Personality and Individuality
Spiritual science uses the terms Personality and Individuality to distinguish between
- the eternal spiritual 'I' of the human being, the Individuality,
- and the specific clothing in which the soul dresses itself in an individual incarnation, the Personality.
An Individuality is a string of incarnations and lives of people known with different names and stories in different timeframes, that are each characterized by their Personality or 'character colouring'.
In the process of Man's transformation and spiritualization, the relationship between Personality and Individuality also changes (1913-05-18-GA152):
- In the past, the Personality was determined by blood relationships (heredity) and temperament, and into this impersonal elements streamed from the spiritual world.
- In the future, a Personality will be determined by what Man is able to receive as inspiration flowing from the spiritual world and work upon in himself. The tone and character of a Man's Personality will be developed through spiritual understanding, and the character acquired from participation in the spiritual world.
- examples: in the Karmic Relationship lecture cycles, Rudolf Steiner gave examples of 50+ Individualities describing various incarnations, see Schema FMC00.241 on Karma research case studies. He typically gave two to four incarnations per Individuality.
- the physiognomy of the human physical body as an expression of the soul characteristics is also changing and becoming more closely interrelated, the physical body will become a more rigid expression of one's good or evil soul
Lecture coverage and references
We have lived through a cultural age which has nothing to say about the individuality who passes from life to life, but values only the single personality. We speak of Socrates, Plato, Caesar, Goethe, Spinoza, Fichte, Raphael, Michelangelo, and think of them only in the one incarnation. We do not speak of the Individuality who goes from incarnation to incarnation, but we speak of the Personality.
We speak of one Socrates, one Plato, one Goethe and so on, we speak only of a single life in which the individuality has found expression. Western culture was destined to stress the importance of the single personality, to bring it to vigorous, characteristic maturity, and to disregard the individuality passing from life to life.
But the time has come when we must again learn gradually to recognise how the eternal Individuality passes through the several single Personalities. Now we find that mankind is striving to apprehend what it is that lives on from personality to personality. That will fire the imagination and illumine the souls of men with a new light of understanding. This can be illustrated by a particular example.
And when in this way we point to what happens behind the world of the senses, we can also point to what takes place here in the sense-world as an imprint or copy of the event that has just been described, — that a promotion, so to say, of this Archangel, takes place behind the world of the senses. Hitherto Man has been able to possess personality. In the future he will also possess personality, but in a different way. Man has always participated to some extent in the super-sensible worlds — at any rate he always could do so with his life of soul; but the personal note, the personal colouring which he then showed in his life in the sense world did not come down from above, it came up from below, it came from Lucifer. It was Lucifer who gave man personality. One could therefore say: Man cannot enter the super-sensible world with his personality, he cannot bring it into the spiritual world, he must blot out his personality — otherwise he will pollute the spiritual world.
[In the future]
In future it will be required of Man to allow his personality to be inspired from above, so that it can receive what will then flow out of the spiritual world.
A personality will receive its stamp from what it has been able to absorb of spiritual knowledge; personality will become something quite different.
In a sense man was formerly a personality through what separated him from the spiritual, through what was impressed into him from the body. In future he must be a personality through what he is able to receive from the spiritual world and work upon in himself.
[In the past]
In the past, blood and temperament determined personalities, and into these personalities impersonal elements streamed from the super-sensible world. Less and less will Man be a personality on account of his blood and temperament. In future he will be able to become a personality through the character that he acquires from his participation in the super-sensible world. The Michael impulse which brings into the human soul an understanding for the spiritual life, will achieve this.
Men with a pronounced character and personality will in the future have this character and personality through what they bring to expression from their understanding of the super-sensible worlds. The Alexanders, the Caesars, the Napoleons belong to the past. Certainly the super-sensible element flowed into them too, but their highly personal colouring they received from what came to them from below. Men who are personalities from the way in which they carry the spiritual world into the sensible, men who carry personality into mankind from the soul, will take the place of the Alexanders, the Caesars, the Napoleons. The strength of human deeds will in future come from the strength of the spiritual influence working into these human deeds.
All this belongs to what is important in the transition from one epoch into another. The transition, however, from the Gabriel epoch into the Michael epoch in our time has all the characteristics of a transition of the utmost significance.
It is possible, even with ordinary sound human reason, to come to an understanding of what has been said today, if one is only unprejudiced enough to observe our times and see how two possibilities come right up against one another in the last third of the 19th century.
The first possibility is to form a world-conception [worldview] based upon natural [mineral] science. Today that is out of date; it has become antiquated, it no longer lies in the character of the age. People still do so because they simply carry forward what comes from the past.
It lies in the character of the age, however, to construct a world-conception from the inspirations coming from the spiritual world [spiritual science] and an understanding of them. [worldview spiritual science] We must receive this into our souls as a feeling, as an experience; then we shall learn to know what the anthroposophical world-conception means for individual souls, we shall learn to perceive what evolution is for mankind. It is given to us to be partakers in things of great significance.
Today I wished to place before your souls the important character of this transition: the fact that those souls who can rouse themselves to activity will now be able to find an understanding for inspired truth. For that is the will of those who stand behind mankind, the guiding World-Powers of Man's evolution.
And the expression of this in the sense world is, that
- whereas during past ages temperament and heredity gave personality its individual colouring,
- in the future spiritual understanding will be the determining element. Spiritual understanding will determine the tone and character of a Man's personality.