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G.F. Everything that we perceive with our sense organs – is it also supernatural at the same time?
H.C.Z. Yes, as I said: Ultimately, everything is spiritual in nature, including the sensual. The sensual is the divine-spiritual basis of appearance for an equally divine-spiritual non-sensual or supersensual aspect that reveals itself in it. – Therefore, with every natural being, with every sensual reality, we already encounter something divine-spiritual!
We also have real encounters with the essence of a being in the earthly sensual reality. However, we sleep through these encounters in everyday life because we naively imagine and handle the sensual reality objectively, unquestioningly, outside of ourselves. As soon as I learn to accept the sensual reality – more truthfully – as an appearance, as a sensual appearance of spiritual essence that manifests itself in it, I begin to free again what we have unconsciously or preconsciously banished into the conception of the object and trapped there. I allow this part of essence to express itself in my inner being.
Then even the sensual appearance becomes a field of experience for imaginations, inspirations and intuitions.
G.F. Could you give an example of this?
H.C.Z. In the naïve-objective way of understanding, we regard a robin as a three-dimensional bird body out there, outside of me, which produces a song. If, however, I accept the robin as an apparition, then it becomes from the very beginning a riddle to me of a world of essences that is appearing to me just now. Being a robin is now no longer the object outside, but the whole world that I experience within myself on the basis of the sensual presentation of the robin – and which is a completely different inner world of experience than, for example, the hopping black, white and yellow bird of what we are used to calling a great tit.
All sensual appearance can thus become a description of an inner world of experience. This world of experience itself is an imagination-free soul-spiritual space in which I find myself. An “inner space of the world” (“Weltinnenraum”), in the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s words. This specific inner space of the world, which in my example we call the robin, speaks out through its sensual manifestations, thus drawing attention to itself. In this way, I can awaken to this specific region of the inner space of the world in which I find myself in this moment of perception.
G.F. What could be called “divine” in this context?
H.C.Z. The principle of wise creation, of evolving from an inner whole may well be considered divine. And the recognising participation in this inner wisdom of creation may well be regarded as a kind of ascent to the divine.
There are pathfinders for this ascent. One can describe the path to this participation in the divine “intelligence” (in the sense of spirit-act), for example with the name Michael. Michael is a Hebrew archangel designation and means something like “Who is like God?”. Michael is also characterised as the face of the Christ. The fact that one experiences oneself for moments at this starting point of creation, that one is as if present when God, metaphorically speaking, plays with a motif of creation, that one has the experience that world wisdom thinks, feels or even wants within one’s own inner being – that is an experience in which one can feel carried by Michael. For me, one way to achieve this is the Goethean view of nature.
G.F. Is everything that is supernatural also divine-spiritual?
H.C.Z. Absolutely. Divine-spiritual does not mean “paradise” and “peace, joy and happiness”, if I may say so. It contains the whole spectrum from good to evil. In every encounter we are asked to awaken to the specific spiritual that is currently realising itself through and with me. I am challenged every time to ask myself whether I want this or not, or how I relate to it in such a way that I remain within the framework of the human.
G.F. Does something have to take place within oneself for an impression of the divine to be recognised as such?
H.C.Z. One’s own inner being must become receptive to the Other. It must become “selfless” in this respect. All attention training serves to enable the Other, the “You”, to express itself in me, to be present in me. For this, I have to leave my all-too-common subjectivity out of it. For example, when I say “I like that” or “this is delicious”, I am saying something about myself and not about the other being. I must therefore make my capacity for experience available to the appearance as free as possible from all too personal judgements. In describing what I am confronted with this means choosing terms that are as close to the “you” as possible.
In doing so, it is also important to always check whether my experience is still on the mark. What impression in the experience is my statement referring to? If, for example, I say that the robin is looking at the world with the big eyes of a child, then it can happen that I let myself be carried away by the image of the child’s eyes out of mere, unnoticed sympathy for that and am no longer with the robin. Here, the renewed turn to the sensual appearance saves the process of true perception. What is it that makes the impression of the child’s eye? The round, comparatively large, wide-open eye. And with this, the inner experience of a gaze that is on the one hand astonished, on the other hand half hesitant, half searching for trust, can connect again. In this way, sensual (outer) observation and supersensual (inner) experience correct, deepen and reinforce each other. I thereby gain new sensory observations and new inner experiences. I grow beyond myself. I gain the robin’s eye more and more as a part of my own being.
G.F. With what kind of eyes, with what kind of consciousness do we recognise the Divine-Spiritual?
H.C.Z. As soon as we begin to seek out the soul-spiritual side of the world, we no longer look (only) with physical eyes, but we look with spiritual eyes. Our consciousness is then heightened compared to the everyday consciousness (which is asleep in relation to it). We can also call this (according to Goethe and Steiner) “seeing consciousness”.
G.F. When one speaks of the faces of God, then something must enter the realm of perception. Why does this happen at all?
H.C.Z. It seems to be in the (self-)interest of creation to come to light, as it were, through perception. Everything wants to be revealed, that is to be perceived. We notice how happy we are when someone finally perceives us in our innermost core. We meet each other where we are actually at home, namely in the soul-spiritual realm.
G.F. Do you have to “know” something in advance to be able to perceive deeply? Do you have to strive for a certain “basic attitude” beforehand?
H.C.Z. It is perhaps less about knowledge than about a kind of basic attitude. This attitude certainly includes developing a kind of inner richness into which experiences can be absorbed – through art, through reading, through spiritual exercises. And perhaps, before that, it is also necessary to remove the obstacles that prevent us from perceiving. What is it that keeps preventing me from taking the “risk of perceiving”? And very fundamentally, it is necessary – which has been mentioned again and again in our conversation – to accept sensual reality as an “appearance”. This does not mean a “nebulous” appearance that shows itself to us in a “ghost-like” way in addition to the sensual, but it means the very concrete sensual reality. Today, our idea of this sensual reality is generally corrupted. On the one hand – as mentioned earlier – we imagine reality to be objective, given out there in three-dimensional space. On the other hand, we underlay this “world of objects in itself” with a matter in itself consisting of miniature building blocks. Meanwhile, there are enough arguments in quantum physics as well as in sensory physiology, phenomenology and philosophy that question this idea of a given world of matter or objects.
One can practice by asking oneself how sensual reality feels to me and how I experience it when it is an actual appearance – at this moment – that just arises for me, that is there for me, whose realisation by me is at stake. It’s realisation through my perception. How does that feel, how does the reality around me experience itself – which is precisely this current appearance?
This accepting and receiving of reality as a current appearance is one fundamental aspect of this question.
The second one is to take it seriously that the essence, the nature of the thing which one is dealing with in the current sensual encounter is also expressed in the experiences of the human being, in his inner being. The essence, the nature of the thing is not a thing out there, but an experience within me … which brings us very close again to the initial question of what may be meant by a “face encounter”.