The best things come in threes

By Mathias Maurer, September 2012

Dear Reader,

Teresa, six years old, is an awake and alert child. One day she begins to suffer from serious heart problems. She is taken to hospital and requires an operation. Ten years later: Teresa has psychiatric problems and only eats to make herself sick again. She is getting psychotherapeutic treatment for her anorexia. Another ten years later: Teresa writes her doctoral thesis on an unsolved problem of mathematics: that there are correct propositions which cannot, however, be proved. The subject drives her insane.

Teresa’s story recalls, in miniature, the biography and fate of the brilliant mathematician Kurt Gödel (1906 -1978), a close friend of Albert Einstein’s and one of the most important logicians of the twentieth century.

It becomes particularly clear in these prominent and less prominent people living on the edge that human beings consist of more than their physical nature whose genius they cannot grasp.

Our body-bound sensory perceptions and ideas make us fall prey to the illusion that our soul and spiritual entities are the result of our subjective imagination and not independent realms which are active in human life in a structured reciprocal way.

Yet the knowledge of the threefold structure of the human being is an ancient one. The initiates of the Egyptian mysteries knew about it more than four thousand years ago and in Greek antiquity it was Plato and Aristotle. The fourth Ecumenical Council of Nicea (869 AD) banished the (immortal) human spirit-soul (not the intellectual thinking) from our image of the human being and anathematised the Byzantine Patriarch Photios I who, as a good student of Plato, was convinced of its existence. The gulf between human beings and God was made even deeper, the belief that it could be bridged by human endeavour declared to be heretical. Human beings were not permitted to be creator and creation at the same time. The esoteric – inner – side of human nature fell into oblivion.

Rudolf Steiner left detailed descriptions of what it looks like behind the curtain of the sensory world and the paths and metamorphoses along and through which the soul and spirit of a human being passes before birth and after death. In numerous explanations in his writings and lectures on anthropological, educational and social topics he repeatedly warned: if we neglect any of these areas of our existence we are in breach of the laws of life and this can make a person ill.

Steiner turns the rationalist and materialistic interpretation of the world on its head: soul and spirit are not the derivatives of our body-bound existence which many areas of science consider them to be, but the body and soul are creatures of the spirit which incarnates and can become active in them. Soul and spirit are not a consequence but the cause of physical reality.

Such an understanding of the human being and the world might not have spared Teresa and Kurt Gödel illness and insanity, but it might have been possible to help at an earlier stage.

Mathias Maurer


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