Guidelines - Sensing and Thinking
- The Sense and Thinking Organization of Humanity in Relation to the World
When man observes his own humanity using imaginative cognition, he initially eliminates his sense system from this vision. For his self-observation he becomes a being without this system. He doesn't cease to have images before his mind which were previously conveyed by the sense organs; but he does cease to feel connected to the physical world through these organs: this direct observation is a proof that man beyond sense perception is also connected to the natural world in another way not dependent upon the senses. It is a connection with the spirit which is incorporated in the natural outer world.
In this kind of vision, the physical world falls away from the viewer. It is the earthly which falls away. Man feels this earthliness as no longer a part of him.
One could assume that self-consciousness is thus obliterated something which seems to follow from the previous considerations that self-consciousness is a result of man's connection to the earth. But that is not the case. What he acquired through earthly means remains with him, even when he divests himself of it after acquiring it, through active conscious cognition.
This spiritual-imaginative vision reveals that man has not actually bound himself to the sense system intensively. It is not he who lives in this sense system, but the environment, which has built itself with its essence into the sense organization of man.
And the imaginatively seeing person therefore also considers the sense organization as a part of the outer world. A part of the outer world which, however, is closer to him than the natural environment, but is nevertheless outer world. It differs from the ordinary outer world only in that man can only immerse himself in the latter through knowledge obtained by sense observation. He does, however, immerse himself in this world. The sense organization is outer world, but man reaches into this outer word with his spirit-soul essence, which he brings with him from the spirit-world when he enters into earthly existence.
Except for the fact that the human being fills his sense organization with his spirit-soul essence, this organization is [part of] the outer world, just as the plant world which surrounds him is. The eye, after all, belongs to the world, not to the person, just as the rose which he perceives belongs to the world and not to him.
In the age of cosmic evolution which man has just passed through, thinkers appeared who said that colors, tones and sensations of warmth are not in the world, but in people. The "color red", they say, is not outside in the environment, but is only the effect on man of something unknown. But the truth is just the opposite of this opinion. It is not color and the eye which belong to the human being, but the eye along with color belong to the world. During his earth life man does not let earthly surroundings stream into him; rather he grows outward into this outer world between birth and death.
It is significant that at the end of the dark age, in which man gazed out at the world without an inkling of the light of the spirit, the correct concept of man's relation to his environment was exactly the opposite of what is true.
When by means of imaginative cognition man has shed the environment in which he lives with his senses, another organization enters his experience, of which thinking is a function, as picture perception is a function of the senses.
And now man knows that he is connected to the cosmic stellar environment through his thinking organization, just as he was previously connected to the earthly environment through the senses. He realizes that he is a cosmic being. His thoughts are no longer shadowy images; they are saturated with reality, as are those obtained by sense perception.
If he then advances to Inspiration, he becomes aware that this world, which is supported by his thought-organization, can also be shed, as was the earthly one. He realizes that by this thought-organization he doesn't belong to his own being either, but to the world. He realizes how the cosmic thoughts reverberate in his own thinking-organization. And he becomes aware that he does not think by taking in images from the world, but by growing out into the cosmic thoughts with his thinking-organization.
Both with respect to his sense-organization as well as his thinking-system, man is world. The world builds itself within him. Neither in sense perception nor in thinking is he himself, but he is world-content.
Into his thinking-organization man extends the spirit-soul of his being, which belongs neither to the earthly nor to the stellar world, but is of a purely spiritual nature and continues in the human being from earth life to earth life. This spirit-soul nature is accessible only to Inspiration.
Thus through his Inspiration man steps out of his earthly-cosmic organization in order to stand before himself as a purely spirit-soul being.
In this pure spirit-soul existence man meets the expression of his destiny.
With the sense-organization man lives in his physical body, with the thinking-organization in his etheric body. After shedding both organizations by means of experienced cognition, he is in his astral body.
Every time the human being sheds something from his acquired being, on the one hand although his soul-content becomes poorer, on the other hand at the same time it becomes richer. Although after shedding the physical body the beauty of the plant kingdom perceptible to his senses has paled, in its stead the world of elementary beings who live in the plant kingdom appear before his soul.
Because this is the case, an ascetic mood does not dominate the person with real spiritual knowledge in respect to what the senses perceive. In spiritual experience he retains the need to perceive the spiritually experienced again through sense perception. And as the complete man strives to experience reality as a whole, sense perception awakens the desire for the opposite pole the world of elementary beings. Similarly, the vision of the elementary beings again awakens the desire for the content of sense perception.
In a full human life, the spirit has need for the senses, and the senses for the spirit. Spiritual existence would be empty if there were no memory of the experience of sense experience; Sense experience would be in darkness if the force of spiritual light did not enter into it, albeit subconsciously at first.
Therefore, when the person has become sufficiently mature to experience Michael's activity, an impoverishment of the soul in respect to experiencing nature does not occur, rather the contrary: enrichment. And his feelings do not tend to disengage from sense experiences, but a joyful disposition exists to absorb the wonders of the world of the senses.
Goetheanum, February, 1925