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209Re THE GREAT VIRTUES

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  • 888
    Oct 30, 1999
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      When we speak of human virtues we can distinguish four of these which we
      can describe in ordinary language. There is one virtue, as we shall
      indicate later on, which lives in the depths of the human soul, but of
      which we should speak as little as possible as we shall see, for reasons
      that are holy. All other virtues which exist in life, and which together
      make up morality, can be regarded as special examples of the four
      virtues which we shall consider, four virtues of which antiquity in
      particular had much to say.

      Plato, the great philosopher of ancient Greece, distinguished these four
      virtues in particular, because he was able to draw his wisdom from the
      echoes of the ancient Mysteries. Under the influence of the old
      Mysteries Plato could distinguish the virtues better than later
      philosophers and much better than our times, in which knowledge of
      Mystery wisdom has become so remote and so chaotic.

      The first virtue which we must consider, if we speak about morality from
      a comprehensive knowledge of human nature, is the virtue of wisdom. But
      this wisdom is to be understood in a rather deeper sense, more related
      to ethics, than is usually done. Wisdom is not something that comes to
      man of its own accord; still less can it in the ordinary sense be
      learned. It is not easy to describe what its meaning for us should be.

      If we pass through life in such a way that events work upon us, and we
      learn from them how we could have met this or that more adequately, how
      we could have used our powers more strongly and effectively - if we are
      attentive towards everything in life, so that when something meets us a
      second time in a comparable way we can treat it in a way which shows us
      we have benefited from the first experience- then we grow in wisdom.

      If we preserve all through life a mood of being able to learn from life,
      of being able to regard everything brought to us by nature and our
      experience, in such a way that we
      learn from it, not simply accumulating knowledge, but growing inwardly
      better and richer - then we have gathered wisdom, and what we have
      experienced has not been worthless for the life of our souls.

      Life has been worthless for us if we pass through decades and still
      judge something that we have experienced in just the same way as we
      thought about it earlier in our lives. If we pass through life in such a
      way, we are most remote from wisdom. Karma may have brought it about
      that in youth we grew angry, and condemned this or that human action. If
      we retain this quality we have made poor use of our lives. We have used
      them well, supposing we formed harsh judgments in our youth, if at a
      later stage of life we do not judge harshly, but with understanding and
      forgiveness; if we make the effort of wishing to understand. If we have
      the character that from birth some things aroused furious anger in us,
      and if when we are old we no longer grow angry as in our youth, but our
      anger has left us and we have grown gentler - then we have used life in
      accordance with wisdom.

      If we were materialists in our youth, but then allowed ourselves to
      experience what our time could bring us as revelations from the
      spiritual world, then we have used our life in
      accordance with wisdom. If we close ourselves to the revelations of the
      spiritual world we have not used our life in accordance with wisdom.
      To be enriched in this way, and to achieve a wider horizon, we can call
      the use of life in accordance with wisdom. What spiritual science seeks
      to give us is able to help us in opening ourselves towards life, in
      order to grow wiser. Wisdom is something which strongly opposes human
      egoism. Wisdom is something which always reckons with the course of
      universal events. We let ourselves be instructed by the course of
      universal events because this liberates us from the narrow judgment made
      by our ego. Fundamentally, a wise man cannot judge egoistically; for if
      one learns from the world, and grows in understanding for the world, one
      allows one's judgment to be corrected by the world; thus wisdom detaches
      us from narrow and limited vision and brings us into harmony with
      itself.

      Much else could be described, in order gradually to form a
      picture of wisdom. We should not attempt a definition of such ideas, but
      keep our heart's open in order to grow wiser, even about wisdom.

      Here in the physical world everything which man is to experience in
      waking life has to use the instruments of external physical and ethereal
      nature. Between birth and death we are only outside our physical and
      ethereal body with our soul-being, in so far as this is ego and astral
      body, during our periods of sleep. In our conscious, waking condition we
      use as instruments our physical and ethereal bodies. When we fill
      ourselves with wisdom, when we try in action and thought, in feeling and
      perception to live in accordance with wisdom, we use those organs of our
      physical and ethereal bodies which are so to speak the most perfect in
      our earthly life - those organs which have developed over the longest
      period, which were prepared by Saturn, Sun and Moon and have come into
      our lives as a heritage, having reached a certain completion.

      I would like to give you from another point of view an idea of what can
      be understood by more or less perfect organs. Take on the one hand our
      brain. The brain is not the most perfect organ, but we can still call it
      more perfect than other organs, for it has needed longer for its
      evolution. We can compare the brain with our torso, upon which we have
      our hands. When we intend to do something with our hands, we have the
      thought: I stretch out my hand, I take the vase, I draw back my hand.
      What have I done? I have stretched out not only the physical hand, but
      also the ethereal and the astral hand, and a part of my ego; the
      physical hand went with them.

      If I only think, clairvoyant consciousness can see how something like
      spiritual arms stretch out from the head, but the physical brain remains
      within the skull. Just as my ethereal and astral hand belongs to my
      physical hand, something ethereal and astral belongs to the brain. The
      brain cannot follow, but the hands can follow. In a later time the hands
      will one day be fixed, and we shall only be able to move their astral
      part. Hands are on the way to become what the brain is already. In
      earlier times, during the old Sun and Moon periods, what today stretches
      out from the brain as something that is only spiritual was still
      accompanied by the physical organ. The skull has now covered it, so that
      the physical brain is held fast within it during the evolution of the
      Earth. The brain is an organ which has passed through more stages of
      evolution. The hands are on the
      way to become similar to the brain, for the whole man is on the way to
      become a brain.

      Thus there are organs which are more perfect, and have evolved into
      something more self-enclosed, and others which are less perfect. The
      most perfect organs are used for what we achieve in wisdom. Our ordinary
      brain is really used only as the instrument for the lowest form of
      wisdom earthly cleverness The more we acquire wisdom, the less we depend
      upon our cerebrum the more activity is withdrawn (a thing unknown to
      external anatomy) to our cerebellum, to that smaller brain enclosed
      within our skull which looks like a tree. When we have become wise when
      we have become wisdom we find ourselves in fact under a 'tree', which is
      our cerebellum and which then especially begins to unfold its activity.

      Imagine how a man who has become especially wise stretches out the
      organs of his wisdom mightily, like the branches of a tree.
      [ picture of Section of cerebellum enlarged, showing tree-like structure
      attached to article]