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Morality (Latinmoralitas, from mores "manner, customs, usage, habits") in the philosophical sense comprises a system of values and norms by which the right actions of individual human beings, larger communities of human beings or entire cultures are measured. The term was coined by Cicero in his philosophia moralis as a translation of the Greek term ἠθική (êthikê "Ethics").[1] At the same time, the emphasis shifted from the knowledge of the spiritual source of the good, guided by reason, to the practical realisation of established moral norms and values. In practice, morals are "standards for good or bad character and behaviour."[2]. Furthermore, a moral is "a message about how people should or should not behave, contained in a story, event, or experience."[2], such as can be found in fables, which can be very valuable for education.

Morality and prenatal existence

„Among the gods we acquire the gift in our pre-earthly existence of looking at the other human being, of noticing how he feels, how he thinks, of grasping with an inner share what he is. And if we did not have the contact with the gods that I have described, we would never be able to develop that looking into the other human being on earth, which alone makes earthly life possible. When I speak of love in this context, and especially of general human love, you must think of love in the concrete sense I have just described: in the sense of a truly intimate understanding of the other human being. And if one adds this understanding of the other human being to general human love, then one has at the same time given with it everything that is human morality. For earthly human morality, if it does not move in mere phrases or fine speeches or in resolutions which are not carried out or the like, is based on the interest which one human being takes in another, on the possibility of looking over into the other human being.

The person who has an understanding of man will receive the social-moral impulses from this understanding of man. So that one can also say that man has attained all moral life within the earthly existence in the pre-earthly existence, attained in such a way that from the coexistence with the gods the urge remains for him to form such a coexistence at least in the soul also on earth. And this shaping of such a life together, so that one human being accomplishes the earthly tasks, the earthly mission, with the other, leads in reality alone to moral life on earth. We see, then, that love and the effect of love, morality, are by all means a consequence of what man has gone through spiritually in the pre-earthly existence.“ (Lit.:GA 219, p. 62f)

Morality and I

To be able to be moral is an ability of the human I:

„In a real sense, only the I itself can be considered moral; one cannot even speak of moral impulses in the astral body. One can speak of moral impulses in the astral body only in so far as the I is in intimate connection with this astral body during life and the impulses of morality which assert themselves in the I are thereby transferred to the astral body.“ (Lit.:GA 176, p. 352)

At earlier planetary stages of evolution man could not yet be moral, for then he had no individual I. It was only when this was given to him during the earthly stage that he was able to develop his own morality. Only when this was bestowed upon him during earthly evolution could he begin to develop morality out of himself, and in moral feeling and doing he opens his I to the (spiritual) cosmos and harmonises himself with it.

„Everything moral is based on a relationship of the total human being to the outer world; not to the physical outer world, but to that which surrounds us in spiritual forces and powers.“ (Lit.:GA 170, p. 64)

This development will only be completed in the future Vulcan state.

„Man stands towards the true, the beautiful, the good in such a way that in the true he opens his etheric body, first the etheric part of the head, directly to the cosmos. In the beautiful he opens his astral body directly to the cosmos. In morality, he directly opens his I to the cosmos. During the development of the moon, one could not yet speak of morality, for then man was still involved in a necessity, almost in a natural necessity, with regard to what he did. Morality only begins on earth. And it will reach perfection in the Vulcan evolution, when all that pulsates in the fire-processes of the blood will be purified I, I purified by morality, I completely seized by morality: when man's I-forces and moral forces will be one and the same, and his blood, that is, his blood-heat - for the material is only the outer sign - when his blood-heat will be the sacred fire of the Vulcan.“ (Lit.:GA 170, p. 74f)

The 4 cardinal virtues are closely related to the four fundamental members of the human being. Wisdom works directly through the I, fortitude or heartiness works through the astral body, prudence through the etheric body and justice through the physical body.

„When we look at man in so far as he is in the sphere of morality, we are particularly reminded of what I said yesterday: that the Greeks felt and sensed the relationship between the spiritual and the physical even more than is the case today. That is why Plato, for example, still quite clearly portrayed this peculiar relationship, how man is grasped, seized by the impulses of morality out of the spiritual universe. Plato says: Actually there are four virtues. The total human being is grasped by the total morality. - But all this, of course, is to be taken with the familiar grano salis. Of course, if the whole man is comprehended, he would also in turn be divided according to the individual virtues. The first virtue Plato speaks of is wisdom - wisdom taken as a virtue now, not as a science. Because this wisdom as virtue is related to that which is experienced in truth, the forces which wisdom grasps out of the sphere of morality also turn to the head of man, so that we can represent the matter in this way:

Drawing from GA 170, p. 78

(Drawing I). Plato said: In the moral man, the head part is taken up by wisdom, the chest part by what one could call the virtue of heartiness - I can't find a better word - strong courage, efficiency, but such efficiency that the hearty forces are inside: mental efficiency.

Wise - the word is meant in the sense of virtuousness - is the man who does not merely abandon himself to his animal instincts, but who, out of morality, has certain ideas which he grasps and according to which he acts. But the moral impulse already radiates into the bodily, into the corporeal, even if this moral impulse is grasped in moral ideas of wisdom. Therefore we can say: Morality radiates into the human being in such a way that we can imagine it radiating into the "I" (green). That would be the Platonic wisdom sphere of morality.

The part of the chest that encloses the heart would be the area where the heartiness, the fortitude, the spiritual efficiency radiates in from the sphere of morality. We can say that morality, by radiating further, takes hold of the astral in particular and enlivens the chest part with the heart. So we can draw this further radiance in this way (yellow). So that we have: Wisdom as virtue in the head part (green), heartiness as virtue in the chest part (yellow).

A third virtue is what Plato calls prudence, sophrosyne, and he attributes this to the abdomen, which is quite correct. The abdomen is the exciter of man's instincts, but the man who controls the instincts with his thinking and feeling and empathising is a prudent man. The mere acting out of the instincts, which the animal also knows, is not virtue, but only the assertion of the instincts with the degree of consciousness that is just possible is prudence. This is then grasped in the etheric body, because thoughts, prudence, courage, in so far as they are human, are grasped in the etheric body. We must therefore form the drawing in this way (violet). So the sphere of morality already grasps the physical human being as a whole, as I explained yesterday. The head is part of it, I said that explicitly yesterday.

And as the fourth comprehensive virtue, which now flows into the whole physical body, of which I showed you yesterday that it is actually invisible, Plato calls dikaiosyne. We must translate this as justice, although the word justice does not fully correspond to it in modern languages; for we must take justice in this way: that man knows how to judge himself, justly, directionally, that he follows a human direction in life. So it is not the abstract word justice alone that is meant, but that which gives itself direction, knows itself, orients itself in life. So that we can say: The influx of the sphere of morality into the whole physical body takes part as justice (red). In this way we have schematically indicated how in the human aura the impulses of morality radiate into the human being.“ (Lit.:GA 170, p. 78ff)

The I can only develop the moral forces if it emancipates itself from the immediate influence of bodily life and draws its impulses directly from the spiritual:

„One will never be able to give a definition of the moral with mere philosophy, and it is the characteristic feature of philosophy in particular, in so far as it wants to be moral philosophy, that it cannot arrive at a correct, satisfactory definition of the moral unless it places itself on the ground that it is possible for man to experience his spiritual-soul in himself independently of the body. For no other real definition of the moral is possible than this: Moral is that which the human being decides, which the human being does through forces that are independent of his body. A truly moral deed, a truly moral impulse, arises from the same faculties of the soul which, through appropriate training, lead to the clairvoyant faculties." (Lit.: GA 159, p. 128f)

"We can only speak of a moral action when we refrain from all external impressions, from everything to which we are compelled by externals, and look only to that which speaks from within us. This is the essential feature of all moral impulses, that they are true by themselves, and that external conditions can contribute nothing if any action is to be called moral or immoral. We shall find as the characteristic of the moral that all moral impulses must rise from the innermost core of our being. And if it is already extraordinarily useful and necessary in ordinary life for man to realise that only in moral judgements is he entirely within himself, or in judgements which arise in a similar way, this is virtually a fundamental requirement for practical occultism. It must be recognised as a principle of the occultist. It is important that all events take place according to the pattern of moral impulses, that nothing happens in the soul when one enters the higher path of knowledge that does not take place according to the pattern of a real moral impulse. The similarity of the path of knowledge to the moral impulses goes even into the details.“ (Lit.:GA 143, p. 43ff)

Morality and the Fall

The possibility of knowing good and evil was given to man through the Fall, that is, through the influence of Lucifer. Through Lucifer, man was torn away from the unconditional dependence on the divine world, which made him a highly moral but unfree being, and led to the crossroads between good and evil. This involves the real danger of man falling into evil, but at the same time opens up the possibility of bringing his activity into harmony with the intentions of the spiritual world out of his own free decision of his I.

„Through the Luciferic influence man has come into the position of not simply letting the motives for a deed flow to him, but he must first prepare the motives for himself through his own work out of the subsoil of his soul. He must educate himself to moral ideas, and this educating of himself to moral ideas man would not be able to do if the Luciferic influence had not come. For through it something more spiritual has entered our astral nature. As a result, not only does the idea of morality work in the I-consciousness, which would work in such a way that it would not occur to any man to do evil, since the idea of good for an action would be placed directly before his spiritual eye by divine-spiritual beings - but the instincts and passions also work. This idea would not be able to appear in the I-consciousness at all if its astral nature, individually formed by the Luciferic influence, did not confront it. This Luciferic influence has caused a purification to take place in our nature, out of the subconscious towards consciousness, that we must work our way up to conscious moral ideas and motives in the struggle with ourselves, and then follow these ideas of our own accord. Thus it is Lucifer who makes us capable of following moral ideas after we have first worked them out for ourselves.“ (Lit.:GA 150, p. 91f)

The supersensible moral physiognomy of man

The degree of moral development of man is not, as a rule, directly expressed in the external, but very much in the physiognomy of his supersensible members:

„It may be that what is actually an egoistic thing is very much repressed under convention. But basically it is not what a person does that is decisive for the moral evaluation, but one must look deeper into the human character, into human nature, in order to be able to judge the actual moral value of the human being. Moral value is expressed in the astral body by the fact that it turns a beautiful face inwards when un-egoistic actions, altruistic impulses live in the human being, and turns an ugly expression inwards when egoistic, evil impulses live in the human being. So that a spirit who reads inside the human being can judge just as well by this physiognomy whether a human being is good or evil, as one can judge a human being by other qualities in his facial expression. All this is not in ordinary consciousness, but it is inevitably there. If an ugly physiognomy develops here below, then the head, accustomed to the cosmos, repels this physiognomy, does not absorb it, and man forms such a body in his etheric as was made in the case of Ahriman, where the head has atrophied, become instinctualised. Everything goes into the lower parts of the etheric body. The head does not absorb this, and man makes himself ahrimanic in his lower etheric body, and then also permeates his head with what this ahrimanic body still pushes into the head. The head remains an image of the cosmos, but it actually belongs to it less and less, because he cannot penetrate it with his own beingness. An immoral man thus gets little beyond his life in the previous incarnation. What has become his head in the transformation from the remaining body of the previous incarnation, that also remains the head, and if he dies, he has not come very far at all in relation to his head. On the other hand, that which the moral imagination brings about inwardly flows up to the head in man. It brings about the vertical direction. In the vertical direction no immoral thing actually flows. It coalesces and ahrimanises the human being. Only the moral flows in the vertical direction. In the ether, in the warmth ether of the blood, the physiognomy of the immoral is repelled in the vertical direction. The moral, however, goes up into the head with the heat of the blood in the ether of heat, still more in the light ether, and especially in the chemical and life ether. Man penetrates his head with his own being.“ (Lit.:GA 221, p. 118ff)


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  1. Cicero, De fato 1; Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie: Moral, moralisch, Moralphilosophie, Vol. 6, p. 149
  2. 2.0 2.1 "moral" in: Cambridge Dicitionary