209Re THE GREAT VIRTUES
- Oct 30, 1999When 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
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]