Saturday, July 31, 2010

A poem by Emily Dickinson

On a Columnar Self—
How ample to rely
In Tumult—or Extremity—
How good the Certainty

That Lever cannot pry—
And Wedge cannot divide
Conviction—That Granitic Base—
Though None be on our Side—

Suffice Us—for a Crowd—
Ourself—and Rectitude—
And that Assembly—not far off
From furthest Spirit—God—

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Mignon" by Goethe

Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,
Weiß, was ich leide!
Allein und abgetrennt
Von aller Freude,
Seh ich an Firmament
Nach jener Seite.
Ach! der mich liebt and kennt,
Ist in der Weite.
Es schwindelt mir, es brennt
Mein Eingeweide.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,
Weiß, was ich leide!

Only one familiar with yearning
knows what I suffer!
Alone and sundered
from all joy,
I look up at the sky
seeking the world beyond.
Ah, the man who loves me and knows me
is far away.
I'm dizzy, my heart
is burning.
Only one familiar with yearning
knows what I suffer!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Birth and Death: Revelations of Love and Freedom

Rudolf Steiner, lecture of December 11, 1920:

"What enables us to gradually transform ourselves from a soul-spiritual being into a physical-corporeal one, so that we become the latter and unite with it? We can grasp this if we learn what the moral quality of love is. A man enters the physical world through love by pouring himself into a physical body, and this is an important truth. And through what does he leave again? He takes himself back out of his physical-corporeal metamorphosis, he changes himself back--and freedom is the only force that enables him to do this, so that we say that our further development and passage through death occurs through freedom. We are born through cosmic love and we go through the portal of death and into the spiritual-soul world through the freedom force that we have in us. When we develop love in the world it is basically the echo of the soul-spiritual being which we had before conception. And when we develop freedom or spiritual activity between birth and death we are prophetically developing what will be our most important force when we have left our body through death. What does it really mean from a cosmic viewpoint to be a free being? To be a free being and to be able to change oneself from the physical-corporeal into the soul-spiritual basically means to be able to die, whereas love means being able to transfrom oneself from the soul-spiritual into the physical-corporeal. From a cosmic viewpoint the ability to love is the ability to live. Although natural scientists look upon birth and death as natural processes or phenomena, you see here how these processes can be looked upon as revelations of love and freedom."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Snippets from the book "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by Harriet Jacobs

Harriet Jacobs (1813 - 1897) in 1894

The book's epigraph:
"Rise up, ye women that are at ease! Hear my voice, ye careless daughters! Give ear unto my speech."
-- Isaiah 32:9

From chapter 9, "Sketches of Neighboring Slaveholders"

They put him into a rough box, and buried him with less feeling than would have been manifested for an old house dog. Nobody asked any questions. He was a slave; and the feeling was that the master had a right to do what he pleased with his own property. And what did he care for the value of a slave? He had hundreds of them.

From chapter 13, "The Church and Slavery"

I well remember one occasion when I attended a Methodist class meeting. I went with a burdened spirit, and happened to sit next a poor, bereaved mother, whose heart was still heavier than mine. The class leader was the town constable--a man who bought and sold slaves, who whipped his brethren and sisters of the church at the public whipping post, in jail or out of jail. He was ready to perform that Christian office any where for fifty cents. This white-faced, black-hearted brother came near us, and said to the stricken woman, "Sister, can't you tell us how the Lord deals with your soul? Do you love him as you did formerly?"

She rose to her feet, and said, in piteous tones, "My Lord and Master, help me! My load is more than I can bear. God has hid himself from me, and I am left in darkness and misery." Then, striking her breast, she continued, "I can't tell you what is in here! They've got all my children. Last week they took the last one. God only knows where they've sold her. They let me have her sixteen years, and then--O! O! Pray for her, brothers and sisters! I've got nothing to live for now. God make my time short!"

She sat down, quivering in every limb. I saw that constable class leader become crimson in the face with suppressed laughter, while he held up his handkerchief, that those who were weeping for the poor woman's calamity might not see his merriment. Then, with assumed gravity, he said to the bereaved mother, "Sister, pray to the Lord that every dispensation of his divine will may be sanctified to the good of your poor needy soul!"

The congregation struck up a hymn, and sung as though they were as free as the birds that warbled round us,--

"Ole Satan thought he had a mighty aim;
He missed my soul, and caught my sins.
Cry Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!

"He took my sins upon his back;
Went muttering and grumbling down to hell.
Cry Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!

"Ole Satan's church is here below.
Up to God's free church I hope to go.
Cry Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!"

From chapter 16, "Scenes at the Plantation"

The young mistress came out to see how things were done on her plantation, and she soon gave a specimen of her character. Among those in waiting for their allowance was a very old slave, who had faithfully served the Flint family through three generations. When he hobbled up to get his bit of meat, the mistress said he was too old to have any allowance; that when niggers were too old to work, they ought to be fed on grass. Poor old man! He suffered much before he found rest in the grave.

From chapter 37, "A Visit to England"

I had heard much about the oppression of the poor in Europe. The people I saw around me were, many of them, among the poorest poor. But when I visited them in their little thatched cottages, I felt that the condition of even the meanest and most ignorant among them was vastly superior to the condition of the most favored slaves in America. They labored hard; but they were not ordered out to toil while the stars were in the sky, and driven and slashed by an overseer, through heat and cold, till the stars shone out again. Their homes were very humble; but they were protected by law. No insolent patrols could come, in the dead of night, and flog them at their pleasure. The father, when he closed his cottage door, felt safe with his family around him. No master or overseer could come and take from him his wife, or his daughter. They must separate to earn their living; but the parents knew where their children were going, and could communicate with them by letters. The relations of husband and wife, parent and child, were too sacred for the richest noble in the land to violate with impunity. Much was being done to enlighten these poor people. Schools were established among them, and benevolent societies were active in efforts to ameliorate their condition. There was no law forbidding them to learn to read and write; and if they helped each other in spelling out the Bible, they were in no danger of thirty-nine lashes, as was the case with myself and poor, pious, old uncle Fred. I repeat that the most ignorant and the most destitute of these peasants was a thousandfold better off than the most pampered American slave.

Monday, July 19, 2010

"Ecce Homo"

"I AM THE MAN." -- Frederick Douglass

"I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, and the 'quick round of blood,' I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: 'I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.' Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil."

* * *

Rudolf Steiner: "The shadow-side of the rational soul, senseless aggression, depicted as a lion, can be overcome by the corresponding virtue, self-reliant courage."

 * * *

The connection between conscience and the Christ event

Rudolf Steiner, the conclusion to a lecture given May 5, 1910:

"It was the Christ-impulse that first made it possible for humanity to realise that God, the Creator of things and of the external sheaths of man, can be recognised in our inward life. Only by understanding the divine humanity of Christ Jesus were men enabled to understand that the voice of God could be heard within the soul. In order that men should be able to find something of the divine nature in their own inner life, it was necessary for Christ to enter into the evolution of humanity as an external historical-event. If the Christ, a Divine Being, had not been present in the body of Jesus of Nazareth, if he had not shown once and for all that God can be discerned in our inner life, because he had once been present in a human body; if he had not appeared as the conqueror of death through the Mystery of Golgotha, men would never have been able to comprehend the indwelling of Divinity in the human soul.

If anyone claims that this indwelling could be discerned even if there had been no historical Christ Jesus, he could equally well say that we should have eyes even if there were no sun. As against this one-sided view of some philosophers that, since without eyes we could not see the light, the origin of light must be traced to the eyes, we must always set Goethe's aphorism: 'The eye is created by light for light.' If there were no sun to fill space with light, no eyes would ever have developed in the human organism. The eyes are created by light, and without the sun there would be no eyes. No eye is capable of perceiving the sun without having first received from the sun the power to do so. In the same way, there could be no power to grasp and recognise the Christ-nature if the Christ-Impulse had not entered into external history. What the sun out there in the cosmos does for human sight, so the historical Christ-Jesus makes possible what we call the entry of the divine nature into our inner life.

The elements necessary for understanding this were present in the stream of thought that came over from the East; they needed only to be raised to a higher level. It was in the West that souls were ripe to grasp and accept this impulse — the West, where experiences which had belonged to the outer world were transferred to the inner life most intensively, and in the form of conscience watched over a generally weak ego. In this way souls were strengthened, and prepared to hear the voice of conscience now saying within them: The Divinity who appeared in the East to those able to look clairvoyantly into the world — this Divinity now lives in us!

However, what was thus being prepared could not have become conscious experience if the inward Divinity had not spoken in advance in the dawning of conscience. So we see that external understanding for the Divinity of Christ Jesus was born in the East, and the emergence of conscience came to meet it from the West. For example, we find that conscience is more and more often spoken of in the Roman world, at the beginning of the Christian era, and the further westward we go, the clearer is the evidence for the recognised existence of conscience or for its presence in embryonic form.

Thus East and West played into each other's hands. We see the sun of the Christ-nature rising in the East, while in the West the development of conscience is preparing the way for understanding the Christ. Hence the victorious advance of Christianity is towards the West, not the East. In the East we see the spread of a religion which represents the final consequence — though on the highest level — of the eastern outlook: Buddhism takes hold of the eastern world. Christianity takes hold of the western world, because Christianity had first created the organ for receiving it. Here we see Christianity brought into relation with the deepened element in western culture: the concept of conscience embodied in Christianity.

Not through the study of external history, but only through an inward contemplation of the facts, shall we come to knowledge of these developments. What I am saying today will be met with disbelief by many people. But a demand of the times is that we should recognise the spirit in external phenomena. This, however, is possible only if we are at least able initially to discern the spirit where it speaks to us in the form of a clear message. Popular consciousness says: When conscience speaks, it is God speaking in the soul. The highest spiritual consciousness says that when conscience speaks, it is truly the cosmic Spirit speaking. And spiritual science brings out the connection between conscience and the greatest event in the evolution of mankind, the Christ-Event. Hence it is not surprising that conscience has thereby been ennobled and raised to a higher sphere. When we hear that something has been done for reasons of conscience, we feel that conscience is regarded as one of the most important possessions of mankind.

Thus we can see how natural and right it is for the human heart to speak of conscience as “God in man”. And when Goethe says that the highest experience for man is when “God-Nature reveals itself to him”, we must realise that God can reveal himself in the spirit to man only if Nature is seen in the light of its spiritual background. This has been provided for in human evolution, on the one hand by the light of Christ, shining from outside, and on the other by the divine light within us: the light of conscience. Hence a philosopher such as Fichte, who studies human character, is justified in saying that conscience is the highest voice in our inward life. On this account, also, we are aware that our dignity as human beings is inseparable from conscience. We are human beings because we have an ego-consciousness; and the conscience we have at our side is also at the side of our ego. Thus we look on conscience as a most sacred individual possession, inviolable by the external world, whose voice enables us to determine our direction and our goal. When conscience speaks, no other voice may intrude.

So it is that on one side conscience ensures our connection with the primordial power of the world and on the other guarantees the fact that in our inmost self we have something like a drop flowing from the Godhead. And man can know: When conscience speaks in him, it is a God speaking."


The sutras of our lives

"People whose motives for action derive entirely from external demands, who are impelled to act only out of sympathy or antipathy, will make no effort to become a better example of a real human being. This will happen only if we raise ourselves above the ordinary demands of sympathy and antipathy to moral ideals and ideas. And these moral impulses have to come to us from the spiritual world, for that is how we enrich the life of the soul with new elements. Human beings have a 'history' only because they can bring into their lives something which their inner being draws from unknown depths and impresses on the outer world. Similarly we would never reach a real knowledge of the mysteries of the world if we were not able to take our outer experiences and connect them up--so to speak 'thread them onto'--the ideas that we cannot see in the outer world but which we bring to the outer world from out of our spirit; and only by so doing can we grasp and elucidate the outer world in its true form. In fact this is how we infuse our inner being with a spiritual element and enrich our soul with those elements that we could never acquire from the outer world alone."
--Rudolf Steiner, lecture of March 10, 1910. From Transforming the Soul, vol. 2, p. 118

Each life in Ma's Infinite Mala is a bead of great price.

8 8 8

Not I but Christ in me

"Forsaking time, I am myself eternity;
Then I am one with God, God one with me."
-- Angelus Silesius

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Not I but Christ in me

"When you lift yourself up above yourself and truly let the divine/spiritual ground of worlds prevail in you, then in you an ascension to the divine/spiritual foundations of existence will be celebrated." -- Angelus Silesius

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The first of two focus lectures for the July 29 meeting of the Rudolf Steiner Study Circle

For the second focus lecture, see June 26 post.

Human and Cosmic Thought: Lecture Two
January 21, 1914

THE STUDY of Spiritual Science should always go hand in hand with practical experience of how the mind works. It is impossible to get entirely clear about many things that we discussed in the last lecture unless one tries to get a kind of living grasp of what thinking involves in terms of actualities. For why is it that among the very persons whose profession it is to think about such questions, confusion reigns, for example, as to the relation between the general concept of the “triangle-in-general” and specific concepts of individual triangles? How is it that people puzzle for centuries over questions such as that of the hundred possible and the hundred real thalers cited by Kant? Why is it that people fail to pursue the very simple reflections that are necessary to see that there cannot really be any such thing as a “pragmatic” account of history, according to which the course of events always follows directly from preceding events? Why do people not reflect in such a way that they would be repelled by this impossible mode of regarding the history of man, so widely current nowadays? What is the cause of all these things?

The reason is that far too little trouble is taken over learning to handle with precision the activities of thinking, even by people whose business this should be. Nowadays everyone wants to feel that he has a perfect claim to say: “Think? Well, one can obviously do that.” So they begin to think. Thus we have various conceptions of the world; there have been many philosophers — a great many. We find that one philosopher is after this and another is after that, and that many fairly clever people have drawn attention to many things. If someone comes upon contradictions in these findings, he does not ponder over them, but he is quite pleased with himself, fancying that now he can “think” indeed. He can think again what those other fellows have thought out, and feels quite sure that he will find the right answer himself. For no one nowadays must make any concession to authority! That would deny the dignity of human nature! Everyone must think for himself. That is the prevailing notion in the realm of thought.

I do not know if people have reflected that this is not their attitude in other realms of life. No one feels committed to belief in authority or to a craving for authority when he has his coat made at the tailor's or his shoes at the shoemaker's. He does not say: “It would be beneath the dignity of man to let one's things be made by persons who are known to be thoroughly acquainted with their business.” He may perhaps even allow that it is necessary to learn these skills. But in practical life, with regard to thinking, it is not agreed that one must get one's conceptions of the world from quarters where thinking and much else has been learnt. Only rarely would this be conceded to-day.

This is one tendency that dominates our life in the widest circles, and is the immediate reason why human thinking is not a very widespread product nowadays. I believe this can be quite easily grasped. For let us suppose that one day everybody were to say: “What! — learn to make boots? For a long time that has been unworthy of man; we can all make boots.” I don't know if only good boots would come from it. At all events, with regard to the coining of correct thoughts in their conception of the world, it is from this sort of reasoning that men mostly take their start at the present day. This is what gives its deeper meaning to my remark of yesterday — that although thought is something a man is completely within, so that he can contemplate it in its inner being, actual thinking is not as common as one might suppose. Besides this, there is to-day a quite special pretension which could gradually go so far as to throw a veil over all clear thinking. We must pay attention to this also; at least we must glance at it.

Let us suppose the following. There was once in Görlitz a shoemaker named Jacob Boehme. He had learnt his craft well — how soles are cut, how the shoe is formed over the last, and how the nails are driven into the soles and leather. He knew all this down to the ground. Now supposing that this shoemaker, by name Jacob Boehme, had gone around and said: “I will now see how the world is constructed. I will suppose that there is a great last at the foundation of the world. Over this last the world-leather was once stretched; then the world-nails were added, and by means of them the world-sole was fastened to the world-upper. Then boot-blacking was brought into play, and the whole world-shoe was polished. In this way I can quite clearly explain to myself how in the morning it is bright, for then the shoe-polish of the world is shining, but in the evening it is soiled with all sorts of things; it shines no longer. Hence I imagine that every night someone has the duty of repolishing the world-boot. And thus arises the difference between day and night.” Let us suppose that Jacob Boehme had said this.

Yes, you laugh, for of course Jacob Boehme did not say this; but still he made good shoes for the people of Görlitz, and for that he employed his knowledge of shoe-making. But he also developed his grand thoughts, through which he wanted to build up a conception of the world; and for that he resorted to something else. He said to himself: My shoe-making is not enough for that; I dare not apply to the structure of the world the thoughts I put into making shoes. And in due course he arrived at his sublime thoughts about the world. Thus there was no such Jacob Boehme as the hypothetical figure I first sketched, but there was another one who knew how to set about things. But the hypothetical “Jacob Boehmes”, like the one you laughed over — they exist everywhere to-day.

For example, we find among them physicists and chemists who have learnt the laws governing the combination and separation of substances; there are zoologists who have learnt how one examines and describes animals; there are doctors who have learnt how to treat the physical human body, and what they themselves call the soul. What do they all do? They say: When a person wants to work out for himself a conception of the world, then he takes the laws that are learnt in chemistry, in physics, or in physiology — no others are admissible — and out of these he builds a conception of the world for himself. These people proceed exactly as the hypothetical shoemaker would have done if he had constructed the world-boot, only they do not notice that their world-conceptions come into existence by the very same method that produced the hypothetical world-boot. It does certainly seem rather grotesque if one imagines that the difference between day and night comes about through the soiling of shoe-leather and the repolishing of it in the night. But in terms of true logic it is in principle just the same if an attempt is made to build a world out of the laws of chemistry, physics, biology and physiology. Exactly the same principle! It is an immense presumption on the part of the physicist, the chemist, the physiologist, or the biologist, who do not wish to be anything else than physicist, chemist, physiologist, biologist, and yet want to have an opinion about the whole world. The point is that one should go to the root of things and not shirk the task of illuminating anything that is not so clear by tracing it back to its true place in the scheme of things. If you look at all this with method and logic, you will not need to be astonished that so many present-day conceptions of the world yield nothing but the “world-boot”. And this is something that can point us to the study of Spiritual Science and to the pursuit of practical trains of thought; something that can urge us to examine the question of how we must think in order to see where shortcomings exist in the world.

There is something else I should like to mention in order to show where lies the root of countless misunderstandings with regard to the ideas people have about the world. When one concerns oneself with world-conceptions, does one not have over and over again the experience that someone thinks this and someone else that; one man upholds a certain view with many good reasons (one can find good reasons for everything), while another has equally good reasons for his view; the first man contradicts his opponent with just as good reasons as those with which the opponent contradicts him. Sects arise in the world not, in the first place, because one person or another is convinced about the right path by what is taught here or there. Only look at the paths which the disciples of great men have had to follow in order to come to this or that great man, and then you will see that herein lies something important for us with regard to karma. But if we examine the outlooks that exist in the world to-day, we must say that whether someone is a follower of Bergson, or of Haeckel, or of this or that (karma, as I have already said, does not recognise the current world-conception) depends on other things than on deep conviction. There is contention on all sides!

Yesterday I said that once there were Nominalists, persons who maintained that general concepts had no reality, but were merely names. These Nominalists had opponents who were called Realists (the word had a different meaning then). The Realists maintained that general concepts are not mere words, but refer to quite definite realities. In the Middle Ages the question of Realism versus Nominalism was always a burning one, especially for theology, a sphere of thought with which present-day thinkers trouble themselves very little. For in the time when the question of Nominalism versus Realism arose (from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries) there was something that belonged to the most important confessions of faith, the question about the three “Divine Persons” — Father, Son and Holy Ghost — who form One Divine Being, but are still Three real Persons. The Nominalists maintained that these three Divine Persons existed only individually, the “Father” for Himself, the “Son” for Himself, and the “Holy Ghost” for Himself; and if one spoke of a “Collective God” Who comprised these Three, that was only a name for the Three. Thus Nominalism did away with the unity of the Trinity. In opposition to the Realists, the Nominalists not only explained away the unity, but even regarded it as heretical to declare, as the Realists did, that the Three Persons formed not merely an imaginary unity, but an actual one.

Thus Nominalism and Realism were opposites. And anyone who goes deeply into the literature of Realism and Nominalism during these centuries gets a deep insight into what human acumen can produce. For the most ingenious grounds were brought forward for Nominalism, just as much as for Realism. In those days it was more difficult to be reckoned as a thinker because there was no printing press, and it was not an easy thing to take part in such controversies as that between Nominalism and Realism. Anyone who ventured into this field had to be better prepared, according to the ideas of those times, than is required of people who engage in controversies nowadays. An immense amount of penetration was necessary in order to plead the cause of Realism, and it was equally so with Nominalism. How does this come about? It is grievous that things are so, and if one reflects more deeply on it, one is led to say: What use is it that you are so clever? You can be clever and plead the cause of Nominalism, and you can be just as clever and contradict Nominalism. One can get quite confused about the whole question of intelligence! It is distressing even to listen to what such characterisations are supposed to mean.

Now, as a contrast to what we have been saying, we will bring forward something that is perhaps not nearly so discerning as much that has been advanced with regard to Nominalism or to Realism, but it has perhaps one merit — it goes straight to the point and indicates the direction in which one needs to think.

Let us imagine the way in which one forms general concepts; the way in which one synthesizes a mass of details. We can do this in two ways: first as a man does in the course of his life through the world. He sees numerous examples of a certain kind of animal: they are silky or woolly, are of various colours, have whiskers, at certain times they go through movements that recall human “washing”, they eat mice, etc. One can call such creatures “cats”. Then one has formed a general concept. All these creatures have something to do with what we call “cats”. But now let us suppose that someone has had a long life, in the course of which he has encountered many cat-owners, men and women, and he has noticed that a great many of these people call their pets “Pussy”. Hence he classes all these creatures under the name of “Pussy”. Hence we now have the general concept “Cats” and the general concept “Pussy”, and a large number of individual creatures belonging in both cases to the general concept. And yet no one will maintain that the general concept “Pussy” has the same significance as the general concept “Cats”. Here the real difference comes out. In forming the general concept “Pussy” which is only a summary of names that must rank as individual names, we have taken the line, and rightly so, of Nominalism; and in forming the general concept “Cats” we have taken the line of Realism, and rightly so. In one case Nominalism is correct; in the other. Realism. Both are right. One must only apply these methods within their proper limits. And when both are right, it is not surprising that good reasons for both can be adduced. In taking the name “Pussy”, I have employed a somewhat grotesque example. But I can show you a much more significant example and I will do so at once.

Within the scope of our objective experience there is a whole realm where Nominalism — the idea that the collective term is only a name — is fully justified. We have “one”, “two”, “three”, “four”, “five”, and so on, but it is impossible to find in the expression “number” anything that has a real existence. “Number” has no existence. “One”, “two”, “three”, “five”, “six”, — they exist. But what I said in the last lecture, that in order to find the general concept one must let that which corresponds to it pass over into movement — this cannot be done with the concept “Number”. One “one” does not pass over into “two”. It must always be taken as “one”. Not even in thought can we pass over into two, or from two into three. Only the individual numbers exist, not “number” in general. As applied to the nature of numbers, Nominalism is entirely correct; but when we come to the single animal in relation to its genus, Realism is entirely correct. For it is impossible for a deer to exist, and another deer, and yet another, without there being the genus “deer”. The figure “two” can exist for itself, “one”, “seven”, etc., can exist for themselves. But in so far as anything real appears in number, the number is a quality, and the concept “number” has no specific existence. External things are related to general concepts in two different ways: Nominalism is appropriate in one case, and Realism in the other.

On these lines, if we simply give our thoughts the right direction, we begin to understand why there are so many disputes about conceptions of the world. People generally are not inclined, when they have grasped one standpoint, to grasp another as well. When in some realm of thought somebody has got hold of the idea “general concepts have no existence”, he proceeds to extend to it the whole make-up of the world. This sentence, “general concepts have no existence” is not false, for when applied to the particular realm which the person in question has considered, it is correct. It is only the universalising of it that is wrong. Thus it is essential, if one wants to form a correct idea of what thinking is, to understand clearly that the truth of a thought in the realm to which it belongs is no evidence for its general validity. Someone can offer me a perfectly correct proof of this or that and yet it will not hold good in a sphere to which it does not belong. Anyone, therefore, who intends to occupy himself seriously with the paths that lead to a conception of the world must recognise that the first essential is to avoid one-sidedness. That is what I specially want to bring out to-day. Now let us take a general look at some matters which will be explained in detail later on.

There are people so constituted that it is not possible for them to find the way to the Sprit, and to give them any proof of the Spirit will always be hard. They stick to something they know about, in accordance with their nature. Let us say they stick at something that makes the crudest kind of impression on them — Materialism. We need not regard as foolish the arguments they advance as a defence or proof of Materialism, for an immense amount of ingenious writing has been devoted to the subject, and it holds good in the first place for material life, for the material world and its laws.

Again, there are people who, owing to a certain inwardness, are naturally predisposed to see in all that is material only the revelation of the spiritual. Naturally, they know as well as the materialists do that, externally, the material world exists; but matter, they say, is only the revelation, the manifestation, of the underlying spiritual. Such persons may take no particular interest in the material world and its laws. As all their ideas of the spiritual come to them through their own inner activity, they may go through the world with the consciousness that the true, the lofty, in which one ought to interest oneself — all genuine reality — is found only in the Spirit; that matter is only illusion, only external phantasmagoria. This would be an extreme standpoint, but it can occur, and can lead to a complete denial of material life. We should have to say of such persons that they certainly do recognize what is most real, the Spirit, but they are one-sided; they deny the significance of the material world and its laws. Much acute thinking can be enlisted in support of the conception of the universe held by these persons. Let us call their conception of the universe: Spiritism. Can we say that the Spiritists are right? As regards the Spirit, their contentions could bring to light some exceptionally correct ideas, but concerning matter and its laws they might reveal very little of any significance. Can one say the Materialists are correct in what they maintain? Yes, concerning matter and its laws they may be able to discover some exceptionally useful and valuable facts; but in speaking of the Spirit they may utter nothing but foolishness. Hence we must say that both parties are correct in their respective spheres.

There can also be persons who say: “Yes, but as to whether in truth the world contains only matter, or only spirit, I have no special knowledge; the powers of human cognition cannot cope with that. One thing is clear — there is a world spread out around us. Whether it is based upon what chemists and physicists, if they are materialists, call atoms, I know not. But I recognize the external world; that is something I see and can think about. I have no particular reason for supposing that it is or is not spiritual at root. I restrict myself to what I see around me.” From the explanations already given we can call such Realists, and their concept of the universe: Realism. Just as one can enlist endless ingenuity on behalf of Materialism or of Spiritism, and just as one can be clever about Spiritism and yet say the most foolish things on material matters, and vice versa, so one can advance the most ingenious reasons for Realism, which differs from both Spiritism and Materialism in the way I have just described.

Again, there may be other persons who speak as follows. Around us are matter and the world of material phenomena. But this world of material phenomena is in itself devoid of meaning. It has no real meaning unless there is within it a progressive tendency; unless from this external world something can emerge towards which the human soul can direct itself, independently of the world. According to this outlook, there must be a realm of ideas and ideals within the world-process. Such people are not Realists, although they pay external life its due; their view is that life has meaning only if ideas work through it and give it purpose. It was under the influence of such a mood as this that Fichte once said: Our world is the sensualised material of our duty. The adherents of such a world-outlook as this, which takes everything as a vehicle for the ideas that permeate the world-process, may be called Idealists and their outlook: Idealism. Beautiful and grand and glorious things have been brought forward on behalf of this Idealism. And in this realm that I have just described — where the point is to show that the world would be purposeless and meaningless if ideas were only human inventions and were not rooted in the world-process — in this realm Idealism is fully justified. But by means of it one cannot, for example, explain external reality. Hence one can distinguish this Idealism from other world-outlooks:

We now have side by side four justifiable world-outlooks, each with significance for its particular domain. Between Materialism and Idealism there is a certain transition. The crudest kind of materialism — one can observe it specially well in our day, although it is already on the wane — will consist in this, that people carry to an extreme the saying of Kant — Kant did not do this himself! — that in the individual sciences there is only so much real science as there is mathematics. This means that from being a materialist one can become a ready-reckoner of the universe, taking nothing as valid except a world composed of material atoms. They collide and gyrate, and then one calculates how they inter-gyrate. By this means one obtains very fine results, which show that this way of looking at things is fully justified. Thus you can get the vibration-rates for blue, red, etc.; you take the whole world as a kind of mechanical apparatus, and can reckon it up accurately. But one can become rather confused in this field. One can say to oneself: “Yes, but however complicated the machine may be, one can never get out of it anything like the perception of blue, red, etc. Thus if the brain is only a complicated machine, it can never give rise to what we know as soul-experiences.” But then one can say, as du Bois-Reymond once said: If we want to explain the world in strictly mathematical terms, we shall not be able to explain the simplest perception, but if we go outside a mathematical explanation, we shall be unscientific. The most uncompromising materialist would say, “No, I do not even calculate, for that would presuppose a superstition — it would imply that I assume that things are ordered by measure and number.” And anyone who raises himself above this crude materialism will become a mathematical thinker, and will recognize as valid only whatever can be treated mathematically. From this results a conception of the universe that really admits nothing beyond mathematical formulae. This may be called Mathematism.

Someone, however, might think this over, and after becoming a Mathematist he might say to himself: “It cannot be a superstition that the colour blue has so and so many vibrations. The world is ordered mathematically. If mathematical ideas are found to be real in the world, why should not other ideas have equal reality?” Such a person accepts this — that ideas are active in the world. But he grants validity only to those ideas that he discovers outside himself — not to any ideas that he might grasp from his inner self by some sort of intuition or inspiration, but only to those he reads from external things that are real to the senses. Such a person becomes a Rationalist, and his outlook on the world is that of Rationalism. If, in addition to the ideas that are found in this way, someone grants validity also to those gained from the moral and the intellectual realms, then he is already an Idealist. Thus a path leads from crude Materialism, by way of Mathematism and Rationalism, to Idealism.

But now Idealism can be enhanced. In our age there are some men who are trying to do this. They find ideas
at work in the world, and this implies that there must also be in the world some sort of beings in whom the ideas can live. Ideas cannot live just as they are in any external object, nor can they hang as it were in the air. In the nineteenth century the belief existed that ideas rule history. But this was a confusion, for ideas as such have no power to work. Hence one cannot speak of ideas in history. Anyone who understands that ideas, if they are there are all, are bound up with some being capable of having ideas, will no longer be a mere Idealist; he will move on to the supposition that ideas are connected with beings. He becomes a Psychist and his world-outlook is that Psychism. The Psychist, who in his turn can uphold his outlook with an immense amount of ingenuity, reaches it only through a kind of one-sidedness, of which he can eventually become aware.

Here I must add that there are adherents of all the world-outlooks above the horizontal stroke; for the most part they are stubborn fold who, owing to some fundamental element in themselves, take this or that world-outlook and abide by it, going no further. All the beliefs listed below the line have adherents who are more easily accessible to the knowledge that individual world-outlooks each have one special standpoint only, and they more easily reach the point where they pass from one world-outlook to another.

When someone is a Psychist, and able as a thinking person to contemplate the world clearly, then he comes to the point of saying to himself that he must presuppose something actively psychic in the outside world. But directly he not only thinks, but feels sympathy for what is active and willing in man, then he says to himself: “It is not enough that there are beings who have ideas; these beings must also be active, they must be able also to do things.” But this is inconceivable unless these beings are individual beings. That is, a person of this type rises from accepting the ensoulment of the world to accepting the Spirit or the Spirits of the world. He is not yet clear whether he should accept one or a number of Spirits, but he advances from Psychism to Pneumatism to a doctrine of the Spirit.

If he has become in truth a Pneumatist, then he may well grasp what I have said in this lecture about number — that with regard to figures it is somewhat doubtful to speak of a “unity”. Then he comes to the point of saying to himself: It must therefore be a confusion to talk of one undivided Spirit, of one undivided Pneuma. And he gradually becomes able to form for himself an idea of the Spirits of the different Hierarchies. Then he becomes in the true sense a Spiritist, so that on this side there is a direct transition from Pneumatism to Spiritism.

These world-outlooks are all justified in their own field. For there are fields where Psychism acts illuminatingly, and others where Pneumatism does the same. Certainly, anyone who wishes to deliberate about an explanation of the universe as thoroughly as we have tried to do must come to Spiritism, to the acceptance of the Spirits of the Hierarchies. For to stop short at Pneumatism would in this case mean the following. If we are Spiritists, then it may happen that people will say to us: “Why so many spirits? Why bring numbers into it? Let there be One Undivided Spirit!” Anyone who goes more deeply into the matter knows that this objection is like saying: “You tell me there are two hundred midges over there. I don't see two hundred; I see only a single swarm.” Exactly so would an adherent of Pneumatism stand with regard to a Spiritist. The Spiritist sees the universe filled with the Spirits of the Hierarchies; the Pneumatist sees only the one “swarm” — only the Universal Spirit. But that comes from an inexact view.

Now there is still another possibility: someone may not take the path we have tried to follow to the activities of the spiritual Hierarchies, but may still come to an acceptance of certain spiritual beings. The celebrated German philosopher, Leibnitz, was a man of this kind. Leibnitz had got beyond the prejudice that anything merely material can exist in the world. He found the actual, he sought the actual. (I have treated this more precisely in my book, Riddles of Philosophy.) His view was that a being — as, for example, the human soul — can build up existence in itself. But he formed no further ideas on the subject. He only said to himself that there is such a being that can build up existence in itself, and force concepts outwards from within itself. For Leibnitz, this being is a “Monad”. And he said to himself: “There must be many Monads, and Monads of the most varied capabilities. If I had here a bell, there would be many monads in it — as in a swarm of midges — but they would be monads that had never come even so far as to have sleep-consciousness, monads that are almost unconscious, but which nevertheless develop the dimmest of concepts within themselves. There are monads that dream; there are monads that develop waking ideas within themselves; in short, there are monads of the most varied grades.”

A person with this outlook does not come so far as to picture to himself the individual spiritual beings in concrete terms, as the Spiritist does, but he reflects in the world upon the spiritual element in the world, allowing it to remain indefinite. He calls it “Monad” — that is, he conceives of it only as though one were to say: “Yes, there is spirit in the world and there are spirits, but I describe them only by saying, ‘They are entities having varying powers of perception.’ I pick out from them an abstract characteristic. So I form for myself this one-sided world-outlook, on behalf of which as much as can be said has been said by the highly intelligent Leibnitz. In this way I develop Monadism.” Monadism is an abstract Spiritism.

But there can be persons who do not rise to the level of the Monads; they cannot concede that existence is made up of being with the most varied conceptual powers, but at the same time they are not content to allow reality only to external phenomena; they hold that “forces” are dominant everywhere. If, for example, a stone falls to the ground, they say, “That is gravitation!” When a magnet attracts bits of iron, they say: “That is magnetic force!” They are not content with saying simply, “There is the magnet,” but they say, “The magnet presupposes that supersensibly, invisibly, a magnetic force is present, extending in all directions.” A world-outlook of this kind — which looks everywhere for forces behind phenomena — can be called Dynamism.

Then one may say: “No, to believe in ‘forces’ is superstition” — an example of this is Fritz Mauthner's Critique of Language, where you find a detailed argument to this effect. It amounts to taking your stand on the reality of the things around us. Thus by the path of Spiritism we come through Monadism and Dynamism to Realism again.

But now one can do something else still. One can say: “Certainly I believe in the world that is spread out around me, but I do not maintain any right to claim that this world is the real one. I can say of it only that it ‘appears’ to me. I have no right to say more about it.” There you have again a difference. One can say of the world that is spread out around us. “This is the real world,” but one can also say, “I am clear that there is a world which appears to me; I cannot speak of anything more. I am not saying that this world of colours and sounds, which arises only because certain processes in my eyes present themselves to me as colours, while processes in my ears present themselves to me as sounds — I am not saying that this world is the true world. It is a world of phenomena.” This is the outlook called Phenomenalism.

We can go further, and can say: “The world of phenomena we certainly have around us, but all that we believe we have in these phenomena is what we have ourselves added to them, what we have thought into them. Our own sense-impressions are all we can rightly accept. Anyone who says this — mark it well! — is not an adherent of Phenomenalism. He peels off from the phenomena everything which he thinks comes only from the understanding and the reason, and he allows validity only to sense-impressions, regarding them as some kind of message from reality.” This outlook may be called Sensationalism.

A critic of this outlook can then say: “You may reflect as much as you like on what the senses tell us and bring forward ever so ingenious reasons for your view — and ingenious reasons can be given — I take my stand on the point that nothing real exists except that which manifests itself through sense-impressions; this I accept as something material.”

This is rather like an atomist saying: “I hold that only atoms exist, and that however small they are, they have the attributes which we recognize in the physical world” — anyone who says this is a materialist. Thus, by another path, we arrive back at Materialism.

All these conceptions of the world that I have described and written down for you really exist, and they can be maintained. And it is possible to bring forward the most ingenious reasons for each of them; it is possible to adopt any one of them and with ingenious reasons to refute the others. In between these conceptions of the world one can think out yet others, but they differ only in degree from the leading types I have described, and can be traced back to them. If one wishes to learn about the web and woof of the world, then one must know that the way to it is through these twelve points of entry. There is not merely one conception of the world that can be defended, or justified, but there are twelve. And one must admit that just as many good reasons can be adduced for each and all of them as for any particular one. The world cannot be rightly considered from the one-sided standpoint of one single conception, one single mode of thought; the world discloses itself only to someone who knows that one must look at it from all sides. Just as the sun — if we go by the Copernican conception of the universe — passes through the signs of the Zodiac in order to illuminate the earth from twelve different points, so we must not adopt one standpoint, the standpoint of Idealism, or Sensationalism, or Phenomenalism, or any other conception of the world with a name of this kind; we must be in a position to go all round the world and accustom ourselves to the twelve different standpoints from which it can be contemplated. In terms of thought, all twelve standpoints are fully justifiable. For a thinker who can penetrate into the nature of thought, there is not one single conception of the world, but twelve that can be equally justified — so far justified as to permit of equally good reasons being thought out for each of them. There are twelve such justified conceptions of the world.

Tomorrow we will start from the points of view we have gained in this way, so that from the consideration of man in terms of thought we may rise to a consideration of the cosmic.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

May your dharma be your karma

"Unsere Welt ist das versinnlichte Material unserer Pflicht."

"Our world is the sense-perceptible, tangible material of our duty."--Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Freedom and Love: The Message of Anthroposophy

Rudolf Steiner, the conclusion of a lecture given July 24, 1921, the last in a series of three lectures titled "Man as a Being of Sense and Perception":

...It is a question of grasping how the material, in its emergence from the spiritual, can be regarded as bearing witness to the spiritual world.

Again — and to-day I can only go as far as this — if you grasp the connection between the birth of memory and the forces of growth, you will thereby recognise an interplay between what we call material and what in later life, from seven to eight years of age onwards, develops as the soul-spiritual life. It really is a fact that what shows itself later in more abstract intellectual form as the faculty of memory is active, to begin with, in growth. It is really the same force. The same method of observation must be applied to this as is applied, let us say, when we speak of latent heat and free heat. Heat which is free, which is released from its latent condition, behaves externally in the physical world like the force which, after having been the source of the phenomena of growth in the earliest years of childhood, then manifests itself in the inner life as the force of memory. What lies behind the phenomena of growth in earliest childhood is the same thing as what later makes its appearance in its own proper form as the faculty of memory.

I developed this more fully in the course of lectures given here in the Goetheanum last autumn. [* Grenzen der Naturerkenntnis, 27th Sept. to 2nd Oct., 1920 (Translation not yet published.)] You will see how one can discover along these lines an intimate connection between the soul-spiritual and the bodily-physical, and how therefore we have in the faculty of memory something which on the one hand appears to us as of a soul-spiritual nature, and on the other hand, when it appears in other cosmic connections, manifests as the force of growth.

We find just the opposite when we consider the human capacity for love, which shows itself on the one hand to be entirely bound up with the bodily nature, and which on the other hand we can grasp, exactly like the faculty of memory, as the most soul-like function. So that in fact — this I will explain more fully in later lectures — in memory and love you have capacities in which you can experience the interplay between the spiritual and the bodily, and which you can also associate with the whole relationship between man and the world.

In the case of memory we have already done this, for we have related ideation with previous earth-lives, and the faculty of memory with the present earth-life. In later lectures we shall see that we can experience the same thing as regards the capacity for love. One can show how it is developed in the present earth-life, but passes over through the life between death and rebirth into the next earthly life.

Why are we making a point of this? Because to-day man needs to be able to make the transition from the soul-spiritual to the bodily-physical. In the soul-spiritual we experience morality; within the physical-bodily we experience natural necessity. As things are seen to-day, if one is honest in each sphere one has to admit that there is no bridge between them. And I said yesterday that because there is no such bridge, people make a distinction between what they call real knowledge, based upon natural causality, and the content of pure faith, which is said to be concerned with the world of morality — because natural causality on the one hand, and the life of the soul-spirit on the other, exist side by side without any connection. But the whole point is that in order to recover a fully human consciousness, we need to build a bridge between these two.

Above all we must remember that the moral world cannot exist without postulating freedom; the natural world cannot exist without necessity. Indeed, there could be no science if there were not this necessity. If one phenomenon were not of necessity caused by another in natural continuity, everything would be arbitrary, and there could be no science. An effect could arise from a cause that one could not predict! We get science when we try to see how one thing proceeds from another, that one thing proceeds from another. But if this natural causality is universal, then moral freedom is impossible; there can be no such thing. Nevertheless the consciousness of this moral freedom within the realm of soul and spirit, as a fact of direct experience, is present in every man.

The contradiction between what the human being experiences in the moral constitution of his soul and the causality of nature is not a logical one, but a contradiction in life. This contradiction is always with us as we go through the world; it is part of our life. The fact is that, if we honestly admit what we are faced with, we shall have to say that there must be natural causality, there must be natural necessity, and we as men are ourselves in the midst of it. But our inner soul-spiritual life contradicts it. We are conscious that we can make resolutions, that we can pursue moral ideals which are not given to us by natural necessity. This is a contradiction which is a contradiction of life, and anyone who cannot admit that there are such contradictions simply fails to grasp life in its universality. But in saying this we are saying something very abstract. It is really only our way of expressing what we encounter in life. We go through life feeling ourselves all the time actually at variance with external nature. It seems as if we are powerless, as if we must feel ourselves at variance with ourselves. To-day we can feel the presence of these contradictions in many men in a truly tragic way.

For example, I knew a man who was quite full of the fact that there is necessity in the world in which man himself is involved. Theoretically, of course, one can admit such a necessity and at the same time not trouble much about it with one's entire manhood. Then one goes through the world as a superficial person and one will not be inwardly filled with tragedy. Be that as it may, I knew a man who said, “Everywhere there is necessity and we men are placed within it. There is no doubt about it, science forces us to a recognition of this necessity. But at the same time necessity allows bubbles to arise in us which delude us with hopes of a free soul-life. We have to see through that delusion, we have to look upon it as hot air. This too is a necessity.”

That is man's frightful illusion. That is the foundation of pessimism in human nature. The man who has little idea of how deeply such a thing can work into the human soul will not be able to enter into the feeling that this contradiction in life, which is absolutely real, can undermine the whole soul, and can lead to the view that life in its inmost nature is a misfortune. Confronted by the conflict between scientific certainty and the certitude of faith, it is only thoughtlessness and lack of sensitivity that prevent men from coming to such inner tragedy in their lives. For this tragic attitude towards life is really the one that goes with the plight of soul to which mankind can come to-day.

But whence comes the impotence which results in such a tragic attitude to life! It comes from the fact that civilised humanity has for centuries allowed itself to become entangled in certain abstractions, in intellectualism. The most this intellectualism can say is that natural necessity deludes us by strange methods with a feeling of freedom, but that there is no freedom. It exists only in our ideas. We are powerless in the face of necessity.

Then comes the important question — is that truest? And now you see that the lectures I have been giving for weeks actually all lead up to the question: “Are we really powerless? Are we really so impotent in the face of this contradiction?” Remember how I said that we have in our lives not only an ascending development, but a declining one; that our intellectual life is not bound up with the forces of growth, but with the forces of death, the forces of decay; that in order to develop intelligence we need to die. You will remember how I showed here several weeks ago the significance of the fact that certain elements with specific affinities and valencies — carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur — combine to form protein. They do so not by ordinary chemical combination, but on the, contrary by becoming utterly chaotic. You will then see that all these studies are leading up to this — to make it clear to you that what I have told you is not just a theoretical contradiction, but an actual process in human nature. We are not here merely in order, through living, to sense this contradiction, but our inner life is a continual process of destruction of what develops as causality in outer nature. We men really dissolve natural causality within ourselves. What outside is physical process, chemical process, is developed within us in a reverse direction, towards the other side. Of course we shall see this clearly only if we take into consideration the upper and the lower man, if we grasp by means of the upper man what emerges from metabolism by way of contra-mechanisation, contra-physicalisation, contra-chemicalisation. If we try to grasp the contra-materialisation in the human being, then we do not have merely a logical, theoretical contradiction in ourselves, but we have the real process — we have the process of human development, of human becoming, as the thing in us that itself counteracts natural causality, and human life as consisting in a battle against it. And the expression of this struggle, which goes on all the while to dissolve the physical synthesis, the chemical synthesis, to analyse it again — the expression of this analytic life in us is summed up in the awareness: “I am free.” What I have just put before you in a few words — the study of the human process of becoming as a process of combat against natural causality, as a reversal of natural causality — we shall make the subject of forthcoming lectures.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy

"All things were made by him." -- John 1:3

Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy, lecture 16. June 3, 1921

Bonus lecture for the Rudolf Steiner Study Circle

Yesterday, we concluded with two significant questions resulting from considering the position of a personality such as John Scotus Erigena. In him, we discover a world view, dating from the first centuries of Christianity that throws its light into the ninth century. Based on everything we have learned recently, we can say that the manner of perception, the whole way of thinking, differed in the first centuries A.D. from what it was later on. As we already know, a great change occurred in the fourth Christian century. From the middle of that century onward, people simply thought much more rationally than they had done earlier. One could say that until that time all perception, all forming of concepts had sprung far more from a form of inspiration than later on when human beings became increasingly conscious of the fact that they themselves were working with thoughts. What we have found to be the consciousness of human beings prior to the fourth century A.D. is still echoed in statements such as that by Scotus Erigena that man makes judgments and draws conclusions as a human being but perceives as an angel. This idea Scotus Erigena brings up as an ancient legacy, as a kind of reminiscence, was acknowledged by anyone who thought at all prior to the fourth century A.D. It never occurred to people in those days to attribute to the human being thoughts that transmit knowledge or perception. They ascribed those to the angel working within man. An angel inhabited the body of human beings; the angel perceived, and human beings shared in this knowledge.

Such a direct consciousness had faded away altogether after the fourth century. In men like Scotus Erigena it emerged once again, drawn forth from the soul with effort, as it were. This proves that the whole way of looking at the world had changed in the course of these centuries. That is why it is so difficult for people today to turn their minds back to the mode of thinking and conceiving prevalent in the first centuries after Christ. Only with the help of spiritual science can this be done again. We have to arrive once more at views that will truly correspond to what was thought in the first centuries A.D.

Already in the days of John Scotus Erigena controversies such as the one over Communion and man's predestination began. These were unmistakable indications of the fact that what was earlier more like an inspiration people did not argue about had now moved to the level of human debate. This came about because, as time went on, many things were simply no longer understood at all.

Among the things that were no longer understood, for example, is the beginning of the Gospel of St. John in the form generally known. If we take this beginning of the Gospel of John seriously, it actually states something that is no longer present in subsequent centuries in the general consciousness of those who profess Christianity. Consider that this Gospel starts with the words: “In the beginning was the Word” — and then it says further that through the Logos all things were made, that is, everything came into being that belongs among created things, and nothing was created except through the Logos.

If we take these words seriously, we have to admit: They signify that all visible things, all the things of the world, came into being through the Logos and that the Logos is therefore the actual creator of all things. In the Christian thinking after the fourth century A.D. the Logos, rightly identified with Christ in the sense of the Gospel of John, was certainly not regarded as the creator of all visible things. Instead, Christ is contrasted with the Creator as the Father, as God the Father. The Logos is designated as the Son, but the Son is not considered the Creator; it is the Father Who is made into the Creator. This doctrine has persisted through the centuries and completely contradicts the Gospel of St. John. You cannot take this Gospel seriously and not regard Christ as the Creator of all things visible, and instead view the Father God as the Creator. You can see, my dear friends, how little this Gospel was taken seriously in later Christian times.

In our mind, we have to place ourselves in the whole mode of thinking of the first Christian centuries, which, as I have said, experienced a change at the point in time indicated above. This way of thinking was in turn structured on the basis of insights into the spiritual world left behind from ancient pagan times. In particular, we have to understand clearly how people viewed the Last Supper, which then continued in the Christian Sacrifice of the Mass. We have to understand the view concerning Communion, the main content of which is contained in the words: “This is my body” — pointing to the bread — and “This is my blood” — pointing to the wine. This content of Communion was truly comprehended during the first Christian centuries; it was even understood by people who were by no means educated but simply gathered together in remembrance of Christ in the Sacrament of Communion. But what did people actually mean by that? They referred to the following.

Throughout antiquity, people were in possession of a religious doctrine of wisdom. Fundamentally speaking, the further back we go in time, the more we find this religious teaching of wisdom based on the being of the Father God. When we consider the religions of very ancient times, preserved in decadent form in later religious faiths, they exhibit in all instances a certain worship of what had remained behind from the ancestor of a tribe or a people. In a sense, human beings worshiped the ancestral father of a tribe. You know from Tacitus' Germania [Note 1] how even those tribes who then invaded the Roman empire and made possible the new civilization, definitely retained such memories of tribal deities although in many cases they had already changed to a different form of worship, namely, to that of local gods — something I have mentioned in the public lectures of the last course. [Note 2] They believed that while generation after generation had passed since a certain ancient ancestor had lived who had established the tribe or nation, the soul, the soul-spiritual element of this tribal father, still held sway in the most recent generations.

This presence was believed to be connected with the physical community of the bodies in the tribe. After all, these bodies were all related to each other. They all had the same ancestry. The common blood flowed through their veins. The body and the blood were one. As people looked up in religious devotion to the soul-spiritual element of the tribal father, they also experienced the presence of the deity to whom the tribal father had returned, the god through whom this ancestral father now affected the whole tribe or nation by means of his soul-spiritual nature. The rule of this deity was seen in the bodies, in the blood that ran down through the generations. A profound mystery was sensed in the mysterious forces of the body and the blood.

In those ancient pagan times, people actually beheld the forces of the deity in what held sway in the body and circulated in the blood. Therefore, it is possible to say that when a follower of such an ancient world view saw an animal's blood or, what was more, human blood run out, he beheld in this blood the corporeality of the deity. In the bodies of his race or tribe, which were built up by the blood, he beheld the forms, the image, of the deity. People today no longer have any idea of how the divine-spiritual was worshiped then at the same time as the material substance.

Truly, through the blood of the generations flowed the power of the deity; through the bodies of the generations the deity formed its image. The soul and spirit of the ancestor rose up to this deity and hence worked upon the descendants with divine power and was worshiped as the ancestral god. Not only in regard to these ancient beliefs, but above all in regard to actual truth, the elements working in the human body depend on the forces of the earth. As you know, the body's origins lie in much more ancient times but the forces of the earth are active in the human body as it is today — containing the mineral kingdom — and in the blood.

In the human blood, for example, not only those forces are active that enter the human being through foods but also those that are effective in the whole planet earth. For instance, due to the fact that a person lives in a region rich in red soil, hence a region possessing certain geological characteristics and certain metallic inclusions in the soil, an effect proceeds from the earth to the blood. In turn, the formation, the body, of man is dependent on the earth. The body develops one way in warmer, another way in colder regions of the earth. The corporeality and the elements active in the blood depend on the forces working in the earth. This truth, which we are approaching once again today through spiritual scientific research, was immediately clear to people in antiquity due to their instinctive perception. They know that the earth forces pulsate in the blood.

Today we say that when we connect a telegraph machine in station A by wire to one in station B, we connect the machines one-sidedly. We transmit the electrical current through the wire but the circuit must be closed. It is closed when we make the so-called ground connection. You probably know that if we have a telegraph machine at one station, we guide the wire over the telegraph poles. Yet the circuit is then not closed and it must be closed. We transmit the current into the plate sunk into the ground at one station and do the same at the other station but do nothing more. We could run a different wire there, but we do not do that; we mount an earth-wire plate on both ends of the wire, and the earth takes care of the rest. We know this today as a result of science. We have to presume that electricity, the electric current, works within the earth.

Now people in antiquity knew nothing of electricity and electric currents. Instead, they know something about their blood. They stood on the earth and knew that something was in the earth that also lived in the blood. They looked at the matter differently; they did not speak of electricity but of an earthly element that dwelled in their blood. We no longer know that the earth's electricity lives in the blood. We only speak out of attempts to grasp the matter outwardly through mathematical and mechanistic conceptions. This is why human beings linked their conception of God to the earth's body as such. They realized that the divine element worked in the blood and in the body through the earth. This was what appeared in the concept of the Father God because people considered the primal ancestor, the father, of the tribe or their folk as the point of departure for the influence of the divine element. The primal ancestor was believed to be working through the earth as his means, and the effects of the earth in the blood and the whole human body were seen to be the effects of the divine.

Now these people of old had still another conception. They said, The human being is not only affected by the earthly element. It would be fine if only the earth influenced mankind, but that is not the case. The neighbor of the earth, the moon, works together with the earth's forces. Therefore, they said, it really is not the earth alone but earth and moon together that are effective. With this combination of earth and moon forces, they now linked conceptions of not only one uniform deity of the earth, but many subordinate deities who were then present in the pagan world. All the conceptions that existed of the deity, the elements that affected the human being through the body and blood, all these were the primal source that fed any view of God in this ancient period.

It is not surprising that all search for insight turned in antiquity to the earth, the moon, and the earth's influences and therefore people had to figure out what affected the earth. Thus, a most sophisticated form of science was developed. An echo of this science of the Father God still influenced the first three books by John Scotus Erigena I spoke about yesterday. Basically though, he was not really familiar any more with this primal wisdom, for he lived as late as the ninth century, but bits of this science had been handed down and been preserved. They referred to the insight that the Father God, Who was not created but creates, dwells in everything surrounding the human being on earth, that the other deities, who have been created but also create, live in it as well. They are then the various entities of the hierarchies. Furthermore, the visible world is spread out around man, the created as well as the noncreating. Finally, human beings are to await the world in which the deity as a noncreating and not created, hence, as a resting divinity, holds sway and receives all else into its bosom. This is what is contained in Scotus Erigena's fourth book.

As I have told you, this fourth book deals mainly with soteriology and eschatology. It presents the history of Christ Jesus, the Resurrection and the gifts of grace, but also the end of the world and the entering into the resting Godhead. The first three chapters of the great book by Scotus Erigena clearly show us a reflection of ancient world views, for basically only the fourth chapter is really Christian. The first three chapters are permeated with a number of Christian concepts but what predominates in them really dates from ancient pagan times. We also find this unchanged pagan wisdom in the Church Fathers of the first Christian centuries. We can say that through nature, through what the human being saw in the creatures surrounding him, he beheld the region of the Father God. He saw a world of ideals behind nature; he saw certain forces in nature. He also saw the rule of the Father God in the sequence of generation, in the development of mankind in individual tribes and nations.

In the first Christian centuries, another insight had joined this knowledge, which has been almost corn pletely lost. The first Christian Church Fathers referred to something their later critics thoroughly eradicated. They said it was true that the Father God worked in the element flowing in the blood through the generations and expressed in the bodies, but He did so in constant conflict and together with His opponent powers, the nature spirits. This was a particularly vivid conception in the first Christian centuries, namely, that the Father God had never been quite successful in exerting His influence exclusively. Rather, He was waging a constant battle with the nature spirits who rule in any number of things in the outer world. Therefore, these first Christian Church Fathers said, The ancients of pre-Christian times believed in the Father God, but they really could not distinguish Him from the nature spirits, they actually believed in a kingdom of the Father God that included the domain of nature. They believed that the whole visible world has its source in it. This, however, is not true, so they said. All these spiritual beings, these various nature deities, do work together in nature, but first of all they crept into the things of the earth. Now, these earthly things we see around us with our senses, the things that have come about on earth, neither originate from these nature spirits nor from the Father God Who actually expressed His creative being only in the metamorphoses preceding the earth. What we see as earth does not originate from the Father God nor from the nature spirits. It comes from the Son, from the Logos, whom the Father God let spring forth from Himself so that the earth might be created by the Logos. And the Gospel of St. John, a mighty, significant monument was written in order to indicate: No, it is not as the people of old believed; the earth was not created by the Father God. The Father God made the Son come forth from Him; and the Son is the creator of the earth.

This is what the Gospel of John was supposed to state. This was basically what the Church Fathers of the first Christian centuries struggled for. This then became so hard to grasp for the developing human intellect that Dionysius the Areopagite preferred to say: Everything the intellect creates is positive theology and does not penetrate into the regions containing the actual mysteries of the universe. We can enter into them only if we negate all predicates, if we do not speak of the existence of God but of God's existence transcending existence, if we do not refer to the personality but the personality transcending personality. Hence, human beings only enter into them if they transpose everything into its negative. Then, through negative theology, he takes hold of the actual secret of existence. So Dionysius and his successors, such as John Scotus Erigena, who was already completely imbued with the intellect, did not believe that the human being was at all capable of explaining these mysteries of the universe with human intellect.

Now, what is implied by saying that the Logos is the creator of everything? We need to recall what was present in all the ancient pre-Christian times and endured in diminished form until the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. People believed that the deity works through the blood and through the body. This led them to believe that when the blood flows through the veins of the human being or the animals, it is really taken away from the gods. It is the rightful possession of the gods. Therefore, human beings can approach the gods if they return blood to them. The gods really wish to keep the blood for themselves; humans have taken possession of it. In turn, human beings must give the blood back to the gods, hence the blood sacrifice of ancient times.

Then came Christ and said: This is not what counts; this is not the way to approach earthly things. They do not originate from those gods who desire the blood. Look upon what works in the human being prior to the earth's influence on him; take bread, something that nourishes human beings, and look at how they initially partake of it. They partake of it by means of the sense of taste. The food in human beings goes to a certain point before it is transformed into blood. For it is only changed into blood after having passed through the walls of the intestines into the organism. Only there does the earth's influence begin; as long as the food has not been taken hold of by the blood, the earth's influence has not yet begun. Therefore, do not view blood as something corresponding to the god; behold that in the bread before it turns into blood and in the wine before it enters the blood. There is the divine element; there is the incarnation of the Logos. Do not look upon the element that flows in the blood, for that is an ancient legacy from the Moon age, the pre-earthly time. Before it turns into blood, food has to do with what is earthly in the human being. Therefore, do away with the conceptions of blood, body, and flesh. Instead, turn your thinking to what has not yet become blood nor flesh; direct your minds to what is prepared out there on earth, to what is of the earth without the moon having had an influence on it, to what comes from the sun's influence. For we behold the things through the light of the sun; we eat bread and drink wine, and in them we eat and drink the force of the sun. The visible things have not come about through the Father God, they have come into being through the Logos.

With this, the whole realm of human thought was directed to something that could not be attained from the whole of nature int he way people in the past had done. It could be attained only by looking upon what the sun lets shine forth upon the earth. Human thinking had been turned to something purely spiritual. Human beings were not supposed to extract the divine element from the physical things of the earth; they were supposed to behold this divine element in the purely spiritual, the Logos. The Logos was contrasted to the ancient conceptions of God the Father. That is, people's minds were directed toward a purely spiritual element. In pre-Christian times, people beheld the deity only through what was in a manner of speaking, organically brewed up in them and then arose within them somewhat like a vision. They did indeed behold the divine arising out of the blood. Now they sought to grasp it in the purely spiritual element. They were to view the visible things around them as a result of the Logos and not of what had only slipped into them, as the result of a god who had been creative in pre-earthly times.

Only by thinking in this manner do we actually approach the concepts of the first Christian centuries. Human beings had been told not to use any force other than that of their consciousness to attain the concepts with which to arrive at the comprehension of the deity. Human beings were being directed toward the spirit. Therefore, what could be said to them? They could be told: Formerly, the earth was so powerful that it bestowed upon you the concepts of the divine. That has ceased. The earth no longer gives you anything. Through your own efforts you must come to the Logos and to the creative principle. Up to now, you have basically worshipped something that was creative in pre-earthly conditions; now you must revere the creative principle in the earthly realm. But you can grasp this only through the power of your I, your spirit.

The first Christians expressed this by saying: The end of the world is near. They meant the end of the earth condition that bestows insights on man without his working on these insights with his consciousness. In fact, a profound truth is expressed in these words concerning the end of the world, for human beings had formerly been children of the earth. They had given themselves up to the forces of the earth. They had relied on their blood to give them their knowledge. This, however, was no longer possible, The kingdoms of the heavens drew near, the kingdoms of the earth ceased to be. Henceforth, man can no longer be a son of the earth. He has to turn into the companion of a spiritual being, a being that has come down to earth from the spiritual world, the Logos, the Christ.

The end of the world was prophesied for the fourth century A.D.: the end of the earth, the beginning of a new kingdom, the dawn of that age when man is to experience himself living as spirit among spirits. This is probably the most difficult to picture for people of our present age, namely, that our present manner of dwelling as human beings would not have been considered by people of the early Christian centuries as living in an earthly manner. It would have been seen as life in the spirit realm, after the destruction of the earth as it was when it still bestowed faculties upon the human being. If we properly understood the first Christians' way of thinking, we would not say that they superstitiously believed in the end of the world, which did not take place. As the first Christians saw it, this end did occur in the fourth century A.D.

The way we live today would have been considered by the first Christians as the New Jerusalem, the kingdom where the human being lives as spirit among spirits. However, they would have said: According to our view, the human being has actually entered heaven, but he is so worthless that he does not realize it. He believes that in heaven everything overflows with milk and honey, that there are no evil spirits against whom he has to defend himself. The first Christians would have said: Formerly, these evil spirits were contained in the things of nature; now they have been let loose, flit about invisibly, and human beings must withstand them.

Hence, in the sense of the first Christian centuries, the end of the world definitely did occur, but people simply did not comprehend this. It was not understood that instead of the god dwelling in the earth, a god whose presence is announced through events on the earth, now the supersensory Logos was present who must be recognized in the supersensory realm and to whom human beings must adhere by means of super-sensory faculties. Now, assuming this, we can comprehend why in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, a feeling of the end of the world was present again in civilized Europe. Again, people awaited the world's end. They did not know what the first Christians had meant by it. Out of this frame of mind of anticipating the end of the world, which spread over all of civilized Europe during these centuries, something developed that caused people to seek Christ in a more physical manner than they ought to have looked for him. People should realize that we are to find the Logos in the spirit, not based on nature's phenomena. This search for the Logos in the spirit is something that these people, who once again were in a mood of expecting the end of the world, did not understand. Instead, they set about this search in a more materialistic way. Thus, this mood gave rise to the Crusades, the material quest for Christ in his tomb in the Orient. People adhered to Christ in this mood of the world's end, in the misunderstood mood of the end of the world.

However, Christ was not found in the Orient. People received approximately the same answer his disciples had received when they sought him tangibly in his tomb — He whom you seek is no longer here — for He must be sought in the spirit.

Now, in the twentieth century, once again a mood of the world's end prevails — and these phenomena will increase — although people have become so lethargic and indifferent that they do not even notice this anticipation of the end of the world. But the man who did speak of this mood of the world's end in his Decline of the West [Note 3] made a significant and noticeable impression, and this frame of mind will become increasingly prevalent.

Actually, we do not need to speak of the end of the world. It has already ended in the sense that humanity can no longer find the spirit based on nature; it is a matter of realizing that we live in a spiritual world. Humanity's error of not knowing that we live in a spiritual world has brought misfortune over us. It causes wars to be bloodier and bloodier. It is becoming increasingly evident that human beings act as if possessed. Indeed, they are possessed by the evil forces who confuse them, for their speech no longer expressed the inherent content of their I. They are as though possessed by a psychosis. This psychosis is much talked about but little understood.

What the first Christians meant by the end of the world, and what they understood by it, did take place. The new age is here, but it must be recognized. People must realize that when the human being perceives, he does perceive as an angel, and when he becomes conscious of his own self, he becomes self-aware as an archangel. The significant point is that the spiritual world has already descended and human beings must become conscious of it. Many have thought that they take the Gospel seriously. Yet, although the Gospels clearly say that all things that were made, hence, all things under consideration should not be explained based on their earthly forces but originated through the Logos, people professed the Father God. He should be acknowledged as one with the Christ but as that aspect of the Trinity that was active until the earth was formed, whereas the actual ruler of the earth is the Christ, the Logos.

These matters could hardly be comprehended anymore in the ninth century when Scotus Erigena was active. This is why, on the one hand, his book about the divisions of nature is so great and significant. On the other hand, as I told you yesterday, this is why it is chaotic as well. This is why you only begin to find your way in it when you view it from the spiritual scientific viewpoint as we have done yesterday and today.

Well, as I said, in the fourth chapter, Erigena speaks of the uncreated entity that is not creating. If we understand the true meaning of what Scotus Erigena describes here, namely, the resting deity in which everything unites, then the necessary step has been taken. The world that is described in the preceding three chapters has come to an end. The world of the resting Godhead, the noncreated and noncreating being, is here.

Insofar as it is nature, the earth is declining. I have often called attention to the fact that this is the case by indicating that even geologists say nowadays that by and large, nothing new originates anymore on the earth. Certainly, as an aftereffect, plants develop, and so forth, plants, animals, and human propagate. But the earth as a whole has turned into something other than what it was. It is becoming fragmentized; it is splitting. The earth as a whole is already in a state of disintegration as far as its mineral kingdom is concerned.

The great geologist, Suess, [Note 4] expressed this in his work The Countenance of the Earth (Das Antlitz der Erde) by saying that we walk around on the corroding crust of the earth. He points to certain regions on earth where this corrosion is evident. He stresses that in the past this was different. This is what the world view and conception of life in the first Christian centuries referred to, though not based on facts of nature but on the moral facts of humanity's evolution.

Indeed, it is true that since the beginning of the fifteenth century we live even more in the resting Godhead than did Scotus Erigena. This Godhead awaits our attainment of Imagination and Inspiration through our own efforts. Then we will be able to recognize the world around us as a spiritual world. We will perceive that we are indeed in a spiritual world that has thrown off the earthly one. This deity awaits our realization that we are living after the end of the world and that we have arrived in the New Jerusalem.

It is indeed a strange spiritual destiny for human beings that they dwell in the spiritual world and neither know it nor wish to know it. There is no substance in any of the interpretations aiming at representing true Christianity as mixed up with some half-baked conceptions of an end of the world, which, after all, did not occur and was only meant symbolically, and so on. What we find in the writings of Christianity must be comprehended in its true meaning. It must be grasped in the right way. There must be clarity concerning the fact that the early Christian views referred to a world that had already changed after the fourth century A.D.

The teachings in the first Christian centuries stood in awe of the abundant wisdom of paganism, and the Christian Church Fathers attempted to connect it with the secret of Golgotha. Matters were actually viewed the way I described it today. Yet, it was not believed that mankind could understand them offhand. This is why the secrets of ancient time were preserved in dogmas meant only to be believed, not to be understood. The dogmas are by no means superstition or untruth. The dogmas are true, but they must be comprehended in the right way. They can only be understood, however, if this comprehension is sought for with the faculty that has developed since the beginning of the fifteenth century.

When Scotus Erigena lived, human reason was still a force. Scotus Erigena still sensed that the angel within him comprehended. After all, this human intellect was still a force in the best minds of that period. Since the middle of the fifteenth century, we have only the shadow of this reason, this intellect. Since that time, we have developed the consciousness soul. Yet we still retain the shadow of the intellect. When a person develops his concepts today, he is indeed far from having any idea that an angel is comprehending something within him. He simply thinks: I am figuring something out concerning the things I have experienced. He certainly does not talk about the presence of a spiritual being that is perceiving, much less of a still higher spiritual being, which he is by virtue of his self-awareness. The faculty with which we try to know things is only the shadow of the intellect that had developed for the Greeks, for example for Plato and Aristotle, and even for the Romans and that had still been alive for Scotus Erigena in the ninth century A.D.
But this is the point, my dear friends. We no longer need to be misled by the intellect; this insight can help us to progress. Today, people follow a shadow, the reasoning or intellect within them. They allow themselves to be misled by it instead of striving for Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, which in turn would lead once again into the spiritual world that actually surrounds us. It is really beneficial that the intellect has become like a shadow. Initially, we established external natural science with this shadowlike intellect. On the basis of this intellect we have to work further, and God rests so as to allow us to work. The fourth stage is completely here today. We just have to become conscious of it. If we do not become aware of this fact, nothing can develop further on earth. For what the earth has received as a legacy is gone; it is no more. New things must be inaugurated.

An individual such as Spengler beholds the fragments of the old civilizations. After all, they were prepared in sufficient numbers. In the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, the mood of the imminent end of the world prevailed. Then came the Crusades. They really accomplished nothing new, for people sought in the material realm something that should have been sought in the spirit. Now, because the Crusades had brought no results, the Renaissance came, so to speak, to the rescue of mankind. Greek culture was again disseminated in what prevails today as education. Greek culture was present again but not as something new. The mathematical and mechanistic concepts of external nature developed since the beginning of the fifteenth century were the only new elements. But the ruins of antiquity were there, too, and they are crammed into our young people in the secondary schools. They then form the basis of civilization. Oswald Spengler encountered these fragments of the Renaissance. Like erratic blocks, they float on the sea that is intent on producing something more. Yet if you merely look upon these floating ice blocks, you behold the decline. For what has been retained from the past is characterized by a mood of decline, and nobody can galvanize our modern education. It is perishing. Out of the spirit, through primal creation, a different civilization must be created for the fourth stage is here.

This is how Scotus Erigena must be understood, who brought along his wisdom — already difficult to understand for him, I would say — from the Irish isle, from the mysteries that had been cultivated in Ireland. This is how we must interpret Scotus Erigena's work. Thus, not only the primal knowledge that can be attained through spiritual science, but also the documents of former times express this meaning if we are willing really to understand them, if we are willing finally to free ourselves from the Alexandrianism of the modern philosophic science that calls itself philology. For we must admit that the way things are handled today, we do not see much of either philology or philosophy. If we observe the methods of cramming and the way examinations are conducted in our educational institutions, very little is present of philo, of love. That has to emerge from a different direction, but we are in need of it once again.

It was my intention, first of all, to present the figure of Scotus Erigena to you. Secondly, I wanted to point out that the ways to properly grasp the buried primordial wisdom have yet to be sought. Nowadays people pay no attention to the fact that the Gospel of St. John clearly states that the Logos is the creative principle, not the Father God.

Source: AUTHORNAME. TITLE. . 2010-07-09. URL: Accessed: 2010-07-09. (Archived by WebCite® at