The Soul Awakes in Conversation

The Soul Awakes in Conversation

11 February 2023 Wolfgang Held 1348 views

Five thousand years ago, the soul directed divine or royal will – feeling and thinking were determined from the periphery. With the birth of personality, the soul became a condensed point, lost the relationship and gained itself – and today?


«It is not what we experience, but how we feel, it is that which we experience that determines our fate.»(1) This is what author Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach wrote, giving us a hint, especially for the beginning of the year. Without a doubt, the new year will hold no fewer surprises, no fewer changes, and ruptures than the past. With each such jolt, the soul may see in it a death struggle or a birth pang. What often happens is that no actual feeling arises at all and instead a prevailing mood takes possession of the soul. «It’s all going to get worse anyway.» A reflex where the soul does not feel, but fits into a mood pattern. To become free, it is worthwhile understanding a three-step process of soul development. Here is an observation from the other end of the world: I was standing with a group of travellers at the foot of the Andes in the Atacama Desert. With the morning sun behind us, we were looking at the natural spectacle: The majestic 5,000 meter peaks were glowing red, while the foot of the mountains shimmered in the haze in an unreal blue – as if fire were swimming on water, that’s how this mighty natural spectacle looked. There, in the face of the color show, someone murmured, «Well done!» expressing today’s alienation and indifference. Nature had presented its greatest spectacle and our soul had appreciated it with «Well done». Rarely has the alienation with which we humans today look at the world rather than ‘in’ it been clearer to me. Not unlike looking at the screen of a PC, the world in general is alienated and hardly capable of arousing feelings in the soul. How different it was in earlier times, in the childhood of mankind. As an example of this, here are the words of admonition of Ipuwer, an ancient Egyptian sage(2) who poured his heart out, probably around 2000 BC, when everything was going haywire in Egypt. Excerpts from the long lament:

Indeed, the face is pale.
Indeed, hearts are violent, pestilence has spread throughout the land.
Indeed, men are like ibises.
Indeed, the land turns around as does a potter’s wheel.
Indeed, crocodiles are full of their catch, for men go to them of their own free will!
Indeed, the desert is spread throughout Egypt.
Indeed, laughter has ceased, it is no longer done.
Indeed, you become deaf from noise
Indeed, great and small say: «Oh, if only I were dead!»
Oh, if only there were an end to people, no more conception and no more birth
Then the world would be free from noise and there’d be no strife.

Proof of feeling 4000 years ago! What one experiences around oneself, the soul mirrors 1:1. We live ‹in› feelings. It is the ‹feeling soul› described in anthroposophy, in which the soul becomes the mirror of the outside. How differently then the emotional life in ancient Greece and Rome showed itself.

This excerpt comes from an article originally published in the (online exclusive) English Edition of the weekly Newsletter ‹Das Goetheanum›. You can read the full article on the website of ‹Das Goetheanum›.

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Image Jasminka Bogdanovic, ‘Horizonte [Horizons]’ (detail), 2017 Tempera on canvas, approx. 180 × 80 cm