether-body, I should see how the physical brain-process is at the same time a life-process. But the sensation of blue colour, which the recipient of the rays of light has, I can find nowhere in this manner. It arises only within the soul of the recipient. If, therefore, the being of this recipient consisted only of the physical body and the ether-body, sensation could not exist. The activity by which sensation becomes a fact differs essentially from the operations of the formative life-force. It is an activity by which an inner experience is called forth from these operations. Without this activity there would be a mere life-process, such as is to be observed in plants. If one pictures a man receiving impressions from all sides, one must think of him at the same time as the source of the above-mentioned soul-activity which flows out from him to all the directions from which he is receiving the impressions. In all directions soul-sensations arise in response to the physical impacts. This fountain of activity shall be called the sentient soul. This sentient soul is just as real as the physical body. If a man stands before me, and I disregard his sentient soul by thinking of him as merely a physical body, it is exactly as if I were to call up in my mind, instead of a painting — merely the canvas.
A similar statement has to be made in regard to perceiving the sentient soul, as was previously made in reference to the ether-body. The bodily organs are “blind” to it. And blind to it also is the organ by which life can be perceived as life. But just as the ether-body is seen by means of this organ, so through a still higher organ can the inner world of sensation become a special kind of supersensible perception. A man would then not only sense the impressions of the physical and life-world, but would behold the sensations themselves. Before a man with such an organ, the sensation world of another being is spread out like an external reality.
One must distinguish between experiencing one's own world of sensation, and looking at that of another person. Every man of course can look into his own world of sensation; only the seer with the opened “spiritual eye” can see another person's world of sensation. Unless a man be a seer, he knows the world of sensation only as an “inner” one, only as the peculiar hidden experiences of his own soul; with the opened “spiritual eye” there shines out before the outward-turned spiritual gaze what otherwise lives only in the inner being of another person.
In order to prevent misunderstanding, it may be expressly stated here that the seer does not simply experience in himself what the other being has within him as content of his world of sensation. That being experiences the sensations in question from the point of view of his own inner being; the seer becomes aware of a manifestation of the world of sensation.
The sentient soul depends, as regards its activity, on the ether-body. For it draws from it that which it will cause to gleam forth as sensation. And since the ether-body is the life within the physical body, therefore the sentient soul is also indirectly dependent on the latter. Only with properly functioning and well-constructed eyes are correct colour sensations possible. It is in this way that the nature of the body affects the sentient soul. The latter is thus determined and limited in its activity by the body. It lives within the limitations fixed for it by the nature of the body. The body accordingly is built up of mineral substances, is vitalised by the ether-body, and limits even the sentient soul. A man, therefore, who has the above-mentioned organ for “seeing” the sentient soul, knows it to be conditioned by the body. But the boundary of the sentient soul does not coincide with that of the physical body. It extends somewhat beyond the physical body. From this one sees that it proves itself to be greater than the physical body. Nevertheless the force through which its limits are set proceeds from the physical body. Thus between the physical body and the ether-body, on the one hand, and the sentient soul on the other, there inserts itself another distinct member of the human being. This is the soul-body or sentient body. One can express this in another way. One part of the ether-body is finer than the rest, and this finer part of the ether-body forms a unity with the sentient soul, whereas the coarser part forms a kind of unity with the physical body. Nevertheless, the sentient soul extends, as has been said, beyond the soul-body.
What is here called sensation is only a part of the soul-being. (The expression sentient soul is chosen for the sake of simplicity.) Connected with sensations are the feelings of desire and aversion, impulses, instincts, passions. All these bear the same character of individual life as do the sensations, and are, like them, dependent on the bodily nature.
Just as the sentient soul enters into mutual action and reaction with the body, so does it also in thinking, with the spirit. In the first place thinking serves the sentient soul. Man forms thoughts about his sensations. He thus enlightens himself regarding the outside world. The child that has burnt itself thinks it over, and reaches the thought “fire burns.” Nor does man follow blindly his impulses, instincts, passions; his thinking about them brings about the opportunity through which he can gratify them. What is called material civilisation moves entirely in this direction. It consists in the services which thinking renders to the sentient soul. An immeasurable amount of thought-power is directed to this end. It is thought-power that has built ships, railways, telegraphs, telephones; and by far the greatest proportion of all this serves only to satisfy the needs of sentient souls.
Thought-force permeates the sentient soul in a similar way to that in which the formative-life-force permeates the physical body. The formative-life-force connects the physical body with forefathers and descendants, and thus brings it under a system of laws with which the purely mineral body is in no way concerned. In the same way thought-force brings the soul under a system of laws to which it does not belong as mere sentient soul.
Through the sentient soul man is related to the animal. In animals, also, we observe the presence of sensations, impulses, instincts and passions. But the animal obeys these immediately. They do not, in its case, become interwoven with independent thoughts, transcending the immediate experiences. 2See also under Addenda 4 This is also the case to a certain extent with undeveloped human beings. The mere sentient soul is therefore different from the evolved higher member of the soul which brings thinking into its service. This soul that is served by thought will be termed the intellectual soul. One could also call it the mind-soul.
The intellectual soul permeates the sentient soul. He who has the organ for “seeing” the soul sees, therefore, the intellectual soul as a separate entity, in relation to the mere sentient soul.
By thinking, man is led above and beyond his own personal life. He acquires something that extends beyond his soul. He comes to take for granted his conviction that the laws of thought are in conformity with the laws of the world. And he feels at home in the world because this conformity exists. This conformity is one of the weighty facts through which man learns to know his own nature. Man searches in his soul for truth; and through this truth it is not only the soul that speaks, but the things of the world. That which is recognised as truth by means of thought has an independent significance, which refers to the things of the world, and not merely to one's own soul. In my delight at the starry heavens I live in my own inner being; the thoughts which I form for myself about the paths of heavenly bodies have the same significance for the thinking of every other person as they have for mine. It would be absurd to speak of my delight were I not in existence; but it is not in the same way absurd to speak of my thoughts, even without reference to myself. For the truth which I think to-day was true also yesterday; will be true to-morrow, although I concern myself with it only to-day. If a piece of knowledge gives me joy, the joy has significance just so long as it lives in me; the truth of the knowledge has its significance quite independently of this joy. By grasping the truth the soul connects itself with something that carries its value in itself. And this value does not vanish with the feeling in the soul any more than it arose with it. What is really truth neither arises nor passes away: it has a significance which cannot be destroyed. This is not contradicted by the fact that certain human “truths” have a value which is transitory, inasmuch as they are recognised after a certain period as partial or complete errors. A man must say to himself that truth exists in itself, and that his conceptions are only transient forms of eternal truths. Even he who says, like Lessing, that he contents himself with the eternal striving towards truth because the full, pure truth can, after all, only exist for a God, does not deny the eternity of truth but establishes it by such an utterance. For only that which has an eternal significance in itself can call forth an eternal striving after it. Were truth not in itself independent, if it acquired its value and significance through the feelings of the human soul, then it could not be the one unique goal for all mankind. One concedes its independent being by the very fact that one sets oneself to strive after it.
And as it is with the true, so it is with the truly good. Moral goodness is independent of inclinations and passions, inasmuch as it does not allow itself to be commanded by, but commands them. Likes and dislikes, desire and loathing belong to the personal soul of man; duty stands higher than likes and dislikes. Duty may stand so high in the eyes of a man that he will sacrifice his fife for its sake. And a man stands the higher the more he has ennobled his inclinations, his likes and dislikes, so that without compulsion or subjection they themselves obey what is recognised as duty. Moral goodness has, like truth, its eternal value in itself, and does not receive it from the sentient soul.
By causing the self-existent true and good to come to life in his inner being, man raises himself above the mere sentient soul. The eternal spirit shines into it. A light is kindled in it which is imperishable. In so far as the soul lives in this light, it is a participant of the eternal. It unites therewith its own existence. What the soul carries within itself of the true and the good is immortal in it. Let us call that which shines forth in the soul as eternal the consciousness-soul. 3Bewusstsein-Seele (consciousness-soul) may also, as indicated by Dr. Steiner, be translated “spiritual soul.” We can speak of consciousness even in connection with the lower soul-stirrings.
The most ordinary everyday sensation is a matter of consciousness. To this extent animals also have consciousness. By consciousness-soul is meant the kernel of human consciousness, the soul within the soul. The consciousness-soul is thus distinguished as a distinct member of the soul from the intellectual soul. This latter is still entangled in the sensations, the impulses, the passions, etc. Everyone knows how at first he counts as true that which he prefers in his feelings, and so on. Only that truth, however, is permanent which has freed itself from all flavour of such sympathy and antipathy of feeling. The truth is true, even if all personal feelings revolt against it. The part of the soul in which this truth lives will be called consciousness-soul.
Thus three members have to be distinguished in the soul as in the body: sentient soul, intellectual soul, consciousness-soul. And just as the body works from below upwards with a limiting effect on the soul, so the spiritual works from above downwards into it, expanding it. For the more the soul fills itself with the true and the good, the wider and the more comprehensive becomes the eternal in it. To him who is able to “see” the soul, the radiance which proceeds from a human being because his eternal element is expanding, is just as much a reality as the light which streams out from a flame is real to the physical eye. For the “seer” the corporeal man counts as only part of the whole man. The physical body, as the coarsest structure, lies within others, which mutually interpenetrate both it and each other. The ether-body fills the physical body as a life-form; extending beyond this on all sides is to be perceived the soul-body (astral form). And beyond this, again, extends the sentient soul, then the intellectual soul which grows the larger the more it receives into itself of the true and the good. For this true and good cause the expansion of the intellectual soul. A man living only and entirely according to his inclinations, his likes and dislikes, would have an intellectual soul whose limits coincide with those of his sentient soul. These formations, in the midst of which the physical body appears as if in a cloud, may be called the human aura. The aura is that in regard to which the “being of man” becomes enriched, when it is seen as this book endeavours to present it.
In the course of his development as a child, there comes the moment in the life of a man in which, for the first time, he feels himself to be an independent being distinct from the whole of the rest of the world. For finely strung natures it is a significant experience. The poet Jean Paul says in his autobiography: “I shall never forget the event which took place within me, hitherto narrated to no one, and of which I can give place and time, when I stood present at the birth of my self-consciousness. As a very small child I stood at the door of the house one morning, looking towards the wood pile on my left, when suddenly the inner vision, ‘I am an I’ came upon me like a flash of lightning from heaven and has remained shining ever since. In that moment my ego had seen itself for the first time and for ever. Any deception of memory is hardly to be conceived as possible here, for no narrations by outsiders could have introduced additions to an occurrence which took place in the holy of holies of a human being, and of which the novelty alone gave permanence to such everyday surroundings.” It is well known that little children say of themselves, “Charles is good,” “Mary wants to have this.” One feels it to be right that they speak of themselves as if of others, because they have not yet become conscious of their independent existence, because the consciousness of the self is not yet born in them. Through self-consciousness, man describes himself as an independent being, separate from all others, as “I.” In “I” man includes all that he experiences as a being with body and soul. Body and soul are the carriers of the ego or “I;” in them it acts. Just as the physical body has its centre in the brain, so has the soul its centre in the ego. Man is aroused to sensations by impacts from without; feelings manifest themselves as effects of the outer world; the will relates itself to the outside world in that it realises itself in external actions. The “I” as the essential being of man remains quite invisible. Excellently, therefore, does Jean Paul call a man's recognition of his ego an occurrence taking place only in his veiled holy of holies; for with his “I” man is quite alone. And this “I” is the man himself. That justifies him in regarding his ego as his true being. He may, therefore, describe his body and his soul as the “sheaths” or “veils” within which he lives; and he may describe them as bodily conditions through which he acts. In the course of his evolution he learns to regard these instruments ever more and more as servants of his ego. The little word “I” is a name which differs from all other names. Anyone who reflects in an appropriate manner on the nature of this name, will find that in so doing an avenue to the understanding of the human being in the deeper sense is revealed. Every other name can be applied to its corresponding object by all men in the same way. Everybody can call a table “table” or a chair “chair.” This is not so with the name “I.” No one can use it in referring to another person; each one can call only himself “I.” Never can the name “I” reach my ears from outside when it refers to me. Only from within, only through itself, can the human being refer to himself as “I.” When the human being therefore says “I” to himself, something begins to speak in him that has nothing to do with any one of the worlds from which the sheaths so far mentioned are taken. The “I” becomes ever more and more ruler of body and soul. This also expresses itself in the aura. The more the “I” is lord over body and soul, the more definitely organised, the more varied and the more richly coloured is the aura.
The effect of the “I” on the aura can be seen by the “seeing” person. The “I” itself is invisible even to him; this remains truly within the veiled “holy of holies.” But the “I” absorbs into itself the rays of the light which flashes up in a man as eternal light. As he gathers together the experiences of body and soul in the “I,” so too he causes the thoughts of truth and goodness to stream into the “I.” The phenomena of the senses reveal themselves to the “I” from the one side, the spirit reveals itself from the other. Body and soul yield themselves up to the “I” in order to serve it; but the “I” yields itself up to the spirit in order that the spirit may fill it to overflowing. The “I” lives in body and soul; but the spirit lives in the “I.” And what there is of spirit in the “I” is eternal. For the “I” receives its nature and significance from that with which it is bound up. In so far as it experiences itself in the physical body, it is subject to the laws of the mineral world; through its ether-body to the laws of propagation and growth; by virtue of the sentient and intellectual souls to the laws of the soul-world in so far as it receives the spiritual into itself it is subject to the laws of the spirit. That which the laws of mineral and of life construct, comes into being and vanishes; but the spirit has nothing to do with becoming and perishing.
The “I” lives in the soul. Although the highest manifestation of the “I” belongs to the consciousness-soul, one must nevertheless say that this “I,” raying out from it, fills the whole of the soul, and through the soul exerts its action upon the body. And in the “I” the spirit is alive. The spirit sends its rays into the “I” and lives in it as in a “sheath” or veil, just as the “I” lives in its sheaths, the body and soul. The spirit develops the “I” from within, outwards; the mineral world develops it from without, inwards. The spirit forming an “I” and living as “I” will be called Spirit-self, because it manifests as the “I,” or ego, or “self” of man. The difference between the “Spirit-self” and the “consciousness-soul” can be made clear in the following way. The consciousness-soul is in touch with the self-existent truth which is independent of all antipathy and sympathy; the Spirit-self bears within it the same truth, but taken up into and enclosed by the “I,” individualised by the latter and absorbed into the independent being of the man. It is through the eternal truth becoming thus individualised and bound up into one being with the “I,” that the “I” itself attains to eternity.
The Spirit-self is a revelation of the spiritual world within the “I,” just as from the other side sensations are a revelation of the physical world within the “I.” In what is red, green, light, dark, hard, soft, warm, cold, one recognises the revelations of the corporeal world; in what is true and good, the revelations of the spiritual world. In the same sense in which the revelation of the corporeal world is called sensation, let the revelation of the spiritual be called intuition. 4See also underAddenda p.38-39. Even the most simple thought contains intuitions, for one cannot touch it with the hands or see it with the eyes; its revelation must be received from the spirit through the “I.” If an undeveloped and a developed man look at a plant, there lives in the “I” of the one something quite different from that which is in the “I” of the other. And yet the sensations of both are called forth by the same object. The difference lies in this, that the one can form far more perfect thoughts about the object than can the other. If objects revealed themselves through sensation alone, there could be no progress in spiritual development. Even the savage is affected by Nature; but the laws of Nature reveal themselves only to the thoughts, fructified by intuition, of the more highly developed man. The stimuli from the outer world are felt even by the child as incentives to the will; but the commandments of the morally good disclose themselves to him only in the course of his development, in proportion as he learns to live in the spirit and understand its revelations.
Just as there could be no colour sensations without physical eyes, so there could be no intuitions without the higher thinking of the Spirit-self. And as little as sensation creates the plant on which the colour appears, does intuition create the spiritual realities about which it is merely giving information.
The “I” of a man, which comes to life in the soul, draws into itself messages from above, from the spirit-world, through intuitions, just as through sensations it draws in messages from the physical world. And in so doing it fashions the spirit-world into the individualised life of its own soul, even as it does the physical world by means of the senses. The soul, or rather the “I” lighting up in it, opens its portals on two sides; towards the corporeal and towards the spiritual.
Now just as the physical world can only give information about itself to the ego by building out of physical materials and forces a body in which the conscious soul can live and possess organs to perceive the corporeal world outside itself, so does the spirit-world build, with its spirit-substances and spirit-forces, a spirit-body in which the “I” can live and, through intuitions, perceive the spiritual. (It is evident that the expressions spirit-substance, spirit-body contain a contradiction, according to the literal meaning of the words. They are used only in order to direct attention to what, in the spiritual, corresponds to the physical body of man.)
Just as within the physical world each human body is built up as a separate physical being, so is the spirit-body within the spirit-world. In the spirit-world there is an “inner” and an “outer” for man just as there is in the physical world. As man takes in the materials of the physical world around him and assimilates them in his physical body, so does he take up the spiritual from the spiritual environment and make it into his own. The spiritual is the eternal nourishment of man. And as man is born out of the physical world, so is he born out of the spirit through the eternal laws of the true and the good. He is separated from the spirit-world outside him, as he is separated from the whole physical world, as an independent being. This independent spiritual being will be called the Spirit-man.
If we investigate the human physical body, we find the same materials and forces in it as are to be found outside it in the rest of the physical world. It is the same with the Spirit-man. In it pulsate the elements of the external spirit-world; in it the forces of the rest of the spirit-world are active. As within the physical skin a being is enclosed and limited which is alive and feels, so also is it in the spirit-world. The spiritual skin, which separates the Spirit-man from the homogeneous spirit-world, makes him an independent being within it, living a life within himself and perceiving intuitively the spiritual content of the world — let us call this “spiritual skin” (auric sheath) the spirit-sheath. Only it must be kept clearly in mind that the spiritual skin expands continually with advancing human evolution, so that the spiritual individuality of man (his auric sheath) is capable of enlargement to an unlimited extent.
The Spirit-man lives within this spirit-sheath. It is built up by the spiritual life-force. In a similar way to that in which one speaks of an ether-body, one must therefore speak of an ether-spirit in reference to the Spirit-man. Let this ether-spirit be called Life-spirit. The spiritual being of man therefore is composed of three parts, Spirit-man, Life-spirit, and Spirit-self.
For one who is a “seer” in the spiritual regions, this spiritual being of man is a perceptible reality as the higher, truly spiritual part of the aura. He “sees” the Spirit-man as Life-spirit within the spirit-sheath; and he “sees” how this “Life-spirit” grows continually larger, by taking in spiritual nourishment from the spiritual external world. Further, he sees how the spirit-sheath continually increases, widens out through what is brought into it, and how the Spirit-man becomes ever larger and larger. In so far as this “becoming larger” is “seen” spatially, it is of course, only a picture of the reality. In spite of this, man's soul is directed towards the corresponding spiritual reality in conceiving this picture. For the difference between the spiritual and the physical being of man is that the latter has a limited size while the former can grow to an unlimited extent. Whatever of spiritual nourishment is absorbed has an eternal value. The human aura is accordingly composed of two interpenetrating parts. Colour and form are given to the one by the physical existence of man, and to the other by his spiritual existence. The ego marks the separation between them in such wise that the physical, after its own manner, yields itself and builds up a body that allows a soul to live within it; and the “I” yields itself and allows to develop in it the spirit, which now for its part permeates the soul and gives it the goal in the spirit-world. Through the body the soul is enclosed in the physical; through the Spirit-man there grow wings for its movement in the spiritual world.
In order to comprehend the whole man, one must think of him as put together out of the components above mentioned. The body builds itself up out of the world of physical matter in such wise that its construction is adapted to the requirements of the thinking ego. It is penetrated with life-force, and thereby becomes the etheric or life-body. As such it opens itself through the sense-organs towards the outer world and becomes the soul-body. This the sentient soul permeates and becomes a unity with it. The sentient soul does not merely receive the impacts of the outer world as sensations; it has its own inner life which it fertilises through thinking, on the one hand, as it does through sensations on the other. It thus becomes the intellectual soul. It is able to do this by opening itself to intuitions from above, as it does to sensations from below. Thus it becomes the consciousness-soul. This is possible for it because the spirit-world builds into it the organ of intuition, just as the physical body builds for it the sense-organs. As the senses transmit to the human organism sensations by means of the soul-body, so does the spirit transmit to it intuitions through the organ of intuition. The Spirit-self is thereby linked into a unity with the consciousness-soul, just as the physical body is with the sentient soul in the soul-body. Consciousness-soul and Spirit-self form a unity. In this unity the Spirit-man lives as Life-spirit, just as the etheric body forms the bodily basis for the soul-body. And as the physical body is enclosed in the physical skin, so is the Spirit-man in the spirit-sheath. The members of the whole man are therefore as follows:
- Physical body.
- Ether-body or life-body
- Sentient soul
- Intellectual soul
Soul-body (C) and sentient soul (D) are a unity in the earthly man; in the same way are consciousness-soul (F) and Spirit-self (G) a unity. Thus there come to be seven parts in the earthly man. 5See also underAddenda p.42
- Physical body.
- Ether-body or life-body
- Sentient soul-body
- Intellectual soul
- Spirit-filled Consciousness-soul
In the soul the “I” flashes forth, receives the impetus from the spirit and thereby becomes the bearer of the Spirit-man. Thus man participates in the “three worlds,” the physical, the soul, and the spiritual. He is rooted in the physical world through his physical body, ether-body, and soul-body and blossoms through the Spirit-self, Life-spirit, and Spirit-man up into the spiritual world. The stalk, however, which takes root in the one and blossoms in the other, is the soul itself.
This arrangement of the members of man can be expressed in a simplified way, but one entirely consistent with the above. Although the human “I” lights up in the consciousness-soul it nevertheless penetrates the whole soul-being. The parts of this soul-being are not at all as distinctly separate as are the limbs of the body: they interpenetrate each other in a higher sense. If then one regards the intellectual soul and the consciousness-soul as the two sheaths of the “I” that belong together, with the “I” itself as their kernel, then one can divide man into physical body, life-body, astral body, and “I.” The expression astral body designates here what is formed by soul-body and sentient soul together. This expression is found in the older literature, and may be applied here in a somewhat broad sense to that in the constitution of man which lies beyond the sensibly perceptible. Although the sentient soul is in certain respects energised by the “I” it is still so intimately connected with the soul-body that, in thinking of both as united, a single expression is justified. When, now, the “I” saturates itself with the Spirit-self, then this Spirit-self makes its appearance in such wise that the astral body is worked over from within the soul. In the astral body there are primarily active the impulses, desires, and passions of man, in so far as they are felt by him; sense-perceptions are also active in it. Sense-perceptions arise through the soul-body as a member in man which comes to him from the external world. Impulses, desires, and passions, etc., arise in the sentient soul, in so far as it is energised from within, before this “inner” has yielded itself to the Spirit-self. If the “I” saturates itself with the Spirit-self, then the soul energises the astral body with this Spirit-self. This expresses itself in the illumination of the impulses, desires, and passions by what the “I” has received from the spirit. The “I” has then, through its participation in the spiritual world, become ruler in the world of impulses, desires, etc. To the extent to which it has become this the Spirit-self manifests in the astral body. And the astral body is thereby transmuted. The astral body itself then appears as a two-fold body — in part untransmuted and in part transmuted. Therefore the Spirit-self, as manifested in man, can be designated as the transmuted astral body.
A similar process takes place in a man when he receives the Life-spirit into his “I.” The life-body then becomes transmuted. It becomes penetrated with the Life-spirit. This manifests itself in such wise that the life-body becomes quite other than it was. For this reason one can also say that Life-spirit is the transmuted life-body. And if the “I” receives the Spirit-man, it thereby receives the necessary force with which to permeate the physical body. Naturally, that part of the physical body, thus transmuted, is not perceptible to the physical senses. For it is just that part of the physical body which has been spiritualised that has become the Spirit-man. The physical body is then present to the physical senses as physical, but in so far as this physical is spiritualised, it must be perceived by spiritual faculties of perception. To the external senses the physical, even when permeated by the spiritual, appears to be merely sensible.
Taking all this as basis, the following arrangement of the members of man may also be given:
- Physical body.
- Ether-body or life-body
- Astral body
- “I” as soul-kernel
- Spirit-self as transmuted astral body
- Life-spirit as transmuted life-body
- Spirit-man as transmuted physical body