We are able to recognize the life world behind physical nature when we begin to have a moral perception of the world lying around us.
Spiritual science does not merely signify the acquisition of knowledge; it signifies most preeminently an education, a self-education of our souls. We make ourselves different; we have other interests. When one imbues oneself with spiritual science, the habits of attention for this or that subject that one had developed in previous years alter. What was once of interest is of interest no longer; what was of no interest previously now begins to be interesting in the highest degree.
I am speaking to those who have, to some extent, accepted spiritual science. Therefore I may take it for granted that you know that immediately behind what meets us externally as human beings—behind what we see with our eyes, touch with our hands, and grasp with our understanding in ordinary human anatomy or physiology, behind what we call the physical body—we recognize the first supersensible human principle. This supersensible principle of the human being we call the etheric body, or life body. […]
We can do something similar with regard to the nature around us. Just as we can investigate a human being to see whether there is not something more than the physical body and then find the etheric body, so, too, we can look at external nature in her colors, forms, sounds, and kingdoms—in the mineral, plant, animal, and human kingdoms, insofar as these meet us physically. We discover that just as behind the human physical body there is a life body, so there is a sort of etheric body, or life body, behind the whole of physical nature…
We are more and more able to recognize the etheric world, or life world, behind physical nature when we begin to have a moral perception of the world lying around us. What is meant by perceiving the whole world morally? What does this imply? First of all, looking away from the Earth, if we direct our gaze into the ranges of cosmic space, we are met by the blue sky. Suppose we do this on a day in which no cloud, not even the faintest silver white cloudlet, breaks the azure space of heaven. We look upward into this blue heaven spread out above us; it does not matter whether we recognize it in the physical sense as something real or not. The point is the impression that this wide stretch of the blue heavens makes upon us 1)↓.
Suppose that we can yield ourselves up to this blue of the sky and that we do this with intensity for a long, long time. Imagine that we can do this in such a way that we forget everything else that we know in life and all that is around us. Suppose that we are able for one moment to forget all external impressions, all memories, all cares and troubles of life and that we can give ourselves completely to the single impression of the blue heavens. What I am now saying to you can be experienced by every human soul if only the soul will fulfill these necessary conditions; what I am telling you can be a common human experience. Suppose a human soul gazes in this way at nothing but the blue of the sky. A certain moment then comes, a moment in which the blue sky ceases to be blue, in which we no longer see anything that can in human language be called blue. If at that moment, when the blue ceases to be blue to us, we turn our attention to our own souls, we will notice quite a special mood within it. The blue disappears, and an infinity arises before us; in this infinity we experience a quite definite mood in our souls. A quite distinct feeling, a quite definite perception, pours itself into the emptiness that arises where the blue was before. If we would give a name to this soul perception, to what would soar out into infinite distances, there is only one word for it: it is a devout feeling, a feeling of pious devotion to infinity. All the religious feelings in the evolution of humanity have fundamentally a nuance that contains what I have here called pious devotion. The impression has called up a religious feeling, a moral perception. When within our souls the blue has disappeared, a moral perception of the external world springs to life.
Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature Lecture 1, Helsinki (April 3–14, 1912)
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