‘clever hans’ and the mathematical automaton

Steiner explains the case of that famous horse, ‘Clever Hans’, who — it was thought for a while — could count:

Numbers really contain an inner system of laws which is connected with the Earth through a kind of mathematical automatism. This automatism does not work so strongly in man, because the human being is lifted out of it through his power of judgment, which keeps in check the whole mathematical automatism. Now it is strange to see that in “clever Hans” the whole spiritual atmosphere of the horse acts in such a way that at the slightest instigation, with the slightest tap, the whole atmosphere of the earth is struck, as it were … Through the different positions of his spine, as compared with man’s, the horse participates in the life of the earth, and the force which really thinks in him is, after all, the earth. The earth thinks through the whole instrument of the horse. Thus we really obtain the following impression! On the one hand is Herr von Osten, who does not need to calculate the various mathematical problems which he gives to the horse, but merely touches upon something mathematical. In doing so, he becomes incorporated within the mathematical automaton of the earth. This passes into the horse’s spine and the horse is then able to express it quite independently through its soul life. But the earth is the one that transmits this soul element. Never have I become aware so strongly of the way in which the mathematical automaton can be transmitted, as in the case of “clever Hans.”

He then goes on to discuss some hypothetical telegraphic apparatus and the earth and then concludes…

It must in fact be considered that the earth is the chief factor in this particular spiritual activity. If we succeed in bringing about a contact through the special psychic connection existing between the trainer and the horse, which has a certain amount of affection for the man, no thinking will then be required in order to solve a problem which has been set. The horse may be given in arithmetical problem, and it is not necessary at all that it should pass through its head. The only thing that will be required is to teach the horse the programme; this will be enough, for the whole of mathematics is a totality — consequently, all roads, squares, etc. are connected. And just because there is this connection between all mathematical things, it will be sufficient to give the animal a tip, if we have trained it up to the point of being able to express something; the rest will come by itself. This is based on the connection between the human soul and the animal soul. The earth has a transmitting role. In its conscious life the animal is merely concerned with sweets which it receives, and while its whole attention in the conscious life goes toward the sugar, the most curious things take place in its subconscious life. But all these processes take place entirely in its subconscious regions. In its consciousness the horse knows nothing of all this. Besides, owing to the delight it feels in munching constantly at the sugar, it has no time to observe anything else.

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