What is the spiritual?

Spiritual science obviously explores the spiritual, so it’s only natural that we know what the subject matter is, if we’re to treat it in a scientific way. In a deeper sense though, spiritual science explores man’s relationship to the world, or the relationship of the spiritual in man to the spiritual in the world.

It’s a common theme in Steiner’s philosophical work that our thinking bridges the gap between ourselves and the world, most distinctly this idea is worked out in his Philosophy of Freedom, where he presents his argument that the nature that we feel ourselves estranged from is in fact the very same nature that works in and through us.

In his lectures on Spiritual Science’s Answer to the Large Questions of the Present TimeSteiner explains that what we experience as the spiritual in the external, is experienced in us as intelligence. For instance ideas that “come” to us, which are not derived from the external world. Creativity is like this, in a sense we create something new, something that’s not an imitation of sensory objects, and yet this idea “came” to us, we “see” it, and we bring it to life.

Likewise the spiritual in the external world is recognized when we realize that these ideas are at work in the world. What we grasp inwardly as spiritual intelligence, we see at work in the external world. This is also the assurance of the truth of spiritual science, what we experience inwardly must be at work in the external world, only then do we get a grasp of the world in a spiritual sense.

As I’ve mentioned before I’d like to go through some of Steiner’s thoughts on Goethe and art, here is the idea that I think will come as a natural conclusion from working on those lectures: Humanity works itself spiritually into the world, not by forcing the spiritual upon the external world, but by augmenting what is already there! The spiritual is at work in nature, but only to a certain extent. Through understanding the intelligence that is at work in the world, we can work upon the world augmenting it according to its own innermost nature. In such a way man works the spiritual in himself into the spiritual in nature.

In coming posts I’d like to work out more rigorously those ideas that I’ve presented here by taking a starting point in Steiner’s lecture on Goethe’s aesthetics.

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