Re: [steiner] Moral Impressions from Sensory Experiences
- In a message dated 5/26/2005 10:53:07 PM Eastern Standard Time, classiquepair@... writes:
I am reading a selection of lectures by Steiner called "Nature
Spirits." The first lecture, "Elemental Beings of Earth and Water"
was given in Helsinki, 3 Apr 1912.....
In it, Steiner describes a process of `looking' up at an azure blue
sky, how, after a time, and with the proper meditational techniques,
these impressions are transformed into a moral impression. The color
falls away and one is present to a sense of infinity, or as Steiner
described it, "a pious devotion to infinity."
Then he describes the greenery of nature, and how a similar `moral'
sense manifests. Here is how Steiner describes the moral impression
left after the green disappears.
"The green of the plant tells me how I ought to feel within myself,
when my soul is blessed with the power to think thoughts, to cherish
Next he turns to a white snow. The moral impression from this, he
says, "an understanding of that which fills the earth as substance, as
He goes on to describe a few other phenomena that can be used as a
catalyst to developing these `moral' impulses.
I'm curious about these moral impressions. A higher sense of things
seems to be what I'm reading into his choice of describing the
transformation into `moral,' something higher than impressions of the
Is anybody in the group familiar with this process that Steiner is
describing, and can you shed light on what exactly he means by `moral'
*******I think it may go back, as with many things of Steiner's, to Goethe and the other German idealist philosophers---- many of the things in Steiner's lectures were common ideas among people steeped in Hegel, Schiller, and the many brilliant philosophers Germany was gifted with in the 1700s and 1800s ----and, as someone has already pointed out, to the German language & tradition itself. Goethe, in his Colour Theory, has a very important chapter entitled "The Spiritual-Moral Effects of Color" (as opposed to the physiological effects only). He was writing about the aesthetic sense of colour that causes our response to it in art, where its use can either stimulate our uplifting emotions or our base ones. For instance, the late sociologist Vance Packard described how colour is used in advertising---- most steak houses are done in red, the Marlboro cigarette package was re-designed in red and white after surveys found that the most "masculine" colour combination, etc. Walls in mental instituitions are most often painted green because it's a neutral colour that doesn't stimulate or depress, is neither warm nor cool, being right in the middle of the familiar spectrum, whereas being in a blue room tends to depress one, and so on.
The great difference in English and German, right in the language (and this is therefore is reflected in the very different philosophers of each folk-group), is that in English there is a prejudice that thinking only makes a "pale copy" inside of what is the "real", i. e., wholly external reality, outside. This has led to the innumerable scientific errors which we are all taught as the Newtonian theory of Colour. In it, red or green are just different vibrations of something that has nothing to do with what we experience as the colours. The "something" that is vibrating is the real, not our direct experience of red, green, etc. This is just another variation of the "What your senses tell you is illusion, ignore it" hogwash that retarded man's progress for thousands of years. No, what we experience as colour is real and of inestimable value. The steak-house decorators know better than the Newtonians!
English philosophers have contributed what is destroying the world, the "fact-value disjunction". It says that a red colour for instance (or a person, or a living creature, whatever) is just a thing or an action, while what we judge that thing or action to be "morally" is merely subjective, only within us. (How it is that red or green has the same objective effect on almost all human beings is a matter that is neatly avoided by this 'subjectivist' philosophy.) So there simply is no place in this world-view for the idea of colour having an objective moral effect on us. If a Rudolf Steiner says blue has this effect and green that one, that MUST, by this philosophy drummed into us in public schools, have meaning only for Rudolf Steiner, no one else. But these English distinctions which an English-derived science is now trying to impose on the whole world, do not exist in German, just as the dichotomy of "Mind-Matter' is not there. Instead, it's right in the language that what we think and feel with is also what we sense with, and both inner and outer experience have 'spirit', as we would say using a Latin-derived word. So morality is not merely subjective, and the world is not just things we can do with as we wish. This is part of why Steiner said it would be disastrous if the Anglo-American culture came to dominate the world without any input from its Teutonic rival.
In education theory (not Waldorf but any), it's common knowledge that each lesson has three dimensions in which it is taken in: the Cognitive realm, which is the intellectual content of the lesson that can be repeated---as, for instance, the theorem that the three inner angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees. In learning this through the means of drawing, the student gains more expertise with the use of ruler or straight-edge, protractor, pencils, etc.---this is the Sensory-Motor realm, the will, learning how to physically do something in a lesson. In between the head content and the will content is what is called the Affective realm or domain, the way a given lesson affects your feelings---as, for instance, in teaching geometry a teacher may let the idea dawn on students that everyone in the room is experiencing the same Idea, that everyone can attain Truth by inner effort, that all men see the same truth and therefore part of us can rise above differences. So, in every lesson, part of the learning is the ennobling of the moral feeling and sense, and this used to be a natural part of the teacher's role. In our education in America today, where teachers are not permitted to even talk about why Europeans came to America, like George Fox's followers the Quakers, or the Pilgrims or the Puritans--- to be free to live as their interpretation of the Bible and conscience dictates, above men's laws ---- all morals and the religions that have espoused and carried them are verboten, because of the fact-value disjunction. Things just are, all morality is added subjectively. Europeans just moved over here, you can't say for a 'better' life. (Small wonder Americans are abandoning public schools for private, a trend Waldorf Education could profit from.) This is what Ernst Lehrs called the color-blind, single eye of 'science' and how it sees things. We've all been taught to see through this, Ahriman's one eye.
But this is an illusion. The reality is that there is nothing--- no idea, no perception, no action--- that does not have a moral dimension, which we perceive by what Dr. Steiner in his Philosophie der Freiheit called "moral imagination", meaning not "fantasy" but the making of images out of one's perceptions. In his lectures on Colour, he goes more into detail about how green is indissolulably linked to our experience of the plant, blue to the sky, yellow to the sun, etc. Every perception has an "Affective domain" side to it, in other words. Hope this is some help in understanding a bit more what he means in general. If people will talk about their experiences of Colour and their natural feelings for one or another colour, regardless of how Newonian theory tells us to ignore it, perhaps we can understand a bit more specifically.