Human temperaments

From Anthroposophy


  • the work of the archai in the ether and the temperaments (1908-08-05-GA266/1)


Schema FMC00.158 shows how the four temperaments are related to a dominant bodily principle, and find its expression in both external (physical and facial appearance and movement) and internal ways (character)


Lecture coverage and references


main lectures 1909-03-04-GA057 and 1924-07-23-GA310, as well as 1920-04-06-GA312

Lecture reference extracts


In the Middle Ages people who knew about such things still spoke about substances through which the self was drawn into the physical, and they called these substances the humors. 'What in our physical world are the various conditions of matter—solid, fluid, gas, and etheric—are in the psy­chic world the four humors; but we can name them only according to their reflection as they are in us, as they live in us. The physical conditions of matter—solid, fluid, gas, and etheric—correspond in the astral world to what we call the four temperaments. What causes us to have a certain temperament corresponds to a very specific con­dition of matter. Those who have a choleric temperament in their as­tral body have the humor especially well developed that corresponds to the state of matter called choleric (cholae). Thus in the astral world there are temperaments that correspond to the four conditions of matter. Just as the ancients spoke of earth, water, air, and fire, so too they spoke of the four conditions of matter in the astral world, which consist of astral substance. According to which astral substance pre­dominates, a person will have a specific temperament.


1909-01-19-GAxxx - The Mystery of the Human Temperaments (GA also not known on german site)

In the great gap between what we may call human nature in general and what confronts us in each individual, we see nevertheless many homogeneous characteristics in whole human groups. To these belong those human qualities which today form the subject of our consideration, and which we usually call the temperament. We need only utter the word ‘temperament’ to see that there are as many riddles as men. Within the basic types, the basic colorings, we have such a multiplicity and variety among individuals that we can indeed say that the real enigma, of existence is expressed in the peculiar basic disposition of the human being which we call temperament. And when the riddles intervene directly in practical life, the basic coloring of the human being plays a role. When a person stands before us, we feel that we are confronted by something of this basic disposition. Therefore it is to be hoped that spiritual science is able to give also the necessary information about the nature of the temperaments. For though we must admit that the temperaments spring from within, they nevertheless express themselves in the whole external appearance of the individual. By means of an external observation of nature, however, the riddle of man is not to be solved; we can approach the characteristic coloring of the human being only when we learn what spiritual science has to say about him.

It is of course true that each person confronts us with his own temperament, but we can still distinguish certain groups of temperaments. We speak chiefly of four types, as you know: the sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic, and the melancholic temperament. And even though this classification is not entirely correct in so far as we apply it to individuals — in individuals the temperaments are mixed in the most diverse way, so we can only say that one temperament or another predominates in certain traits — still we shall in general classify people in four groups according to their temperaments.

The fact that the temperament is revealed on the one side as something which inclines toward the individual, which makes people different, and on the other side joins them again to groups, proves to us that the temperament must on the one side have something to do with the innermost essence of the human being, and on the other must belong to universal human nature. Man's temperament, then, is something which points in two directions; and therefore it will be necessary, if we wish to solve the mystery, to ask on the one hand:

In how far does the temperament point to what belongs to universal human nature?

and then again on the other:

How does it point to the essential kernel, to the actual inner being of the individual?

Mediation between two streams = temperament

We see then in a person confronting us the flowing together of two streams; of these two streams each human being is composed. In him we see

-         on the one side what comes to him from his family, and

-         on the other what has developed from the individual's innermost being; namely, a number of predispositions, characteristics, inner capacities and outer destiny.

An agreement must be effected. We find that a man must adapt himself to this union, in accordance with his innermost being on the one side, and on the other in accordance with that which is brought to him from the line of heredity. We see how a man bears to a great degree the physiognomy of his ancestors; we could put him together, so to speak, from the sum of his various ancestors. Since at first the inner essential kernel has nothing to do with what is inherited, but must merely adapt itself to what is most suitable to it, we shall see that it is necessary for a certain mediation to exist for that which has lived perhaps for centuries in an entirely different world and is again transplanted into another world; the spirit being of man must have something here below to which it is related; there must be a bond, a connecting link, between the special individual human being and humanity in general, into which he is born through family, people, race.

Between these two, namely what we bring with us from our earlier life and what our family, ancestors and race imprint upon us, there is a mediation, something which bears more general characteristics, but at the same time is capable of being individualized.

That which occupies this position between the line of heredity and the line which represents our individuality is expressed by the word TEMPERAMENT.

In that which confronts us in the temperament of a person we have something in a certain way like a physiognomy of his innermost individuality. We understand thus how the individuality colors, by means of the qualities of temperament, the attributes inherited in the succession of generations. Temperament stands right in the middle between what we bring with us as individuals and what originates from the line of heredity.

When the two streams unite, the one stream colors the other. They color each other reciprocally. Just as blue and yellow, let us say, unite in green, so do the two streams in man unite in what we call temperament. That which mediates between all inner characteristics which he brings with him from his earlier incarnation, on the one side, and on the other what the line of heredity brings to him, comes under the concept temperament. It now takes its place between the inherited characteristics and what he has absorbed into his inner essential being. It is as if upon its descent to earth this kernel of being were to envelop itself with a spiritual nuance of that which awaits it here below, so that in proportion as this kernel of being is able best to adapt itself to this covering for the human being, the kernel of being colors itself according to that into which it is born and to a quality which it brings with it. Here shine forth the soul qualities of man and his natural inherited attributes. Between the two is the temperament — between that by which a man is connected with his ancestors and that which he brings with him from his earlier incarnations. The temperament balances the eternal with the transitory.

How the balancing is done

This balancing occurs through the fact that what we have learned to call the members of human nature come into relation with one another in a quite definite way. We understand this in detail, however, only when we place before our mind's eye the complete human nature in the sense of spiritual science. Only from spiritual science is the mystery of the human temperament to be discovered.

This human being as he confronts us in life, formed by the flowing together of these two streams, we know as a four-membered being. So we shall be able to say when we consider the entire individual: This complete human being consists of the physical body, the etheric body or body of formative forces, the astral body, and the ego.

In that part of man perceptible to the outer senses, which is all that materialistic thought is willing to recognize, we have first, according to spiritual science, only a single member of the human being, the physical body, which man has in common with the mineral world. That part which is subject to physical laws, which man has in common with all environing outer nature, the sum of chemical and physical laws, we designate in spiritual science as the physical body.

Beyond this, however, we recognize higher super-sensible members of human nature which are as actual and essential as the outer physical body. As first super-sensible member, man has the etheric body, which becomes part of his organism and remains united with the physical body throughout the entire life; only at death does a separation of the two take place. Even this first super-sensible member of human nature — in spiritual science called the etheric or life body; we might also call it the glandular body — is no more visible to our outer eyes than are colors to those born blind. But it exists, actually and perceptibly exists, for that which Goethe calls the eyes of the spirit, and it is even more real than the outer physical body, for it is the builder, the moulder, of the physical body. During the entire time between birth and death this etheric or life body continuously combats the disintegration of the physical body. Any kind of mineral product of nature — a crystal, for example — is so constituted that it is permanently held together by its own forces, by the forces of its own substance. That is not the case with the physical body of a living being; here the physical forces work in such a way that they destroy the form of life, as we are able to observe after death, when the physical forces destroy the life-form. That this destruction does not occur during life, that the physical body does not conform to the physical and chemical forces and laws, is due to the fact that the etheric or life-body is ceaselessly combating these forces.

The third member of the human being we recognize in the bearer of all pleasure and suffering, joy and pain, instincts, impulses, passions, desires, and all that surges to and fro as sensations and ideas, even all concepts of what we designate as moral ideals, and so on. That we call the astral body. Do not take exception to this expression. We could also call it the “nerve-body.” Spiritual science sees in it something real, and knows indeed that this body of impulses and desires is not an effect of the physical body, but the cause of this body. It knows that the soul-spiritual part has built up for itself the physical body.

Thus we already have three members of the human being, and as man's highest member we recognize that by means of which he towers above all other beings, by means of which he is the crown of earth's creation: namely, the bearer of the human ego, which gives him in such a mysterious, but also in such a manifest way, the power of self-consciousness.

Man has the physical body in common with his entire visible environment, the etheric body in common with the plants and animals, the astral body with the animals. The fourth member, however, the ego, he has for himself alone; and by means of it he towers above the other visible creatures. We recognize this fourth member as the ego-bearer, as that in human nature by means of which man is able to say “I” to himself, to come to independence.

Now what we see physically, and what the intellect which is bound to the physical senses can know, is only an expression of these four members of the human being. Thus,

-         the expression of the ego, of the actual ego-bearer, is the blood in its circulation. This “quite special fluid” is the expression of the ego.

-         The physical sense expression of the astral body in man is, for example, among other things, the nervous system.

-         The expression of the etheric body, or a part of this expression, is the glandular system;

-         and the physical body expresses itself in the sense organs.

These four members confront us in the human being. So we shall be able to say, when we observe the complete human being, that he consists of physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. That which is primarily physical body, which the human being carries in such a way that it is visible to physical eyes, clearly bears, first of all, when viewed from without, the marks of heredity. Also those characteristics which live in man's etheric body, in that fighter against the disintegration of the physical body, are in the line of heredity.

Then we come to his astral body, which in its characteristics is much more closely bound to the essential kernel of the human being. If we turn to this innermost kernel, to the actual ego, we find what passes from incarnation to incarnation, and appears as an inner mediator, which rays forth its essential qualities.

Now in the whole human nature all the separate members work into each other; they act reciprocally. Because two streams flow together in man when he enters the physical world, there arises a varied mixture of man's four members, and one, so to speak, gets the mastery over the others, and impresses its color upon them. Now according as one or another of these members comes especially into prominence, the individual confronts us with this or that temperament. The particular coloring of human nature, what we call the actual shade of the temperament, depends upon whether the forces, the different means of power, of one member or of another predominate, have a preponderance over the others. Man's eternal being, that which goes from incarnation to incarnation, so expresses itself in each new embodiment that it calls forth a certain reciprocal action among the four members of human nature: ego, astral body, etheric body and physical body; and from the interaction of these four members arises the nuance of human nature which we characterize as temperament.

When the essential being has tinged the physical and etheric bodies, that which arises because of the coloring thus given will act upon each of the other members; so that the way an individual appears to us with his characteristics depends upon whether the inner kernel acts more strongly upon the physical body, or whether the physical body acts more strongly upon it. According to his nature the human being is able to influence one of the four members, and through the reaction upon the other members the temperament originates. The human essential kernel, when it comes into re-embodiment, is able through this peculiarity to introduce into one or another of its members a certain surplus of activity. Thus it can give to the ego a certain surplus strength; or again, the individual can influence his other members because of having had certain experiences in his former life.

When the ego of the individual has become so strong through its destiny that its forces are noticeably dominant in the fourfold human nature, and it dominates the other members, then the choleric temperament results. If the person is especially subject to the influence of the forces of the astral body, then we attribute to him a sanguine temperament. If the etheric or life-body acts excessively upon the other members, and especially impresses its nature upon the person, the phlegmatic temperament arises. And when the physical body with its laws is especially predominant in the human nature, so that the spiritual essence of being is not able to overcome a certain hardness in the physical body, then we have to do with a melancholic temperament. Just as the eternal and the transitory intermingle, so does the relation of the members to one another appear.

I have already told you how the four members express themselves outwardly in the physical body. Thus, a large part of the physical body is the direct expression of the physical life principle of man. The physical body as such comes to expression only in the physical body; hence it is the physical body which gives the keynote in a melancholic.

We must regard the glandular system as the physical expression of the etheric body. The etheric body expresses itself physically in the glandular system. Hence in a phlegmatic person the glandular system gives the keynote in the physical body.

The nervous system and, of course, what occurs through it we must regard as the physical expression of the astral body. The astral body finds its physical expression in the nervous system; therefore in a sanguine person the nervous system gives the keynote to the physical body.

The blood in its circulation, the force of the pulsation of the blood, is the expression of the actual ego. The ego expresses itself in the circulation of the blood, in the predominating activity of the blood; it shows itself especially in the fiery vehement blood. One must try to penetrate more subtly into the connection which exists between the ego and the other members of the human being. Suppose, for example, that the ego exerts a peculiar force in the life of sensations, ideas, and the nervous system; suppose that in the case of a certain person everything arises from his ego, everything that he feels he feels strongly, because his ego is strong — we call that the choleric temperament. That which has received its character from the ego will make itself felt as the predominating quality. Hence, in a choleric the blood system is predominant.

The choleric temperament will show itself as active in a strongly pulsating blood; in this the element of force in the individual makes its appearance, in the fact that he has a special influence upon his blood. In such a person, in whom spiritually the ego, physically the blood, is particularly active, we see the innermost force vigorously keeping the organization fit. And as he thus confronts the outer world, the force of his ego will wish to make itself felt. That is the effect of this ego. By reason of this, the choleric appears as one who wishes to assert his ego in all circumstances. All the aggressiveness of the choleric, everything connected with his strong will-nature, may be ascribed to the circulation of the blood.

When the astral body predominates in an individual, the physical expression will lie in the functions of the nervous system, that instrument of the rising and falling waves of sensation; and that which the astral body accomplishes is the life of thoughts, of images, so that the person who is gifted with the sanguine temperament will have the predisposition to live in the surging sensations and feelings and in the images of his life of ideas.

We must understand clearly the relation of the astral body to the ego. The astral body functions between the nervous system and the blood system. So it is perfectly clear what this relation is. If only the sanguine temperament were present, if only the nervous system were active, being quite especially prominent as the expression of the astral body, then the person would have a life of shifting images and ideas; in this way a chaos of images would come and go. He would be given over to all the restless flux from sensation to sensation, from image to image, from idea to idea. Something of that sort appears if the astral body predominates, that is, in a sanguine person, who in a certain sense is given over to the tide of sensations, images, etc., since in him the astral body and the nervous system predominate. It is the forces of the ego which prevent the images from darting about in a fantastic way. Only because these images are controlled by the ego does harmony and order enter in. Were man not to check them with his ego, they would surge up and down without any evidence of control by the individual.

In the physical body it is the blood which principally limits, so to speak, the activity of the nervous system. Man's blood circulation, the blood flowing in man, is that which lays fetters, so to speak, upon what has its expression in the nervous system; it is the restrainer of the surging feelings and sensations; it is the tamer of the nerve-life. It would lead too far if I were to show you in all its details how the nervous system and the blood are related, and how the blood is the restrainer of this life of ideas. What occurs if the tamer is not present, if a man is deficient in red blood, is anemic? Well, even if we do not go into the more minute psychological details, from the simple fact that when a person's blood becomes too thin, that is, has a deficiency of red corpuscles, he is easily given over to the unrestrained surging back and forth of all kinds of fantastic images, even to illusion and hallucination — you can still conclude from this simple fact that the blood is the restrainer of the nerve-system. A balance must exist between the ego and the astral body — or speaking physiologically, between the blood and the nervous system — so that one may not become a slave of his nervous system, that is, to the surging life of sensation and feeling.

If now the astral body has a certain excess of activity, if there is a predominance of the astral body and its expression, the nerve-system, which the blood restrains to be sure, but is not completely able to bring to a condition of absolute balance, then that peculiar condition arises in which human life easily arouses the individual's interest in a subject, but he soon drops it and quickly passes to another one; such a person cannot hold himself to an idea, and in consequence his interest can be immediately kindled in everything which meets him in the outer world, but the restraint is not applied to make it inwardly enduring; the interest which has been kindled quickly evaporates. In this quick kindling of interest and quick passing from one subject to another we see the expression of the predominating astral element, the sanguine temperament. The sanguine person cannot linger with an impression, he cannot hold fast to an image, cannot fix his attention upon one subject. He hurries from one life impression to another, from perception to perception, from idea to idea; he shows a fickle disposition. That can be especially observed with sanguine children, and in this case it may cause one anxiety. Interest is easily aroused, a picture begins easily to have an effect, quickly makes an impression, but the impression soon vanishes again.

When there is a strong predominance in an individual of the etheric or life-body — that which inwardly regulates the processes of man's life and growth — and the expression of this etheric body — that system which brings about the feeling of inner well-being or of discomfort — then such a person will be tempted to wish just to remain in this feeling of inner comfort. The etheric body is a body which leads a sort of inner life, while the astral body expresses itself in outer interests, and the ego is the bearer of our activity and will, directed outward. If then this etheric body, which acts as life-body, and maintains the separate functions in equilibrium, an equilibrium which expresses itself in the feeling of life's general comfort — when this self-sustained inner life, which chiefly causes the sense of inner comfort, predominates, then it may occur that an individual lives chiefly in this feeling of inner comfort, that he has such a feeling of well-being, when everything in his organism is in order, that he feels little urgency to direct his inner being toward the outer world, is little inclined to develop a strong will. The more inwardly comfortable he feels, the more harmony will he create between the inner and outer. When this is the case, when it is even carried to excess, we have to do with a phlegmatic person.

In a melancholic we have seen that the physical body, that is, the densest member of the human being, rules the others. A man must be master of his physical body, as he must be master of a machine if he wishes to use it. But when this densest part rules, the person always feels that he is not master of it, that he cannot manage it. For the physical body is the instrument which he should rule completely through his higher members. But now this physical body has dominion and sets up opposition to the others. In this case the person is not able to use his instrument perfectly, so that the other principles experience repression because of it, and disharmony exists between the physical body and the other members. This is the way the hardened physical system appears when it is in excess. The person is not able to bring about flexibility where it should exist. The inner man has no power over his physical system; he feels inner obstacles. They show themselves through the fact that the person is compelled to direct his strength upon these inner obstacles. What cannot be overcome is what causes sorrow and pain; and these make it impossible for the individual to look out upon his contemporary world in an unprejudiced way. This constraint becomes a source of inner grief, which is felt as pain and listlessness, as a sad mood. It is very easy to feel that life is filled with pain and sorrow. Certain thoughts and ideas begin to be enduring; the person becomes gloomy, melancholic. There is a constant arising of pain. This mood is caused by nothing else than that the physical body sets up opposition to the inner ease of the etheric body, to the mobility of the astral body, and to the ego's certainty of its goal.

Temperaments bis

And if we thus comprehend the nature of the temperaments through sound knowledge, many a thing in life will become clear to us; but it will also become possible to handle in a practical way what we otherwise could not do. Look at much which directly confronts us in life! What we see there as the mixture of the four members of human nature meets us clearly and significantly in the outer picture. We need only observe how the temperament comes to expression externally.

Let us, for instance, take the choleric person, who has a strong firm center in his inner being. If the ego predominates, the person will assert himself against all outer oppositions; he wants to be in evidence. This ego is the restrainer. Those pictures are consciousness-pictures. The physical body is formed according to its etheric body, the etheric body according to its astral body. This astral body would fashion man, so to speak, in the most varied way. But because growth is opposed by the ego in its blood forces, the balance is maintained between abundance and variety of growth. So when there is a surplus of ego, growth can be retarded. It positively retards the growth of the other members; it does not allow the astral body and the etheric body their full rights. In the choleric temperament you are able to recognize clearly in the outer growth, in all that confronts us outwardly, the expression of what is inwardly active, the actual deep inner force-nature of the man, of the complete ego. Choleric persons appear as a rule as if growth had been retarded. You can find in life example after example; for instance, from spiritual history the philosopher, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, the German choleric. Even in external appearance he is recognizable as such, since in his outer form he gave the impression of being retarded in growth. Thereby he reveals clearly that the other members of his being have been held back by the excess of ego. Not the astral body with its forming capacity is the predominant member, but the ego rules, the restrainer, the limiter of the formative forces. Hence we see as a rule in those who are preeminently men of strong will, where the ego restrains the free formative force of the astral body, a small compact figure. Take another classical example of the choleric: Napoleon, the “little General,” who remained so small because the ego held back the other members of his being. There you have the type of the retarded growth of the choleric. There you can see how this force of the ego works out of the spirit, so that the innermost being is manifest in the outer form. Observe the physiognomy of the choleric! Take in comparison the phlegmatic person! How indefinite are his features; how little reason you have to say that such a form of forehead is suited to the choleric. In one organ it is shown especially clearly whether the astral body or the ego works formatively, that is in the eye, in the steady, assured aspect of the eye of the choleric. As a rule we see how this strongly-kindled inner light, which turns everything luminously inward, sometimes is expressed in a black, a coal-black eye, because, according to a certain law, the choleric does not permit the astral body to color that very thing which his ego-force draws inward, that which is colored in another person. Observe such an individual in his whole bearing. One who is experienced can almost tell from the rear view whether a certain person is a choleric. The firm walk proclaims the choleric, so to speak. Even in the step we see the expression of strong ego-force. In the choleric child we already notice the firm tread; when he walks on the ground, he not only sets his foot on it, but he treads as if he wanted to go a little bit farther, into the ground.

The complete human individual is a copy of this innermost being, which declares itself to us in such a way. But naturally, it is not a question of my maintaining that the choleric person is short and the sanguine tall. We may compare the form of a person only with his own growth. It depends upon the relation of the growth to the entire form.

Notice the sanguine person! Observe what a strange glance even the sanguine child has; it quickly lights upon something, but just as quickly turns to something else; it is a merry glance; an inner joy and gaiety shine in it; in it is expressed what comes from the depths of the human nature, from the mobile astral body, which predominates in the sanguine person. In its mobile inner life this astral body will work upon the members; and it will also make the person's external appearance as flexible as possible. Indeed, we are able to recognize the entire outer physiognomy, the permanent form and also the gestures, as the expression of the mobile, volatile, fluidic astral body. The astral body has the tendency to fashion, to form. The inner reveals itself outwardly; hence the sanguine person is slender and supple. Even in the slender form, the bony structure; we see the inner mobility of the astral body in the whole person. It comes to expression for example in the slim muscles. It is also to be seen in his external expression. Even one who is not clairvoyant can recognize from the rear whether a person is of sanguine or choleric temperament; and to be able to do this one need not be a spiritual scientist. In a sanguine person we have an elastic and springing walk. In the hopping, dancing walk of the sanguine child we see the expression of the mobile astral body. The sanguine temperament manifests itself especially strongly in childhood. See how the formative tendency is expressed there; and even more delicate attributes are to be found in the outer form. If in the choleric person we have sharply-cut facial features, in the sanguine they are mobile, expressive, changeable. And likewise there appears in the sanguine child a certain inner possibility to alter his countenance. Even to the color of the eyes we could confirm the expression of the sanguine person. The inwardness of the ego-nature, the self-sufficient inwardness of the choleric, meets us in his black eye. Look at the sanguine person in whom the ego-nature is not so deep-rooted, in whom the astral body pours forth all its mobility — there the blue eye is predominant. These blue eyes are closely connected with the individual's invisible inner light, the light of the astral body.

Thus many attributes could be pointed out which reveal the temperament in the external appearance. Through the four-membered human nature we learn to understand clearly this soul riddle of the temperaments. And indeed, a knowledge of the four temperaments, springing from a profound perception of human nature, has been handed down to us from ancient times. If we thus understand human nature, and know that the external is only the expression of the spiritual, then we learn to understand man in his relation even to the externalities, to understand him in his whole process of becoming; and we learn to recognize what we must do concerning ourself and the child with regard to temperament. In education especially notice must be taken of the kind of temperament that tends to develop in the child. For life's wisdom, as for pedagogy, an actual living knowledge of the nature of the temperaments is indispensable, and both would profit infinitely from it.

And now let us go further. Again we see how the phlegmatic temperament also is brought to expression in the outer form. In this temperament there predominates the activity of the etheric body, which has its physical expression in the glandular system and its soul expression in a feeling of ease, in inner balance. If in such a person everything is not only normally in order within, but if, beyond this normality, these inner formative forces of ease are especially active, then their products are added to the human body; it becomes corpulent, it expands. In the largeness of the body, in the development of the fatty parts, we see that which the inner formative forces of the etheric body are especially working on. The inner sense of ease of the phlegmatic person meets us in all that. And who would not recognize in this lack of reciprocal action between the inner and the outer the cause of the ofttimes slovenly, dragging gait of the phlegmatic person, whose step will often not adapt itself to the ground; he does not step properly, so to speak; does not put himself in relation to things. That he has little control over the forms of his inner being you can observe in the whole man. The phlegmatic temperament confronts one in the immobile, indifferent countenance, even in the peculiarly dull, colorless appearance of the eye. While the eye of the choleric is fiery and sparkling, we can recognize in that of the phlegmatic the expression of the etheric body, focused only upon inner ease.

The melancholic is one who cannot completely attain mastery over the physical instrument, one to whom the physical instrument offers resistance, one who cannot cope with the use of this instrument. Look at the melancholic, how he generally has a drooping head, has not the force in himself to stiffen his neck. The bowed head shows that the inner forces which adjust the head perpendicularly are never able to unfold freely. The glance is downward, the eye sad, unlike the black gleam of the choleric eye. We see in the peculiar appearance of the eye that the physical instrument makes difficulties for him. The walk, to be sure, is measured, firm, but not like the walk of the choleric, the firm tread of the choleric; it has a certain kind of dragging firmness.

All this can be only indicated here; but the life of the human being will be much, much more understandable to us if we work in this way, if we see the spirit activating the forms in such a way that the external part of the individual can become an expression of his inner being. So you see how significantly spiritual science can contribute to the solution of this riddle; but only if you face the whole reality, to which the spiritual also belongs, and do not stop merely with the physical reality, can this knowledge be practically applied in life. Therefore only from spiritual science can this knowledge flow in such a way as to benefit the whole of humanity as well as the individual.

Now if we know all that, we can also learn to apply it. Particularly it must be of interest to learn how we can handle the temperaments pedagogically in childhood. For in education the kind of temperament must be very carefully observed; with children it is especially important to be able to guide and direct the developing temperament. But later also it is still important, for anyone in self-education. For the person who wishes to train himself it is invaluable that he observe what is expressed in his temperament.

I have pointed out to you here the fundamental types, but naturally in life they do not often appear thus pure. Each person has only the fundamental tone of a temperament, besides which he has something of the others. Napoleon, for example, had in him much of the phlegmatic temperament, although he was a choleric. If we would govern life practically, it is important to be able to allow that which expresses itself physically to work upon our soul.

How important this is we can see best of all if we consider that the temperaments can degenerate, that what may appear to us as one-sidedness can also degenerate. What would the world be without the temperaments — if people had only one temperament? The most tiresome place you could imagine! The world would be dreary without the temperaments, not only in the physical, but also in the higher sense. All variety, beauty, and all the richness of life are possible only through the temperaments. Do we not see how everything great in life can be brought about just through the one-sidedness of the temperaments, but also how these can degenerate in their one-sidedness? Are we not troubled about the child because we see that the choleric temperament can degenerate to malice, the sanguine to fickleness, the melancholic to gloom, etc.?

In the question of education in particular, and also in self-education, will not the knowledge and estimation of the temperaments be of essential value to the educator? We must not be misled into depreciating the value of the temperament because it is a one-sided characteristic. In education the important thing is not to equalize the temperaments, to level them, but to bring them into the right track. We must clearly understand that the temperament leads to one-sidedness, that the most radical phase of the melancholic temperament is madness; of the phlegmatic, imbecility; of the sanguine, insanity; of the choleric, all those explosions of diseased human nature which result in frenzy, and so forth. Much beautiful variety results from the temperaments, because opposites attract each other; nevertheless, the deification of the one-sidedness of temperament very easily causes harm between birth and death. In each temperament there exists a small and a great danger of degeneracy. With the choleric person there is the danger that in youth his ego will be determined by his irascibility, by his lack of self-control. That is the small danger. The great danger is the folly which wishes to pursue, from the impulse of his ego, some kind of individual goal. In the sanguine temperament the small danger is that the person will lapse into fickleness. The great danger is that the rising and falling tide of sensations may result in insanity. The small danger for the phlegmatic is lack of interest in the outer world; the great danger is stupidity or idiocy. The small danger in the melancholic is gloominess, the possibility that he may not be able to extricate himself from what rises up within him. The great danger is madness.

When we contemplate all that, we shall see that a tremendously significant task in practical life lies in the directing and guiding of the temperaments. It is important for the educator to be able to say to himself: What will you do, for example, in the case of a sanguine child? Here one must try to learn from the knowledge of the entire nature of the sanguine temperament how to proceed. If other points of view must be considered concerning the education of the child, it is also necessary that temperament, as a subject in itself, be taken into account. But in order to guide the temperaments the principle to be observed is that we must always reckon with what is there and not with what is not there.

We have a child of sanguine temperament before us, which could easily degenerate into fickleness, lack of interest in important things, and, instead, become quickly interested in other things. The sanguine child is the quickly comprehending, but also the quickly forgetting child, whose interest it is difficult to hold upon anything whatever, just because interest in one subject is quickly lost and passes over to another. This can grow into the most frightful one-sidedness, and it is possible to notice the danger if we look into the depths of human nature. In the case of such a child a material-minded person will immediately come forward with a prescription and say: If you have a sanguine child to bring up, you must bring it into reciprocal activity with other children. But a person who thinks realistically in the right sense says: If you begin with the sanguine child by working upon forces which it does not at all possess, you will accomplish nothing with it. You could exert your powers ever so seriously to develop the other members of human nature, but these simply do not predominate in this child. If a child has a sanguine temperament, we cannot help him along in development by trying to beat interests into him; we cannot pound in something different from what his sanguine temperament is. We should not ask, What does the child lack? What are we to beat into him? But we should ask, What as a rule does a sanguine child possess? And that is what we must reckon with. Then we shall say to ourselves: We do not alter these characteristics by trying to induce any sort of opposite quality in this child. With regard to these things which are rooted in the innermost nature of man we must take into consideration that we can only bend them. Thus we shall not be building upon what the child does not possess, but upon what he does possess. We shall build exactly upon that sanguine nature, upon that mobility of the astral body, and not try to beat into him what belongs to another member of human nature. With a sanguine child who has become one-sided we must just appeal to his sanguine temperament.

If we wish to have the right relation with this child, we must take special notice of something. For from the first it becomes evident to the expert that if the child is ever so sanguine, there is still something or other in which he is interested, that there is one interest, one genuine interest for each sanguine child. It will generally be easy to arouse interest in this or that subject, but it will quickly be lost again. There is one interest, however, which can be enduring even for the sanguine child. Experience shows this; only it must be discovered. And that which is found to hold a special interest must be kept in mind. And whatever it is that the child does not pass by with fickle interest we must try to bring before him as a special fact, so that his temperament extends to something which is not a matter of indifference to him. Whatever he delights in, we must try to place in a special light; the child must learn to use his sanguineness. We can work in such a way that we begin first of all with the one thing that can always be found, with the forces which the child has. He will not be able to become lastingly interested in anything through punishment and remonstrance. For things, subjects, events, he will not easily show anything but a passing, changeable interest; but for one personality, especially suited to a sanguine child — experience will show this — there will be a permanent, continuous interest, even though the child is ever so fickle. If only we are the right personality, or if we are able to bring him into association with the right personality, the interest will appear. It is only necessary to search in the right way. Only by the indirect way of love for one personality, is it possible for interest to appear in the sanguine child. But if that interest, love for one person, is kindled in him, then through this love straightway a miracle happens. This love can cure a child's one-sided temperament. More than any other temperament, the sanguine child needs love for one personality. Everything must be done to awaken love in such a child. Love is the magic word. All education of the sanguine child must take this indirect path of attachment to a certain personality. Therefore parents and teachers must heed the fact that an enduring interest in things cannot be awakened by drumming it into the sanguine child, but they must see to it that this interest is won by the roundabout way of attachment to a personality. The child must develop this personal attachment; one must make himself lovable to the child; that is one's duty to the sanguine child. It is the responsibility of the teacher that such a child shall learn to love the personality.

We can still further build up the education upon the child's sanguine nature itself. The sanguine nature reveals itself, you know, in the inability to find any interest which is lasting. We must observe what is there. We must see that all kinds of things are brought into the environment of the child in which he has shown more than the ordinary interest. We should keep the sanguine child busy at regular intervals with such subjects as warrant a passing interest, concerning which he is permitted to be sanguine, so to speak, subjects not worthy of sustained interest. These things must be permitted to affect the sanguine nature, permitted to work upon the child; then they must be removed so that he will desire them again, and they may again be given to him. We must cause these things to work upon the child as the objects of the ordinary world work upon the temperament. In other words, it is important to seek out for a sanguine child those objects toward which he is permitted to be sanguine.

If we thus appeal to what exists rather than to something which does not exist, we shall see — and practical experience will prove it — that as matter of fact the sanguine force, if it becomes one-sided, actually permits itself to be captured by serious subjects. That is attained as by an indirect path. It is good if the temperament is developed in the right way during childhood, but often the adult himself has to take his education in hand later in life. As long, indeed, as the temperaments are held in normal bounds, they represent that which makes life beautiful, varied, and great. How dull would life be if all people were alike with regard to temperament. But in order to equalize a one-sidedness of temperament, a man must often take his self-education in hand in later life. Here again one should not insist upon pounding into oneself, as it were, a lasting interest in any sort of thing; but he must say to himself: According to my nature I am sanguine; I will now seek subjects in life which my interest may pass over quickly, in which it is right that the interest should not be lasting, and I will just occupy myself with that in which I may with complete justification lose interest in the very next moment.

Let us suppose that a parent should fear that in his child the choleric temperament would express itself in a one-sided way. The same treatment cannot be prescribed as for the sanguine child; the choleric will not be able easily to acquire love for a personality. He must be reached through something else in the influence of person upon person. But in the case of the choleric child also there is an indirect way by which the development may always be guided. What will guide the education here with certainty is: Respect and esteem for an authority. For the choleric child one must be thoroughly worthy of esteem and respect in the highest sense of the word. Here it is not a question of making oneself loved through the personal qualities, as with the sanguine child, but the important thing is that the choleric child shall always have the belief that the teacher understands the matter in hand. The latter must show that he is well informed about the things that take place in the child's environment; he must not show a weak point. He must endeavor never to let the choleric child notice that he might be unable to give information or advice concerning what is to be done. The teacher must see to it that he holds the firm reins of authority in his hands, and never betray the fact that he is perhaps at his wits' end. The child must always keep the belief that the teacher knows. Otherwise he has lost the game. If love for the personality is the magic word for the sanguine child, then respect and esteem for the worth of a person is the magic word for the choleric.

If we have a choleric child to train we must see to it before everything else that this child shall unfold, bring to development, his strong inner forces. It is necessary to acquaint him with what may present difficulties in the outer life. For the choleric child who threatens to degenerate into one-sidedness, it is especially necessary to introduce into the education that which is difficult to overcome, so as to call attention to the difficulties of life by producing serious obstacles for the child. Especially must such things be put in his way as will present opposition to him. Oppositions, difficulties, must be placed in the path of the choleric child. The effort must be put forth not to make life altogether easy for him. Hindrances must be created so that the choleric temperament is not repressed, but is obliged to come to expression through the very fact that certain difficulties are presented which the child must overcome. The teacher must not beat out, educate out, so to speak, a child's choleric temperament, but he must put before him just those things upon which he must use his strength, things in connection with which the choleric temperament is justified. The choleric child must of inner necessity learn to battle with the objective world. The teacher will therefore seek to arrange the environment in such a way that this choleric temperament can work itself out in overcoming obstacles; and it will be especially good if these obstacles pertain to little things, to trifles; if the child is made to do something on which he must expend tremendous strength, so that the choleric temperament is strongly expressed, but actually the facts are victorious, the strength employed is frittered away. In this way the child gains respect for the power of facts which oppose what is expressed in the choleric temperament.

Here again there is another indirect way in which the choleric temperament can be trained. Here it is necessary first of all to awaken reverence, the feeling of awe, to approach the child in such a way as actually to arouse such respect, by showing him that we can overcome difficulties which he himself cannot yet overcome; reverence, esteem, particularly for what the teacher can accomplish, for his ability to overcome objective difficulties. That is the proper means: Respect for the ability of the teacher is the way by which the choleric child in particular may be reached in education.

It is also very difficult to manage the melancholic child. What must we do if we fear the threatened one-sidedness of the melancholic temperament of the child, since we cannot cram in what he does not possess? We must reckon with the fact that it is just repressions and resistance that he has power within himself to cling to. If we wish to turn this peculiarity of his temperament in the right direction, we must divert this force from subjective to objective activity. Here it is of very special importance that we do not build upon the possibility, let us say, of being able to talk him out of his grief and pain, or otherwise educate them out of him; for the child has the tendency to this excessive reserve because the physical instrument presents hindrances. We must particularly build upon what is there, we must cultivate what exists. With the melancholic child it will be especially necessary for the teacher to attach great importance to showing him that there is suffering in the world. If we wish to approach this child as a teacher, we must find here also the point of contact. The melancholic child is capable of suffering, of moroseness; these qualities exist in him and we cannot flog them out, but we can divert them.

For this temperament too there is one important point: Above all we must show the melancholic child how people can suffer. We must cause him to experience justifiable pain and suffering in external life, in order that he may come to know that there are things concerning which he can experience pain. That is the important thing. If you try to entertain him, you drive him back into his own corner. Whatever you do, you must not think you have to entertain such a child, to try to cheer him up. You should not divert him; in that way you harden the gloominess, the inner pain. If you take him where he can find pleasure, he will only become more and more shut up within himself. It is always good if you try to cure the young melancholic, not by giving him gay companionship, but by causing him to experience justifiable pain. Divert his attention from himself by showing him that sorrow exists. He must see that there are things in life which cause suffering. Although it must not be carried too far, the important point is to arouse pain in connection with external things in order to divert him.

The melancholic child is not easy to guide; but here again there is a magic means. As with the sanguine child the magic word is love for a personality, with the choleric, esteem and respect for the worth of the teacher, so with the melancholic child the important thing is for the teachers to be personalities who in some way have been tried by life, who act and speak from a life of trial. The child must feel that the teacher has really experienced suffering. Bring to his attention in all the manifold occurrences of life the trials of your own destiny. Most fortunate is the melancholic child who can grow up beside a person who has much to give because of his own hard experiences; in such a case soul works upon soul in the most fortunate way. If therefore at the side of the melancholic child there stands a person who, in contrast to the child's merely subjective, sorrowful tendencies, knows how to tell in a legitimate way of pain and suffering that the outer world has brought him, then such a child is aroused by this shared experience, this sympathy with justified pain. A person who can show in the tone and feeling of his narration that he has been tried by destiny, is a blessing to such a melancholic child.

Even in arranging the melancholic child's environment, so to speak, we should not leave his predispositions unconsidered. Hence, it is even advantageous if — strange as it may sound — we build up for the child actual hindrances, obstructions, so that he can experience legitimate suffering and pain with regard to certain things. It is the best education for such a child if the existing tendency to subjective suffering and grief can be diverted by being directed to outer hindrances and obstructions. Then the child, the soul of the child, will gradually take a different direction.

In self-education also we can again use this method: we must always allow the existing tendencies, the forces present in us, to work themselves out, and not artificially repress them. If the choleric temperament, for example, expresses itself so strongly in us that it is a hindrance, we must permit this existing inner force to work itself out by seeking those things upon which we can in a certain sense shatter our force, dissipate our forces, preferably upon insignificant, unimportant things. If on the other hand we are melancholic, we shall do well to seek out justifiable pain and suffering in external life, in order that we may have opportunity to work out our melancholy in the external world; then we shall set ourselves right.

Let us pass on to the phlegmatic temperament. With the phlegmatic child it will be very difficult for us if his education presents us with the task of conducting ourselves in an appropriate way toward him. It is difficult to gain any influence over a phlegmatic person. But there is one way in which an indirect approach may be made. Here again it would be wrong, very wrong indeed, if we insisted upon shaking up a person so inwardly at ease, if we thought we could pound in some kind of interests then and there. Again we must take account of what he has.

There is something in each case which will hold the attention of the phlegmatic person, especially the phlegmatic child. If only through wise education we build up around him what he needs, we shall be able to accomplish much. It is necessary for the phlegmatic child to have much association with other children. If it is good for the others also to have playmates, it is especially so for the phlegmatic. He must have playmates with the most varied interests. There is nothing to appeal to in the phlegmatic child. He will not interest himself easily in objects and events. One must therefore bring this child into association with children of like age. He can be trained through the sharing of the interests — as many as possible — of other personalities. If he is indifferent to his environment, his interest can be kindled by the effect upon him of the interests of his playmates. Only by means of that peculiar suggestive effect, only through the interests of others, is it possible to arouse his interest. An awakening of the interest of the phlegmatic child will result through the incidental experiencing of the interest of others, the sharing of the interests of his playmates, just as sympathy, sharing of the experience of another human destiny, is effective for the melancholic. Once more: To be stimulated by the interest of others is the correct means of education for the phlegmatic. As the sanguine child must have attachment for one personality, so must the phlegmatic child have friendship, association with as many children as possible of his own age. That is the only way the slumbering force in him can be aroused. Things as such do not affect the phlegmatic. With a subject connected with the tasks of school and home you will not be able to interest the little phlegmatic; but indirectly, by way of the interests of other souls of similar age you can bring it about. If things are reflected in this way in others, these interests are reflected in the soul of the phlegmatic child.

Then also we should particularly see to it that we surround him with things and cause events to occur near him concerning which apathy is appropriate. One must direct the apathy to the right objects, those toward which one may rightly be phlegmatic. In this way quite wonderful things can sometimes be accomplished in the young child. But also one's self-education may be taken in hand in the same way in later life, if it is noticed that apathy tends to express itself in a one-sided way; that is, by trying to observe people and their interests. One thing more can also be done, so long as we are still in a position to employ intelligence and reason at all: we can seek out the very subjects and events which are of the greatest indifference to us, toward which it is justifiable for us to be phlegmatic.

We have now seen again how, in the methods of education based upon spiritual science, we build upon what one has and not upon what is lacking.

So we may say that it is best for the sanguine child if he may grow up guided by a firm hand, if some one can show him externally aspects of character through which he is able to develop personal love. Love for a personality is the best remedy for the sanguine child. Not merely love, but respect and esteem for what a personality can accomplish is the best for the choleric child. A melancholic child may be considered fortunate if he can grow up beside some one who has a bitter destiny. In the corresponding contrast produced by the new insight, by the sympathy which arises for the person of authority, and in the sharing of the justifiably painful destiny, — in this consists what the melancholic needs. They develop well if they can indulge less in attachment to a personality, less in respect and esteem for the accomplishment of a personality, but can reach out in sympathy with suffering and justifiably painful destinies. The phlegmatic is reached best if we produce in him an inclination towards the interests of other personalities, if he can be stirred by the interests of others.

The sanguine should be able to develop love and attachment for one personality.

The choleric should be able to develop esteem and respect for the accomplishments of the personality.

The melancholic should be able to develop a heartfelt sympathy with another's destiny.

The phlegmatic child should be led to the sharing of the interests of others.

Thus do we see in these principles of education how spiritual science goes right into the practical questions of life; and when we come to speak about the intimate aspects of life, spiritual science shows just in these very things how it works in practice, shows here its eminently practical side. Infinitely much could we possess of the art of living, if we would adopt this realistic knowledge of spiritual science. When it is a case of mastering life, we must listen for life's secrets, and these lie behind the sense perceptible. Only real spiritual science can explain such a thing as the human temperaments, and so thoroughly fathom them that we are able to make this spiritual science serve as a benefit and actual blessing of life, whether in youth or in age.

We can also take self-education in hand here; for when it is a question of self-education, the temperaments can be particularly useful to us. We become aware with our intellect that our sanguineness is playing us all kinds of tricks, and threatens to degenerate to an unstable way of life; we hurry from subject to subject. This condition can be countered if only we go about it in the right way. The sanguine person will not, however, reach his goal by saying to himself: You have a sanguine temperament and you must break yourself of it. The intellect applied directly is often a hindrance in this realm. On the other hand, used indirectly it can accomplish much. Here the intellect is the weakest soul-force of all. In presence of the stronger soul-forces, such as the temperaments, the intellect can do very little; it can work only indirectly. If some one exhorts himself ever so often: “For once now hold fast to one thing” — then the sanguine temperament will again and again play him bad tricks. He can reckon only with a force which he has. Behind the intellect there must be other forces. Can a sanguine person count upon anything at all but his sanguine temperament? And in self-education too it is necessary to try to do also what the intellect can do directly. A man must reckon with his sanguineness; self-exhortations are fruitless. The important thing is to show sanguineness in the right place. One must try to have no interest in certain things in which he is interested. We can with the intellect provide experiences for which the brief interest of the sanguine person is justified. Let him try to place himself artificially in such situations; to put in his way as much as possible what is of no interest to him. If then we bring about such situations in ever such small matters, concerning which a brief interest is warranted, it will call forth what is necessary. Then it will be noticed, if only one works at it long enough, that this temperament develops the force to change itself.

The choleric can likewise cure himself in a particular way, if we consider the matter from the point of view of spiritual science. For the choleric temperament it is good to choose such subjects, to bring about through the intellect such conditions as are not changed if we rage, conditions in which we reduce ourselves ad absurdum by our raging. When the choleric notices that his fuming inner being wishes to express itself, he must try to find as many things as possible which require little force to be overcome; he must try to bring about easily superable outer facts, and must always try to bring his force to expression in the strongest way upon insignificant events and facts. If he thus seeks out insignificant things which offer him no resistance, then he will bring his one-sided choleric temperament again into the right course.

If it is noticed that melancholia is producing one-sidedness, one must try directly to create for himself legitimate outer obstacles, and then will to examine these legitimate outer obstacles in their entire aspect, so that what one possesses of pain and the capacity for suffering is diverted to outer objects. The intellect can accomplish this. Thus the melancholic temperament must not pass by the pain and suffering of life, but must actually seek them, must experience sympathy, in order that his pain may be diverted to the right objects and events.

If we are phlegmatic, have no interests, then it is good for us to occupy ourselves as much as possible with quite uninteresting things, to surround ourselves with many sources of ennui, so that we are thoroughly bored. Then we shall completely cure ourselves of our apathy, completely break ourselves of it. The phlegmatic person therefore does well to decide with his intellect that he must take interest in a certain thing, that he must search for things which are really only worthy to be ignored. He must seek occupations in which apathy is justified, in which he can work out his apathy. In this way he conquers it, even when it threatens to degenerate into one-sidedness.

Thus we reckon with what is there and not with what is lacking. Those however who call themselves realists believe, for example, that the best thing for a melancholic is to produce conditions that are opposed to his temperament. But anyone who actually thinks realistically will appeal to what is already in him.

So you see spiritual science does not divert us from reality and from actual life; but it will illuminate every step of the way to the truth; and it can also guide us everywhere in life to take reality into consideration. For those people are deluded who think they can stick to external sense appearance. We must go deeper if we wish to enter into this reality; and we shall acquire an understanding for the variety of life if we engage in such considerations.

Our sense for the practical will become more and more individual if we are not impelled to apply a general prescription: namely, you must not drive out fickleness with seriousness, but see what kind of characteristics the person has which are to be stimulated. If then man is life's greatest riddle, and if we have hope that this riddle will be solved for us, we must turn to this spiritual science, which alone can solve it for us. Not only is man in general a riddle to us, but each single person who confronts us in life, each new individuality, presents a new riddle, which of course we cannot fathom by considering it with the intellect. We must penetrate to the individuality. And here too we can allow spiritual science to work out of the innermost center of our being; we can make spiritual science the greatest impulse of life. So long as it remains only theory, it is worthless. It must be applied in the life of the human being. The way to this goal is possible, but it is long. It becomes illuminated for us if it leads to reality. Then we become aware that our views are transformed. Knowledge is transformed. It is prejudice to believe that knowledge must remain abstract; on the contrary, when it enters the spiritual realm it permeates our whole life's work; our entire life becomes permeated by it. Then we face life in such a way that we have discernment for the individuality, which enters even into feeling and sensation and expresses itself in these, and which possesses great reverence and esteem. Patterns are easy to recognize; and to wish to govern life according to patterns is easy; but life does not permit itself to be treated as a pattern. Only insight will suffice, insight which is transformed into a feeling one must have toward the individuality of man, toward the individuality in the whole of life. Then will our conscientious spiritual knowledge flow into our feeling, so to speak, in such a way that we shall be able to estimate correctly the riddle which confronts us in each separate human being.

How do we solve the riddle which each individual presents to us? We solve it by approaching each person in such a way that harmony results between him and us. If we thus permeate ourselves with life's wisdom, we shall be able to solve the fundamental riddle of life which is the individual man. It is not solved by setting up abstract ideas and concepts. The general human riddle can be solved in pictures; this individual riddle, however, is not to be solved by this setting up of abstract ideas and concepts; but rather must we approach each individual person in such a way that we bring to him direct understanding.

That is possible, however, only when we know what lies in the depths of the soul. Spiritual science is something which slowly and gradually pours itself into our entire soul so that it renders the soul receptive not only to the large relations but also to the finer details. In spiritual science it is a fact that, when one soul approaches another, and this other requires love, love is given. If it requires something else, that will be given. Thus by means of such true life wisdom we create social foundations, and that means at each moment to solve a riddle. Anthroposophy works not by means of preaching, exhortation, harping on morals, but by creating a social basis on which one man is able to understand another.

Spiritual science is thus the sub-soil of life, and love is the blossom and fruit of such a life, stimulated by spiritual science. Therefore spiritual science may claim that it is establishing something which will provide a base for the most beautiful goal of the mission of man: genuine, true, human love. In our sympathy, in our love, in the manner in which we approach the individual human being, in our conduct, we should learn the art of living through spiritual science. If we would permit life and love to stream into feeling and sensibility, human life would be a beautiful expression of the fruit of this spiritual science.

We learn to know the individual human being in every respect when we perceive him in the light of spiritual science. We learn to perceive even the child in this way; we learn little by little to respect, to value, in the child the peculiarity, the enigmatic quality of the individuality, and we learn also how we must treat this individual in life, because spiritual science gives to us, so to speak, not merely general, theoretical directions, but it guides us in our relation to the individual in the solving of the riddles which are there to be solved: namely, to love him as we must love him if we not merely fathom him with the mind, but let him work upon us completely, let our spiritual scientific insight give wings to our feelings, our love. That is the only proper soil which can yield true, fruitful, genuine human love; and this is the basis from which we discover what we have to seek as the innermost essential kernel in each individual. And if we permeate ourselves thus with spiritual knowledge, our social life will be regulated in such a way that each single person, when he approaches any other in esteem and respect and understanding of the riddle “man,” will learn how to find and to regulate his relation to the individual. Only one who lives in abstractions as a matter of course can speak from prosaic concepts, but he who strives for genuine knowledge will find it, and will find the way to other people; he will find the solution of the riddle of the other person in his own attitude, in his own conduct.

Thus we solve the individual riddle according as we relate ourselves to others. We find the essential being of another only with a view of life which comes from the spirit. Spiritual science must be a life-practice, a spiritual life-factor, entirely practical, entirely living, and not vague theory.

This is knowledge which can work into all the fibers of man's being, which can rule each single act in life. Thus only does spiritual science become the true art of living — and that could be particularly shown in the consideration of those intimate peculiarities of man, the temperaments. Thus the finest relation is engendered between man and man when we look a person in the face and understand not only how to fathom the riddle, but how to love, that is, to let love flow from individuality to individuality. Spiritual science needs no theoretical proofs; life brings the proofs. Spiritual science knows that something can be said “for” and “against” everything, but the true proofs are those which life brings; and only step by step can life show the truth of what we think when we consider the human being in the light of spiritual-scientific knowledge; for this truth exists as a harmonious, life-inspired insight which penetrates into the deepest mysteries of life

1909-03-04-GA057 is called 'The Four Temperaments'

It has frequently been emphasized that man's greatest riddle is himself. Both natural and spiritual science ultimately try to solve this riddle — the former by understanding the natural laws that govern our outer being, the latter by seeking the essence and purpose inherent in our existence. Now as correct as it may be that man's greatest riddle is himself, it must also be emphasized that each individual human being is a riddle, often even to himself. Every one of us experiences this in encounters with other people.

Today we shall be dealing not with general riddles, but rather with those posed to us by every human being in every encounter, and these are just as important. For how endlessly varied people are! We need only consider temperament, the subject of today's lecture, in order to realize that there are as many riddles as there are people. Even within the basic types known as the temperaments, such variety exists among people that the very mystery of existence seems to express itself within these types. Temperament, that fundamental coloring of the human personality, plays a role in all manifestations of individuality that are of concern to practical life. We sense something of this basic mood whenever we encounter another human being. Thus we can only hope that spiritual science will tell us what we need to know about the temperaments.

Our first impression of the temperaments is that they are external, for although they can be said to flow from within, they manifest themselves in everything we can observe from without. However, this does not mean that the human riddle can be solved by means of natural science and observation. Only when we hear what spiritual science has to say can we come closer to understanding these peculiar colorations of the human personality.

Spiritual science tells us first of all that the human being is part of a line of heredity. He displays the characteristics he has inherited from father, mother, grandparents, and so on. These characteristics he then passes on to his progeny. The human being thus possesses certain traits by virtue of being part of a succession of generations.

However, this inheritance gives us only one side of his nature. Joined to that is the individuality he brings with him out of the spiritual world. This he adds to what his father and mother, his ancestors, are able to give him. Something that proceeds from life to life, from existence to existence, connects itself with the generational stream. Certain characteristics we can attribute to heredity; on the other hand, as a person develops from childhood on, we can see unfolding out of the center of his being something that must be the fruit of preceding lives, something he could never have inherited from his ancestors. We come to know the law of reincarnation, of the succession of earthly lives and this is but a special case of an all-encompassing cosmic law.

An illustration will make this seem less paradoxical. Consider a lifeless mineral, say, a rock crystal. Should the crystal be destroyed, it leaves nothing of its form that could be passed on to other crystals.* A new crystal receives nothing of the old one's particular form. When we move on to the world of plants, we notice that a plant cannot develop according to the same laws as does the crystal. It can only originate from another, earlier plant. Form is here preserved and passed on.

  • Translator's note: The reader may conclude from this remark — for it was, after all, a remark, not a published claim — that Steiner was ignorant of the concept of seed crystals. However, a likelier explanation is that Steiner, whose audience was very likely not a scientifically knowledgeable one, was simply indulging in a bit of rhetorical hyperbole. He doubtless knew that a seed crystal will hasten the crystallization process in a saturated salt solution, but this fact is not really relevant to his point, which comes out only gradually in this paragraph. His point is not that a newly-forming crystal cannot receive some contribution from a previously existing one, only that it need not; this is in contrast to living things, which require a progenitor.

Moving on to the animal kingdom, we find an evolution of the species taking place. We begin to appreciate why the nineteenth century held the discovery of evolution to be its greatest achievement. In animals, not only does one being proceed from another, but each young animal during the embryo phase recapitulates the earlier phases of its species' evolutionary development. The species itself undergoes an enhancement.

In human beings not only does the species evolve, but so does the individual. What a human being acquires in a lifetime through education and experience is preserved, just as surely as are the evolutionary achievements of an animal's ancestral line. It will someday be commonplace to trace a person's inner core to a previous existence. The human being will come to be known as the product of an earlier life. The views that stand in the way of this doctrine will be overcome, just as was the scholarly opinion of an earlier century, which held that living organisms could arise from nonliving substances. As recently as three hundred years ago, scholars believed that animals could evolve from river mud, that is, from nonliving matter. Francesco Redi, an Italian scientist, was the first to assert that living things could develop only from other living things. [see Note 1] For this he was attacked and came close to suffering the fate of Giordano Bruno. [see Note 2] Today, burning people at the stake is no longer fashionable. When someone attempts to teach a new truth, for example, that psycho-spiritual entities must be traced back to earlier psycho-spiritual entities, he won't exactly be burned at the stake, but he will be dismissed as a fool. But the time will come when the real foolishness will be to believe that the human being lives only once, that there is no enduring entity that unites itself with a person's inherited traits.

Now the important question arises:

How can something originating in a completely different world, that must seek a father and a mother, unite itself with physical corporeality? How can it clothe itself in the bodily features that link human beings to a hereditary chain? How does the spiritual-psychic stream, of which man forms a part through reincarnation, unite itself with the physical stream of heredity?

The answer is that a synthesis must be achieved. When the two streams combine, each imparts something of its own quality to the other. In much the same way that blue and yellow combine to give green, the two streams in the human being combine to yield what is commonly known as temperament. Our inner self and our inherited traits both appear in it. Temperament stands between the things that connect a human being to an ancestral line, and those the human being brings with him out of earlier incarnations. Temperament strikes a balance between the eternal and the ephemeral. And it does so in such a way that the essential members of the human being, which we have come to know in other contexts, enter into a very specific relationship with one another.

How it is done – the four types

Human beings as we know them in this life are beings of four members. The first, the physical body, they have in common with the mineral world. The first super-sensible member, the etheric body, is integrated into the physical and separates from it only at death. There follows as third member the astral body, the bearer of instincts, drives, passions, desires, and of the ever-changing content of sensation and thought. Our highest member, which places us above all other earthly beings, is the bearer of the human ego, which endows us in such a curious and yet undeniable fashion with the power of self-awareness. These four members we have come to know as the essential constituents of a human being.

The way the four members combine is determined by the flowing together of the two streams upon a person's entry into the physical world. In every case, one of the four members achieves predominance over the others, and gives them its own peculiar stamp.

-         Where the bearer of the ego predominates, a choleric temperament results.

-         Where the astral body predominates, we find a sanguine temperament.

-         Where the etheric or life-body predominates, we speak of a phlegmatic temperament.

-         And where the physical body predominates, we have to deal with a melancholic temperament.

The specific way in which the eternal and the ephemeral combine determines what relationship the four members will enter into with one another.

The way the four members find their expression in the physical body has also frequently been mentioned.

-         The ego expresses itself in the circulation of the blood. For this reason, in the choleric the predominant system is that of the blood.

-         The astral body expresses itself physically in the nervous system; thus in the sanguine, the nervous system holds sway.

-         The etheric body expresses itself in the glandular system; hence the phlegmatic is dominated physically by his glands.

-         The physical body as such expresses itself only in itself; thus the outwardly most important feature in the melancholic is his physical body.

This can be observed in all phenomena connected with these temperaments.


In the choleric, the ego and the blood system predominate. The choleric thus comes across as someone who must always have his way. His aggressiveness, everything connected with his forcefulness of will, derives from his blood circulation.

In the nervous system and astral body, sensations and feelings constantly fluctuate. Any harmony or order results solely from the restraining influence of the ego. People who do not exercise that influence appear to have no control over their thoughts and sensations. They are totally absorbed by the sensations, pictures, and ideas that ebb and flow within them. Something like this occurs whenever the astral body predominates, as, for example, in the sanguine. Sanguines surrender themselves in a certain sense to the constant and varied flow of images, sensations, and ideas since in them the astral body and nervous system predominate.

The nervous system's activity is restrained only by the circulation of the blood. That this is so becomes clear when we consider what happens when a person lacks blood or is anaemic, in other words, when the blood's restraining influence is absent. Mental images fluctuate wildly, often leading to illusions and hallucinations.

A touch of this is present in sanguines. Sanguines are incapable of lingering over an impression. They cannot fix their attention on a particular image nor sustain their interest in an impression. Instead, they rush from experience to experience, from percept to percept. This is especially noticeable in sanguine children, where it can be a source of concern. The sanguine child's interest is easily kindled, a picture will easily impress, but the impression quickly vanishes.

We proceed now to the phlegmatic temperament. We observed that this temperament develops when the etheric or life-body, as we call it, which regulates growth and metabolism, is predominant. The result is a sense of inner well-being. The more a human being lives in his etheric body, the more is he preoccupied with his internal processes. He lets external events run their course while his attention is directed inward.

In the melancholic we have seen that the physical body, the coarsest member of the human organization, becomes master over the others. As a result, the melancholic feels he is not master over his body, that he cannot bend it to his will. His physical body, which is intended to be an instrument of the higher members, is itself in control, and frustrates the others. This the melancholic experiences as pain, as a feeling of despondency. Pain continually wells up within him. This is because his physical body resists his etheric body's inner sense of well-being, his astral body's liveliness, and his ego's purposeful striving.

External appearance

The varying combinations of the four members also manifest themselves quite clearly in external appearance. People in whom the ego predominates seek to triumph over all obstacles, to make their presence known. Accordingly their ego stunts the growth of the other members; it withholds from the astral and etheric bodies their due portion. This reveals itself outwardly in a very clear fashion.

Johann Gottlieb Fichte, that famous German choleric, was recognizable as such purely externally. [see Note 3] His build revealed clearly that the lower essential members had been held back in their growth. Napoleon, another classic example of the choleric, was so short because his ego had held the other members back. [see Note 4] Of course, one cannot generalize that all cholerics are short and all sanguines tall. It is a question of proportion. What matters is the relation of size to overall form.

In the sanguine the nervous system and astral body predominate. The astral body's inner liveliness animates the other members, and makes the external form as mobile as possible. Whereas the choleric has sharply chiseled facial features, the sanguine's are mobile, expressive, changeable. We see the astral body's inner liveliness manifested in every outer detail, for example, in a slender form, a delicate bone structure, or lean muscles. The same thing can be observed in details of behavior.

Even a non-clairvoyant can tell from behind whether someone is a choleric or a sanguine; one does not need to be a spiritual scientist for that. If you observe the gait of a choleric, you will notice that he plants each foot so solidly that he would seem to want to bore down into the ground. By contrast, the sanguine has a light, springy step. Even subtler external traits can be found. The inwardness of the ego, the choleric's self-contained inwardness, express themselves in eyes that are dark and smoldering. The sanguine, whose ego has not taken such deep root, who is filled with the liveliness of his astral body, tends by contrast to have blue eyes. Many more such distinctive traits of these temperaments could be cited.

The phlegmatic temperament manifests itself in a static, indifferent physiognomy, as well as in plumpness, for fat is due largely to the activity of the etheric body. In all this the phlegmatic's inner sense of comfort is expressed. His gait is loose-jointed and shambling, and his manner timid. He seems somehow to be not entirely in touch with his surroundings.

The melancholic is distinguished by a hanging head, as if he lacked the strength necessary to straighten his neck. His eyes are dull, not shining like the choleric's; his gait is firm, but in a leaden rather than a resolute sort of way.

Thus you see how significantly spiritual science can contribute to the solution of this riddle. Only when one seeks to encompass reality in its entirety, which includes the spiritual, can knowledge bear practical fruit. Accordingly, only spiritual science can give us knowledge that will benefit the individual and all mankind. In education, very close attention must be paid to the individual temperaments, for it is especially important to be able to guide and direct them as they develop in the child. But the temperaments are also important to our efforts to improve ourselves later in life. We do well to attend to what expresses itself through them if we wish to further our personal development.

The four fundamental types I have outlined here for you naturally never manifest themselves in such pure form. Every human being has one basic temperament, with varying degrees of the other three mixed in. Napoleon, for example, although a choleric, had much of the phlegmatic in him. To truly master life, it is important that we open our souls to what manifests itself as typical. When we consider that the temperaments, each of which represents a mild imbalance, can degenerate into unhealthy extremes, we realize just how important this is.

Developmental challenges

Yet, without the temperaments the world would be an exceedingly dull place, not only ethically, but also in a higher sense. The temperaments alone make all multiplicity, beauty, and fullness of life possible. Thus in education it would be senseless to want to homogenize or eliminate them, but an effort should be made to direct each into the proper track, for in every temperament there lie two dangers of aberration, one great, one small.

-         One danger for the young choleric is that he will never learn to control his temper as he develops into maturity. That is the small danger. The greater is that he will become foolishly single-minded.

-         For the sanguine the lesser danger is flightiness; the greater is mania, induced by a constant stream of sensations.

-         The small danger for the phlegmatic is apathy; the greater is stupidity, dullness.

-         For the melancholic, insensitivity to anything other than his own personal pain is the small danger; the greater is insanity.

In light of all this it is clear that to guide and direct the temperaments is one of life's significant tasks. If this task is to be properly carried out, however, one basic principle must be observed, which is always to reckon with what is given, and not with what is not there. For example, if a child has a sanguine temperament, he will not be helped if his elders try to flog interest into him. His temperament simply will not allow it. Instead of asking what the child lacks, in order that we might beat it into him, we must focus on what he has, and base ourselves on that. And as a rule, there is one thing we can always stimulate the sanguine child's interest in. However flighty the child might be, we can always stimulate his interest in a particular personality. If we ourselves are that personality, or if we bring the child together with someone who is, the child cannot but develop an interest. Only through the medium of love for a personality can the interest of the sanguine child be awakened. More than children of any other temperament, the sanguine needs someone to admire. Admiration is here a kind of magic word, and we must do everything we can to awaken it.

We must reckon with what we have. We should see to it that the sanguine child is exposed to a variety of things in which he has shown a deeper interest. These things should be allowed to speak to him, to have an effect upon him. They should then be withdrawn, so that the child's interest in them will intensify; then they may be restored. In other words, we must fashion the sanguine's environment so that it is in keeping with his temperament.

The choleric child is also susceptible of being led in a special way. The key to his education is respect and esteem for a natural authority. Instead of winning affection by means of personal qualities, as one does with the sanguine child, one should see to it that the child's belief in his teacher's ability remains unshaken. The teacher must demonstrate an understanding of what goes on around the child. Any showing of incompetence should be avoided. The child must persist in the belief that his teacher is competent, or all authority will be lost. The magic potion for the choleric child is respect and esteem for a person's worth, just as for the sanguine child it was love for a personality. Outwardly, the choleric child must be confronted with challenging situations. He must encounter resistance and difficulty, lest his life become too easy.

The melancholic child is not easy to lead. With him, however, a different magic formula may be applied. For the sanguine child this formula was love for a personality; for the choleric, it was respect and esteem for a teacher's worth. By contrast, the important thing for the melancholic is for his teachers to be people who have in a certain sense been tried by life, who act and speak on the basis of past trials. The child must feel that the teacher has known real pain. Let your treatment of all of life's little details be an occasion for the child to appreciate what you have suffered. Sympathy with the fates of those around him furthers the melancholic's development. Here too one must reckon with what the child has. The melancholic has a capacity for suffering, for discomfort, which is firmly rooted in his being; it cannot be disciplined out of him. However, it can be redirected. We should expose the child to legitimate external pain and suffering, so that he learns there are things other than himself that can engage his capacity for experiencing pain. This is the essential thing. We should not try to divert or amuse the melancholic, for to do so only intensifies his despondency and inner suffering; instead, he must be made to see that objective occasions for suffering exist in life. Although we mustn't carry it too far, redirecting the child's suffering to outside objects is what is called for.

The phlegmatic child should not be allowed to grow up alone. Although naturally all children should have play-mates, for phlegmatics it is especially important that they have them. Their playmates should have the most varied interests. Phlegmatic children learn by sharing in the interests, the more numerous the better, of others. Their playmates' enthusiasms will overcome their native indifference towards the world. Whereas the important thing for the melancholic is to experience another person's fate, for the phlegmatic child it is to experience the whole range of his playmates' interests. The phlegmatic is not moved by things as such, but an interest arises when he sees things reflected in others, and these interests are then reflected in the soul of the phlegmatic child. We should bring into the phlegmatic's environment objects and events toward which “phlegm” is an appropriate reaction. Impassivity must be directed toward the right objects, objects toward which one may be phlegmatic.

From the examples of these pedagogical principles, we see how spiritual science can address practical problems. These principles can also be applied to oneself, for purposes of self-improvement. For example, a sanguine gains little by reproaching himself for his temperament. Our minds are in such questions frequently an obstacle. When pitted directly against stronger forces such as the temperaments, they can accomplish little. Indirectly, however, they can accomplish much. The sanguine, for example, can take his sanguinity into account, abandoning self-exhortation as fruitless. The important thing is to display sanguinity under the right circumstances. Experiences suited to his short attention span can be brought about through thoughtful planning. Using thought in this way, even on the smallest scale, will produce the requisite effect.

Persons of a choleric temperament should purposely put themselves in situations where rage is of no use, but rather only makes them look ridiculous. Melancholics should not close their eyes to life's pain, but rather seek it out; through compassion they redirect their suffering outward toward appropriate objects and events. If we are phlegmatics, having no particular interests, then we should occupy ourselves as much as possible with uninteresting things, surround ourselves with numerous sources of tedium, so that we become thoroughly bored. We will then be thoroughly cured of our “phlegm;” we will have gotten it out of our system. Thus does one reckon with what one has, and not with what one does not have.

By filling ourselves with practical wisdom such as this, we learn to solve that basic riddle of life, the other person. It is solved not by postulating abstract ideas and concepts, but by means of pictures. Instead of arbitrarily theorizing, we should seek an immediate understanding of every individual human being. We can do this, however, only by knowing what lies in the depths of the soul. Slowly and gradually, spiritual science illuminates our minds, making us receptive not only to the big picture, but also to subtle details. Spiritual science makes it possible that when two souls meet and one demands love, the other offers it. If something else is demanded, that other thing is given. Through such true, living wisdom do we create the basis for society. This is what we mean when we say we must solve a riddle every moment.

Anthroposophy acts not by means of sermons, exhortations, or catechisms, but by creating a social groundwork, upon which human beings can come to know each other. Spiritual science is the ground of life, and love is the blossom and fruit of a life enhanced by it. Thus spiritual science may claim to lay the foundation for humankind's most beautiful goal — a true, genuine love for man.


Temperaments and elements

Now strangely enough, there exists in the Elementary World a mysterious relationship between the aforesaid four elements and the four temperaments,

-         between the melancholic temperament and the element of “earth”,

-         between the phlegmatic temperament and the element of “water”,

-         between the sanguine temperament and the element of “air”, and

-         between the choleric temperament and the element of “fire”.

This relationship is expressed in the fact that

-         the choleric man has a stronger inclination to merge with beings living in the “fire” of the Elementary World than with the others;

-         the sanguine man is more inclined to merge with the beings living in the element of “air”;

-         the phlegmatic man with the beings living in the element of “water”; and

-         the melancholic man with the beings living in the element of “earth”.

Thus different factors play a part in the experiences of the Elementary World. This helps us to realise that different people may give entirely different accounts of the Elementary World, and none of them need be quite wrong if he is relating his own experiences.

Anyone versed in these matters will know that when a man with a melancholic temperament describes the Elementary World in his own particular way, saying that there is so much that repels him, this is quite natural; for his temperament has a hidden kinship with everything earthy in the Elementary World and he overlooks all the rest.

The choleric man will speak of how fiery everything appears, for to him it all glows in the elemental fire. You need not therefore feel any surprise if there is considerable variation in accounts of the Elementary World given by people possessed of a lower form of clairvoyance, for very exact self-knowledge is necessary before it is possible to describe that world as it really is. If a man knows to what degree his temperament is choleric or melancholic, he knows why the Elementary World reveals itself in the form it does, and then this self-knowledge impels him to divert his attention from the things with which, because of his natural make-up, he has the greatest kinship.

It is now possible for him to acquire concepts of what is called in Spiritual Science, true self-knowledge. This self-knowledge presupposes that we are able as it were to slip out of ourselves and look at our own being as though it were a complete Stranger, and that is by no means easy. It is relatively easy to acquire knowledge of soul-qualities which we have made our own, but to gain clear insight into the temperaments which work right down into the bodily nature, is difficult. Most people in life always consider themselves in the right. It is a very general egoistic attitude and need not be criticised too severely, for it is a perfectly natural tendency in human beings.

How far would a man get in ordinary life if he had not this quality of firm self-confidence?

But all the qualities that belong to his temperament go to form it.

To be detached from a particular temperament is extremely difficult, and we need much self-training if we are to learn to confront ourselves objectively. Every genuine spiritual investigator will say that no particular degree of maturity is any help in penetrating into the spiritual world if a man is incapable of accepting the fundamental principle that he can reach the truth only by ignoring his own opinion.

He must be able to regard his own opinion as something of which he may possibly say: ‘I will ask myself at what period of life I formed this or that definite opinion’ — let us suppose, for example, that it had a particular political trend. Before such a man can penetrate into the higher world he must be able to put this question to himself quite objectively: ‘What is it in life that has given my thought this particular trend? Would my thinking have been different if karma had assigned me to some other situation in life?’

If we can put this question to ourselves over and over again while trying to picture how our present personality has been produced, it becomes possible for us to take the first step towards emerging from the self. Otherwise we remain permanently enclosed within ourselves. But in the Macrocosm it is not as easy to be outside things as it is in the physical world. In the physical world we stand outside a rose-bush, for example, because of its natural make-up; but in the Elementary World we grow right into the things there, identify ourselves with them. If we are incapable of distinguishing ourselves from the things while we are actually within them, we can never understand conditions in that world. Our choleric temperament, for example, becomes merged in the element of fire. And we can no longer distinguish between what is flowing from us into a being of the Elementary World or from that being into us unless we have learned how to do so. We must therefore first learn how to be within a being and yet to distinguish our own identity from it.

There is only one being who can help us here, namely, our own. If we gradually succeed in judging ourselves as in ordinary life we judge another person, then we are on the right path.

Now what is it that distinguishes a judgment about oneself from a judgment about another?

We usually think that we ourselves are in the right and that the other person, if he holds a contrary opinion, is wrong. This is what happens in the ordinary way. But there is nothing more useful than to begin to train ourselves by saying: ‘I have this opinion, the other person has a different one. I will adopt the standpoint that his opinion is just as sound and valuable as my own.’ — This is the kind of self-training that makes it possible for us to carry into the Elementary World the habit that enables us to distinguish ourselves from the things there, although we are within them.

Certain subtleties in our experiences are necessary if we are to ascend consciously into the higher worlds. This example too shows what justification there was for saying in the lecture yesterday that when a man ascends into the Macrocosm he always faces the danger of losing his Ego. In ordinary life the Ego is nothing but the aggregate of opinions and feelings connected with our personality and most people will find that it is exceedingly difficult to think, to feel or to will anything, once they have taken leave of what life has made of them. It is accordingly very important before attempting an ascent into the higher worlds to be acquainted with what spiritual investigation has already brought to light. It is therefore emphasised over and over again that nobody who has had experience in this domain will ever help to lead another into the higher worlds until the latter has grasped through his reason, through his ordinary, healthy faculty of judgment, that what Spiritual Science states is not nonsense. It is quite possible to form a sound judgment about the findings of spiritual investigation. Although it is not possible to investigate personally in the spiritual worlds without the vision of the seer, a healthy judgment can be formed as to the correctness or incorrectness of what is communicated by those who are able to see. On this basis we can study life and observe whether the statements made by the spiritual investigator make it more intelligible. If they do, then they can be assumed to be correct.

Such judgments will always have one peculiarity, namely, that we shall always, by holding them, transcend ordinary human ways of thinking in a certain respect. If we speak with unprejudiced minds our ordinary sympathies and antipathies are discarded and we shall find ourselves able to be in harmony even with people who hold the most contrary opinions. In this way we transcend the ordinary way of forming human opinions. Thus in Spiritual Science we gain something which we retain even when we have relinquished our ordinary opinions and which ensures that our Ego is not immediately lost when we enter the higher world for the first time. For the Ego is not lost when it is able to be active, when it can think and feel; it is only when thinking, feeling and perception cease that we have lost our bearings altogether. Thus a certain store of spiritual-scientific knowledge protects us from losing our Ego.

The loss of the Ego on entering the spiritual world would, however, have other consequences in many cases. We come here to something that must be briefly mentioned. These consequences often show themselves in ordinary life. It is important to know about them when describing the paths that can lead into the spiritual worlds.

The spiritual investigator must not be in any sense a dreamer, a visionary. He must move with inner assurance and vigour in the spiritual world as an intelligent man does in the physical world. Any nebulosity or lack of clarity would be dangerous on entering the higher worlds. It is therefore so very essential to acquire a sound judgment about the things of normal, everyday life. At the present time especially there are factors in everyday life which could be highly obstructive on entering the spiritual world if no heed were paid to them. If we reflect about our life and about influences that have affected us from birth onwards, we shall recall many things even by a superficial retrospect, but we shall also have to admit that very much has sunk into oblivion. We shall have to admit too that we have no clear or definite consciousness of influences that had a share in forming our character and educating us.


Temperaments across incarnations

As human beings we pass from incarnation to incarnation. If in this present incarnation we are melancholic, we can say to ourselves that in another incarnation — either in the past or in the future — we may have had or shall have a sanguine temperament. The one-sidedness of each temperament will be balanced in the different incarnations. Here we have arrived at the idea that we, as beings, are after all something more than appears, that even though now we may be melancholic, we are something else as well. As the same being we may have been choleric in an earlier life and may become sanguine in a following one. Our whole being is not contained in particular temperamental traits. There is something else as well. When a clairvoyant, observing someone in the Elementary World, sees him as a melancholic, he must say to himself: that is a transitory manifestation, it is merely the manifestation of one incarnation. The person who now, as a melancholic type, represents the element of earth, will in another incarnation represent, as a sanguine type, the element of air, or, as a choleric, the element of fire. Melancholics, with their tendency to introspective brooding, repel us when viewed from the vantage-point of the Elementary World; cholerics appear as if they were spreading flames of fire — as an elemental force, of course, not physical fire.

To avoid misunderstanding I must here mention that in manuals on Theosophy, the Elementary World is usually called the Astral World; what we call the World of Spirit in there called the lower sphere of Devachan-Lower Devachan. What is there called the higher sphere of Devachan — Arupa-Devachan — is here called the World of Reason.

When we pass from the World of Spirit into the World of Reason we meet with something similar to what has already been experienced if we are revealed to ourselves as beings who are mastering our temperaments and developing balance from one life to another. Thus do we approach the boundary of the World of Spirit. When we reach it we find spiritual facts and Beings expressed as if in a cosmic clock through the movements of the planets. The Beings are expressed in the constellations of the Zodiac, the facts in the planets. But these analogies do not take us very far; we must pass on to the Beings themselves — the Hierarchies.

Now we should be unable to form any conception of the still higher worlds unless with clairvoyant consciousness we were to pass on to the Beings themselves-the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, and so on.-In one incarnation a man may have a melancholic temperament, in another a sanguine temperament. His real being is more than either. His real being breaks through such classifications. If we are now clear in our minds that the Beings we designate as Seraphim, Cherubim, Spirits of Will, Thrones, and so forth, and who express themselves in physical space in the constellations of the Zodiac — if we are clear that these Beings are more than their names designate, then we are beginning to form a true concept of this upper boundary of the Macrocosm.


Thus you bear in mind that the inner experience of the etheric body is different in character from the etheric body manifested outwardly to the observation of the seer. This must be borne clearly in mind. When later in esoteric development you learn to regard the mood, according to the fundamental temperaments founded in the etheric body and described in the last lecture, it will appear that with respect to the lowest part of the etheric body the feeling there is perceived to be of a choleric nature. Thus the several temperaments are to be distinguished in the various parts of our etheric bodies. The upper part of the etheric body is of a melancholy nature, the middle part alternates between phlegmatic and sanguine, and the lower has a choleric tone. And I beg you definitely to notice that this description applies to the etheric body. Not to consider this carefully, brings easily a fall into error if these matters are taken externally. But the student who takes this carefully into consideration will be greatly struck by the agreement of what has been adduced with certain phenomena of life. Let us for a moment study a choleric person — it is highly interesting so to do.

According to what has just been said, in the case of the choleric person the lower part of the etheric body would be conspicuous; it would predominate over the other parts. Thereby the person is shown to be choleric. The other parts are also developed, of course; but the lower part would be particularly prominent. Now when the lower part of the etheric body, as etheric body, is particularly developed and has its strong forces there, something else is always evident, that is, the physical body receives short measure in these parts, it manifests a certain lack of development in the parts which underlie this portion of the etheric body. The result of this in pronounced choleric cases, those, for example, who are true to type, is that the anatomic state of certain organs which correspond to this part of the etheric body comes off badly. Please read about the anatomic condition of Napoleon, and you will be struck by the proof it presents of what I am telling you. Only when we begin to study these hidden sides of human nature shall we really learn to comprehend it.

You might now ask the question: How does what was said in the last lecture agree with what has been said to-day? It agrees perfectly. We then spoke of the four temperaments; these are predetermined by the forces of the etheric body. And, in fact, the life of the etheric body is related to time in the same way that the division into members, the differentiation, is related to space. The physical body becomes more keenly alive in space, differentiating its several members as it were; the etheric body becomes more alive, as its parts differentiate themselves in time; that is, as the time-life in its consecutive order is sympathetically experienced in its independent parts and members. The fundamental characteristic of the melancholic person is that he always carries within him something he has experienced in time, a past. He who is able to understand the etheric body of the melancholic finds that it always has within it the after-vibrations of what it experienced in bygone times. I do not now mean what was here referred to in the case of the human brain, which relates to primeval times, but to what is usually called melancholy; the etheric life of the head is particularly stirred at some definite time, in youth, let us say; and then having been thus stirred, it is so strongly influenced, that in late life the melancholic still carries with him in his etheric body the vibrations which were imprinted in his youth, while with the non-melancholic these vibrations soon cease. In the case of either a phlegmatic or sanguine person, there is a sort of floating with time; but in the phlegmatic person there is, as it were, a perfectly uniform floating with the stream of time, while the sanguine person oscillates between a quicker or slower inner experience with respect to the externally flowing stream of time. On the other hand, the choleric person resists — and that is the peculiarity — the approaching time which flows to us, as it were, from the future. The choleric person in a sense repulses time, and quickly rids himself of the vibrations which time calls forth in his etheric body. Hence the melancholic person carries within him the greatest number of after-vibrations of past experiences, the choleric person the least. If you take the somewhat grotesque illustration of the well-inflated ball, which was compared with the etheric body of the choleric, you may also use that illustration here. The ball is only with difficulty impressed by the consecutive events; it repulses them, and therefore does not allow the events which come in the stream of time to leave strong vibrations within it. Hence the choleric does not carry them for long within him. The melancholic person who allows the events to work very deeply into his etheric body, has for a long time to bear the vibrations which he carries with him into the future from the past.


The first thing, he tells us, which he now learned to know were the forces of the soul. Diving down into himself, man does indeed learn to know what otherwise remains unconscious in him — the forces of his soul. This recognition of his own soul-forces is a thing from which man will often flee, when he draws near to it. For when we perceive the forces of the soul, it often seems to us that we say to ourselves: ‘What an unsympathetic soul that is!’ We do not like this feeling, any more than the worthy professor did when he saw his own form, which was distasteful to him. We do not want to see. For with the chorus of the soul's forces we often see many a thing we have within us, which we by no means attribute to ourselves in ordinary life. We see it as something that is at work in the totality of our own being — enhancing our being, or making it smaller; making us of greater or lesser value for the Universe.

Thus, to begin with, we rise into the soul-forces.

At the next stage, we experience the four temperaments. There it becomes clear to us how we are woven together, of the choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic, and how this weaving together lies deeper down than the soul-forces.

Then, when we have gone through the temperaments, we come to what may be called the five senses — in the occult sense. For in the way man ordinarily speaks of the five senses, he only knows them from outside. You cannot learn to know the senses inwardly till you have descended through the temperaments into the deeper regions of your own self. Then you behold the eyes, the ears, the other senses from within. You experience your own eyes, for instance, or your ears — filling them from within. You must imagine it thus. Just as you came into this hall through this door, and perceived the objects and persons that were already here, so when you undergo this descent into yourself you come into the region of your eyes or your ears. There you perceive how the forces are working from within outward, to bring about your seeing and your hearing. You perceive an altogether complicated world, of which a man who only knows the outer physical plane has no idea at all.

Some, no doubt, will say: ‘Maybe, but this world of the eyes and the ears will not impress me greatly. The world of the physical plane which I have around me here is great, and the world of the eyes and ears is very small. I should be gazing into a minute world.’

That, however, is maya. What you envisage when you are within your ears or within your eyes is far greater, fuller in content, than the outer physical world. You have a far more abundant world around you there.

Then and then only, when you have gone through this region, you come into the realm of the four elements. We have already spoken of all the properties of the several elements; but it is only at this stage that you feel really within them — within the earthy, the watery, the airy, and the element of warmth.








. This new world is the world of cosmic fluids which create the temperaments of man: choleric, sanguinic, melancholic and phlegmatic.

When we review the different temperaments — and it was an overwhelming experience for Brunetto Latini when the Goddess Natura opened his eyes to the existence and nature of the temperaments — we conclude that the life between death and rebirth has determined the nature of these various temperaments that we associated with the circulation of the fluids. If we now probe deeper, we find that karma, the arbiter of destiny, plays its part in this.


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References and further reading