The Spiritual Guidance of the Individual and Humanity
by Rudolf Steiner
Three Lectures in Copenhagen, 1911
Published by Anthroposophic Press in 1990
Book Notes by Bobby Matherne ©1997

Steiner begins Lecture One thus:

[Page 3] If we reflect upon ourselves, we soon come to realize that, in addition to the self we encompass with our thoughts, feelings, and fully consciousimpulses of will, we bear in ourselves a second, more powerful self.

This second self, this more powerful self corresponds to what I have called in one of mypoems, our Soul Captain. When we look back in our lives at events that seemed unwanted,inconvenient, and occasionally disastrous at the time of their occurrence, the older we become, themore likely we are to comprehend the underlying wisdom of the events that had transpired. It wasas though we were on a cruise ship, and the Captain of the ship, with a firm hand on the wheel,steered us in exactly the right direction, achieving for us a destination we would have never chosenif we had been in charge of the ship. What the self we call "I" understands or does consciously,Steiner says, "is only a small part of what we accomplish in the world."

Steiner says that "we act most wisely in the period between birth and the moment at whichmemory . . . begins." This coincides with what doyletics calls the "memory transition age" [See ARJ:The Emotional Brain]. It occurs about at the age of five, before which we have few and very dimmemories of our existence. Our "I" did not yet exist.

Undoubtedly our Soul Captain is very busy during that period of time. Our physical brain isonly half its full-size at birth because if it were larger, we could not pass through the birth canal.During the first three years our brain doubles in mass, the tectonic plates of our skulls moving awayto accommodate the enlarged brain. According to Steiner, during this expansion period, our SoulCaptain is at work, poring over blueprints for our lifetime, plans prepared in that time between deathand rebirth when we are "such stuff as stars are made of."

The shaping of our brain's recursive neuronal groups, the spreading network of dendriticspines, the storage of feelings and emotions in the amygdala -- all these things come together toform our brain-nervous system into the "medium of all the soul's faculties." This is spiritualguidance at a very deep, personalized level, and each of us possesses an "I" that is the final productof that guidance.

While that highest wisdom is at work in our infancy forming our "I" even the wisest personcan learn from us. Mothers of small children are the greatest learners because they spend so muchtime with small children. They say, "My baby needs me," but what they really mean is, "My 'I' needsto be with that baby." That is the reason why a small child can garner the complete attention of aroom full of adults. That child reminds us, in an immediate and unconscious way, of that period ofour individual life when that same force that is active in the child was active in us, forming the "I"we currently possess.

Matthew 18:3 says, "Unless you turn and become as like children, you will never enter thekingdom of heaven." Translated into the terminology of modern spiritual science, that becomes,"Unless you become an independent thinker, an etheric thinker, just like a little child is before three-years-old, you will not be able to experience spiritual realities in the period between death andrebirth." It should be obvious to state that there are no materialists or spiritual skeptics in the agegroup 0 to 3 years-old.

To demonstrate this reality Steiner points out that these powerful forces that worked on usfor the first three years of our life are the same as those that worked on Jesus of Nazareth for thethree years from his baptism by John to his crucifixion by Pilate. In the current stage of earthlyevolution a physical body is only able to survive the infusion of these forces for three years.

[Page 16] After three years, world karma would have to intervene and destroythe human organism.

Another source of spiritual guidance is from the angels (angeloi) or dhyani (genie). Thesehigher beings are not encumbered by the linear, sequential mode of human thought, but formcomplete trains of thought in an instant. When such an idea is imparted to a human, it may take along time for the entire idea to be understood in order to be communicated to another human. Suchinstances of insight we call "flashes of genius" which indicates their source in a higher being.

At one time in the past, if you asked someone who their teacher was, they would immediatelygo inside to contact their source of inspiration and knowledge. These were variously called musesor gods, and authors would consult them before daring to put words on a page. The Odyssey ofHomer, for example, begins with the following invocation:

Tell me, O Muse, of that ingenious hero who traveled far and wide . . .

When the gods began to withdraw from humans, the legend of the labyrinth was created.Steiner says that the labyrinth symbolizes the fall of humans onto their own resources, their fall intoerror, and that the contorted pathways of the labyrinth represents the convolutions of the humanbrain. Among the corridors of either maze, one can easily get lost, without a guide.

[Page 36] In Atlantean time people experienced outer impressions in such a waythat to give expression to something external the soul was compelled to use aconsonant. Thus, what was present in space -- the universe and everything init -- induced people to imitate everything around them with consonants. Peoplefelt the wind blowing, the sound of waves, the shelter a house provides, andimitated these experiences by means of consonants. On the other hand, people'sinner experiences, such as pain or joy, were imitated by vowels. Thus, one cansee that in speech the soul became one with external events or beings.

This compares favorably with my dichotomy of the world into process and content. The rootof the idea is undoubtedly from my computer background, as it can be best explained by a computermetaphor. Programming code (when running) is process; data is content. The CPU is the CentralProcessing Unit (process); the RAM is random access memory (content).A CPU chip is content --it's a square bit of molded plastic, just sitting there -- but its internal workings, when in action, isprocess. Nouns are content; verbs are process. I own a bicycle (content) and I bicycle (process) tothe post office. This is my pen (content) that I am right now using to pen (process) my thoughts. Andthe same thing happens (process) to happen (content). Steiner is saying that consonants are primarilyused for content (outer expression, material things) and vowels for process (inner expression, being,doing).

[Page 74] Giordano Bruno proclaimed proudly that the human being is actuallya macrocosmic being condensed into a monad to enter physical existence; andthat this monad expands again when the individual dies.

Steiner goes into considerable detail in the third lecture to explain how our view of thecosmos has changed in the last two thousand years. From the direct view of humans into the spiritualworlds, especially the world between death and rebirth [See ARJ: Life Between Death and Rebirth.],we have moved to the present materialistic view of establishment scientists, grounded in the physicalsenses. In the above quote from Bruno, we see a different side of the hard scientist of Galileo's time,the man who challenged Criminino, the Church official, to look through the telescope to see forhimself the mountains on the moon. The response he got was, "Bosh, the moon's a perfect sphere,so there can be no mountains, therefore I do not need to look through your contraption." Bruno wasa man who could still experience the supersensible cosmos as well as he did the physical cosmos.Such humans as Bruno provided spiritual guidance to humanity in their time and even now.

To summarize, Steiner lays out for us three sources of spiritual guidance: our own higher self,the angels and genii, and wise thinkers and writers of history.