Its Secrecy in the Past and Publication in our Time
THERE are two experiences whence the soul may gain an understanding for the mode of knowledge to which the supersensible worlds will open out. The one originates in the science of Nature; the other, in the Mystical experience whereby the untrained ordinary consciousness contrives to penetrate into the supersensible domain. Both confront the soul of man with barriers of knowledge — barriers he cannot cross till he can open for himself the portals which by their very essence Natural Science, and ordinary Mysticism too, must hold fast closed. Natural Science leads inevitably to certain conceptions about reality, which are like a stone wall to the deeper forces of the soul; and yet, this Science itself is powerless to remove them. He who fails to feel the impact, has not yet called to life the deeper needs of knowledge in his soul. He may then come to believe that it is impossible in any case for Man to attain any other than the natural-scientific form of knowledge. There is, however, a definite experience in Self-knowledge whereby one weans oneself of this belief. This experience consists in the insight that the whole of Natural Science would be dissolved into thin air if we attempted to fathom the above-named conceptions with the methods of Natural Science itself. If the conceptions of Natural Science are to remain spread out before the soul, these limiting conceptions must be left within the field of consciousness intact, without attempting to approach them with a deeper insight. There are many of them; here I will only mention two of the most familiar: Matter and Force. Recent developments in scientific theory may or may not be replacing these particular conceptions; the fact remains that Natural Science must invariably lead to some conception or another of this kind, impenetrable to its own methods of knowledge. To the experience of soul, of which I am here speaking, these limiting conceptions appear like a reflecting surface which the human soul must place before it; while Natural Science itself is like the picture, made manifest with the mirror's help. Any attempt to treat the limiting conceptions themselves by ordinary scientific means is, as it were, to smash the mirror, and with the mirror broken, Natural Science itself dissolves away. Moreover, this experience reveals the emptiness of all talk about ‘Things-in-themselves,’ of whatsoever kind, behind the phenomena of Nature. He who seeks for such Things-in-themselves is like a man who longs to break the looking-glass, hoping to see what there is behind the reflecting surface to cause his image to appear. It goes without saying that the validity of such an experience of soul cannot be ‘proved,’ in the ordinary sense of the word, with the habitual thoughts of presentday Natural Science. For the point will be, what kind of an inner experience does the process of the ‘proof’ call forth in us; and this must needs transcend the abstract proof. With inner experience in this sense, we must apprehend the question: How is it that the soul is forced to confront these barriers of knowledge in order to have before it the phenomena of Nature? Mature self-knowledge brings us an answer to this question. We then perceive which of the forces of man's soul partakes in the erection of these barriers to knowledge. It is none other than the force of soul which makes man capable, within the world of sense, of unfolding Love out of his inner being. The faculty of Love is somehow rooted in the human organisation; and the very thing which gives to man the power of love — of sympathy and antipathy with his environment of sense, — takes away from his cognition of the things and processes of Nature the possibility to make transparent such pillars of Reality as ‘Matter’ and ‘Force.’ To the man who can experience himself in true self-knowledge, on the one hand in the act of knowing...
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