Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, July 9, 1918:
Our considerations have shown once more that the soul's life, in all its aspects, is complicated. Threads unite the soul to numerous realms, forces, and centers in the universe. We will remind ourselves of what was said a fortnight ago, in order to give us a link with certain truths that we shall begin to consider today, and which will bring a certain aspect of world happenings before our souls in a way that is important for us. I will recapitulate very briefly what was said a fortnight ago.
I said that to know man in reality, it is useless merely to keep to the track of the ordinary consciousness which predominates in him from waking to falling asleep, for we must recognize that within it other states of consciousness exist, dim and shadowy, to be fathomed only by looking at man in his threefold division of head, chest, and limbs. Of course his whole being makes use of the head, on which depends the familiar form of consciousness; but we have established the fact that he has also, by means of his head, a dream-like consciousness which enables him to look back into his earlier Earth lives. In the same way we have found that the limb-man, but in conjunction with the whole man, unfolds a continual dream consciousness of his next life on Earth. What we bring forward in our Spiritual Science as a theory of “repeated Earth lives” already exists as a reality in the human soul. Dim and shadowy it is, but nevertheless a reality. Besides this, it was said that through the process of out-breathing, which belongs to the chest man, a similarly dreamy consciousness develops of the life between the last death and the present birth; and through the process of in-breathing, likewise belonging to the chest man, a dim consciousness of the life to come after death until the next birth. In short, all these forms of consciousness interweave in man. Thus we see that in the whole man we have to do with a delicately woven organization, and that what is customarily dubbed man, what people visualize as man, is in fact only a very limited part of his whole being, and the coarsest part, at that.
This complication comes about through man being embedded with his various members in worlds which are unknown and “supersensible” so far as the ordinary consciousness is concerned. What is embedded in this way in a spiritual world, and proves to be not by any means a very delicate, refined soul-life — as we observe in ordinary human existence if we follow it through different Earth lives — that is not so simple. Yet the total significance of human life can be arrived at only by observing the complicated human being in his progress through various lives. For human vision of today, this intricate web is altogether veiled, disguised.
We shall speak further of this ‘disguise.’ All that is known of a man, as a rule, is the disguise. For that which descends from the spiritual world, takes up its abode in physical man and re-enters the spiritual world at death, does not crudely advertise itself in human life; indeed, much that happens in human life is so crude that the processs whereby man is led from one Earth life to another are hidden, disguised. An idea of the complication of human life is arrived at only by tracing it through long periods of time. And please observe that this tracing — what I have to tell you of the true course of human soul-life through long periods — is widely removed from what outer history relates. The reason for this has often been pointed out. We will speak of it more exactly later on.
One important epoch in the development of humanity — particularly of Western civilized humanity — comprises the seventh and eighth centuries before the Mystery of Golgotha. Just then, a rapid, significant change took place in human souls, especially those of Western civilizations. We remember that this was the time when the third post-Atlantean epoch gradually changed into the fourth. Before this particular period (700 or 800 B.C.) the characteristics of the sentient soul were most conspicuous in humanity; afterwards, those of the intellectual soul were acquired. In the fifteenth century after Christ, not so very far behind us, there was again an important turning point, when the stamp of the consciousness-soul became apparent. Different soul qualities were acquired; there was also a difference in the dreamlike retrospect into an earlier incarnation.
For instance, at the beinning of the Graeco-Latin civilization, in the third to fourth century B.C., a man of normal development in the West, or thereabouts, manifested the qualities of the intellectual or mind-soul. Yet his “dream” was concerned with an earlier Earth-life in which the characteristics were those of the sentient soul. To be sure, in the course of the fourth Post-Atlantean period the faculty of directly perceiving repeated Earth-lives gradually disappeared, but it remained with a good many people, and those who had it looked back to see themselves as “possessors of the sentient soul”. There was a comparatively great difference between what man met within himself at that particular time and what he saw when the retrospective dream became objective to him, and he realized: “That is what I was in my last Earth-life”. Many people saw that they differed widely in their present incarnations from what they had been in the last. Because in their then incarnation they felt according to the intellectual or mind-soul, they realized that they had been sentient-soul beings in their earlier life.
What did it mean to have this feeling: “I was a sentient soul in the last incarnation”? It is an impossible feeling for present-day man, but in the early centuries of the fourth post-Atlantean period man could still remember it vividly. In the third epoch, the Egypto-Chaldean, it was the normal thing to experience — and it means that man was unaware that he was a thinking being. To have thoughts meant nothing to him; but he had an unbroken, vital feeling of standing in connection with the outer world — an outer world entirely steeped in spirit.
It is extremely difficult to describe this sentient-soul consciousness, because it was so vivid to the senses that really a man continually felt himself remaining behind as a shadow in each part of space through which he had passed, For instance, as we should express it, to have sat on a chair and left it for a time produced the feeling, “I am still sitting there”. The feeling of union with outer things was very vivid. Above all, a complete, clear view of one's own spatial form was continually present, and the corresponding feeling of that form. The strength of this feeling made the teaching of reincarnation, at that time consciously given, very powerful; for looking back, a man saw a vivid image of his spatial form in the dream of his earlier Earth-life. His veritable self appeared, as it had been in many different circumstances.
This living vision of himself was lost to many during the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. Man became incapable of producing a force strong enough to grasp what was present in him as dreamlike remembrance of a former Earth-life — chiefly because men who reincarnated later did not, in this dream of earlier Earth-lives, remember the sentient soul, but an intellectual mind-soul, destitute of this vision, vague and inward and not objective. Man could not grasp it; the consciousness of earlier Earth-lives entirely ceased. In a quite definite way it will come back in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, and no one can truly understand human development without taking account of such truths as these.
What arose in humanity was to be found under varied forms in the most diverse regions of the Earth. As I have often pointed out, we must expect that in the future there will again be a time — and it will manifest with particular significance in the third millennium when it will be impossible for anyone not to possess a certain power of looking back into earlier Earth-lives, and more especially also a clear realization that there are more lives to come. This particular consciousness will appear in varied forms in different regions, a fact which it is specially important to understand.
Let us consider the main regions where this will come about in various ways: the great Oriental region, stretching from eastern Europe, into Asia; and then the Occidental region, including western Europe and America. The capacity of the future for perceiving repeated Earth-lives is germinating differently in these two regions. In the West it is already clearly recognized in initiated circles, and the significant thing in the West is that occult capacities are reckoned with, and their employment in outer life is contemplated. To omit this from consideration shows a very indifferent understanding of the development of the West and its whole influence on the history of mankind. Precisely the most important things in the West, the occurrences due principally to the Anglo-American race, happen under the influence of mysterious inner knowledge such as this. To describe the things in question is apt to land us in paradox, because they are things of which the shrewd observer (he always is so shrewd and clear-sighted!) says: “Well, why do not the initiates know that?” We need only recollect what I have told you of the activities of Lucifer and Ahriman, in the past and present, what they do and feel and specially what they have done; yet people think themselves cleverer than they, and claim that they themselves would have avoided “remaining behind”, etc. A correct view of such things is necessary. Certain things can be done by those who are cleverer than man.
There is apparent in the West, from certain mysterious depths, a tendency to oppose the teaching of repeated Earth-lives. An opposition to it as regards the future is noticeable in certain very enlightened circles among the English and Americans. That is the paradox to be noted. It is desired in certain spiritual centers in the West to cause the gradual cessation of these repeated Earth-lives, alternating between birth and death, death and rebirth, so that in the end a quite different arrangement of man's life may be brought about — and means do exist for achieving such a purpose. The object is this: through a certain schooling, a certain acquisition of forces, to transpose certain human souls into a condition in which, after death, they feel themselves more and more akin to the conditions and forces of the Earth, acquiring almost a mania for the Earth-forces — of course those of a spiritual nature — quitting the neighborhood of the Earth as little as possible, remaining in close proximity to it, and by means of this nearness hoping to live on as “the souls of the dead” around the Earth, exempt from the necessity of again entering physical bodies. The Anglo-American race is striving after a remarkable and strange ideal: no longer to return into earthly bodies, but through the souls of the living to have an ever greater influence on the Earth, becoming, as souls, more and more earthly. All efforts are thus to be directed to the ideal of making life here on Earth and life after death similar to one another. Thus will be attained — in our day only by those instructed according to this rule, which will become more and more the prevailing custom — as immeasurably greater, stronger, attachment to the Earth than the recognized “normal” one.
But for the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence on humanity in Lemurian and Atlantean times, the human soul would feel itself less intimately connected with the physical body than it does today. This would have been shown by the fact that numerous people — indeed the majority of mankind — would have regarded their bodies as belonging to the Earth, and would have felt “I live within my body” in the same way as we today experience “I walk on the solid Earth”. Thanks to the Luciferic influence, we feel our bodies nearer to us than the Earth. We say that the Earth is “outside us”, but we reckon our bodies as part of ourselves. From a certain lofty spiritual point of view, we are just as much outside our bodies, even in waking, as we are outside the Earth. In a sense our soul only ‘stands’ upon the brain; the brain is the ‘floor’ for our thinking. This is no longer recognized because of the effect of the Luciferic and Ahrimanic influence. Had there been no such influence, we should have felt ourselves as souls, more alien to the body; we should have regarded it as a sort of movable hillock, on which we supported ourselves, just as we do on a heap of sand.
In certain Anglo-American circles this is organized into a science. They cultivate especially the powers of perception belonging to the body which strengthen the subjection of man to the body, through the incoming of forces not belonging entirely to the body but binding it to the Earth. Various practices are intended to bring home vividly to the man of this race that his body belongs to the Earth. He is to feel not only “I am my arm, my leg” but “I am also the force of gravity passing through my limbs; I am the weight which encumbers my hand or arm”. A strong physical sense of relationship between the human body and the earthly elements is to be acquired.
This strong feeling of relationship between the creature in the physical body and the Earth exists today in certain species of apes, which have it as their soul-life. In them it can be studied physiologically and zoologically. What is present there can be gradually formed into a “system of instruction for human beings”; all that has to be done is to develop the coarse side of relationship with nature into a system of bodily education.
In saying this I am neither railing nor criticizing; I am merely stating facts. Thus it will be possible to bring about a sort of practical Darwinism, intensifying the relation of man to what binds him to the Earth — in a certain sense, to “monkeyfy” him. That is the practical side. It will be pursued through the intensive cultivation — ostensibly instinctive but in fact carefully directed — of sports and such-like things. This fetters the soul, drawing it into a sense of kinship with the earthly, with the Earth itself, and so a spiritual ideal such as I have described is set up.
By this means the continuing alternation of spiritual life and physical life will be overcome, and by degrees the ideal will be realized of living in future periods of Earth-evolution as a kind of “phantom,” of dwelling on Earth in this guise. A very interesting point is that this ideal can be appropriately followed only by the male population, and hence, in spite of all politicl endeavors, an increasing difference between men and women will arise in Anglo-American civilization. Political endeavors certainly seem to be aimed in the opposite direction, but in the inner depths of their being men often want sonething quite different from what they are pursuing by political means. Anglo-American spiritual life will in essence descend to future ages through women; while that which lives in male bodies will strive towards such an ideal as I have described. This will set the pattern of the future Anglo-American race.
If now we look at the East, we have an entirely different picture. Modern man may well look towards the East, for what is to develop in eastern Europe is at present entirely hidden and suppressed. What for the moment has taken root there is of course the reverse of what has to come about. In Russia there is a battle against spiritual life of any kind, against any spiritual foundations for humanity, although it is just in the East that some of these ought to be laid. We are nowadays little inclined to open our eyes and rouse ourselves to an understanding of what is happening. We sleep and let things pass over us, although it is absolutely necessary — in our day particularly — to exercise our power of judgment concerning what is going on. Men such as Lenin and Trotsky should be seen by their contemporaries as the greatest, bitterest enemies of true spiritual development, worse than any Roman Emperor, however atrocious, or the notorious personages of the Renaissance. The Borgias, for instance, are proved by historical events as far as the conflict with the spiritual is concerned to have been mere babes compared with Lenin and Trotsky. These are things which people do not observe today, but it is necessary sometimes to draw attention to such matters.
For one thing surely should attract the attention of our souls — these four years [of war] should have taught us that the old history-myth, elaborated in so many forms, is no longer tenable. Once and for all it should by recognized that in the light of present events the tales about the Roman Empire of the Renaissance are worth no more than “school-girl fiction”, and anyone who clings to them is incapable of being corrected by what can be learnt through awakening to a real estimate of recent events. Something escapes the notice of sleeping mankind — escapes it more now than it did a short time ago, when the war was judged more by its spiritual creations, for in them one could find a true indication of what might be called the elements of a real understanding of eastern Europe; and if we are to look into what is preparing over there we must take account of this.
This region — eastern Europe — will, although not in the very near future, produce people who will cultivate a survey of repeated Earth-lives, although in a different way from the West. In the West a sort of battle against such an idea will be fought, but in the East, there will be an adoption, a reception, of this truth. There will be a longing so to educate human souls that they will become attentive to what lives within them not only between birth and death, but between one Earth-life and another. During this training certain things will be pointed out which these Eastern people will experience with peculiar force. Even to children it will be explained that man possesses something — something he can feel and experience — which is not accounted for by the life of the body. Older people will make the following clear in teaching the young: they will say “Now notice: what do you feel in your soul”? When this question is put to him in various ways, the pupil will have the idea: “I feel as if something were there; something has entered my body which was on Earth long age, went through death, and will come back again some day — but it is a very dim feeling.”
Then, bringing it home more closely to the pupil: “Try to explore further behind this: What relation does your dim feeling bear to the rest of your soul-life?” And the pupil, going behind the various forms of the question (of which the right one will certainly be found) will say: “What I feel, what is destined to live again, is something which destroys my thinking; it will not let me think, its aim is to slay my thoughts”. This will be a very important feeling, arising and being inculcated as a natural thing in Eastern people. They will acquire a feeling of something within, which endures from life to life, yet deprives them, as earthly-beings, of thought; it benumbs them, renders them empty, deadens them. “I cannot think correctly; thought grows blunter when I feel the depths of my human nature; this part of me entombs my thought; although I feel something within me which is eternal, I possess it as a sort of inner murderer of my thought”.
That will be the feeling. Among all exceptionally interesting psychic things which the world has yet to learn from the East will be this; and it occurs to me that those who have concerned themselves with the East, if only in the domain of its art and literature, will find that indications of such things are already there. In Dostoevski's writings such indications are not lacking, where men strive towards the best and highest within them, only to find an inner murderer of their thoughts. The cause is the coming to fruition in a quite special form of the consciousness-soul, the most Earth-bound of all the members of the human soul. As time goes on, and the soul feels the capacity for experiencing its repeated Earth-lives, it will not feel as in ancient Greece in the days before Christ, when the sentient-soul was seen in all its vividness; no, the intellectual-soul or mind-soul will gradually be felt as something lying further away behind, and as the direct killer of thoughts.
The training will go further. These souls will seem to themselves as an inner tomb for their own being, yet a tomb through which the way will be made clear for the manifestation of the spiritual world, and this is the next feeling I will describe. They will say: “It is true: when I experience my immortal part which goes from life to life, it is as though my thought-effort died; my thinking will be put aside — but Divine thought streams in and spreads over the tomb of my own thoughts.” Thus the Spirit-Self arises: the Consciousness or Spiritual Soul descends into the grave. No diagram is needed here — the Consciousness Soul is superseded by the Spirit Self — but I want to show how it will be for the human soul when the ego experiences the gradual transition from the one to the other. In the East this experience will be like this: “The Eternal has so developed on Earth — (descending ever since the Graeco-Latin epoch) — that ordinary thought, which springs only from the human side, is disturbed by it. Man becomes empty, yet not for nothing: into the void gradually flows the new manifestation of the spirit, in its infant form of the Spirit-Self, filling the soul of man.”
Dramas of the soul, tragedies of the soul, necessarily accompany the achievement of such a development. In the East many a man will endure deep inner tragedy and suffering, because he discovers: “My inner being kills my thought”. Those who seek the ideal humanity, because the first step brings no freedom, will succumb to something akin to inner weariness, deadening, dimness.
In order to enable these circumstances to be seen objectively, so that they can be understood with a proper sense of whither they are tending, the central European peoples are there. That is their task, but they will accomplish it only if they recall to mind what I have spoken of in my book The Riddle of Man as a forgotten stream of spiritual life. It is very, very important that this stream, which today is mostly forgotten but once existed as a force of spiritual understanding in relation to the whole world, should be taken hold of again in Middle Europe. Who today realizes what a magnificent understanding of all aspects of human culture was evinced by certain personalities, such as Friedrich Schlegel for example? Or the deeply significant insight into human evolution of such thinkers as Schelling, Hegel, Fichte? People talk a great deal today about Fichte, but, needless to say, those who talk most about such great thinkers understand least. What a revival of understanding would be possible if, in the genuine, real sense of the words, “the Goethe-spirit” animated mankind! We are far from that at present! To keep on saying that the Goethe-spirit must be revived at once, today, is beside the point; what does matter is that in the world we are unjustly criticized because we give the impression of no longer possessing it. The connection, for instance, of our building at Dornach with the Goethe-spirit — I do not believe that many people understand that. Nevertheless it is not unimportant.
What I have been telling you today from the aspect of Spiritual Science as to the characteristics of West and East is declared by the thinkers of West and East alike, only it must be correctly understood. What emerges from political discussions of today in the West must be interpreted in the right way, and certain impulses which appear in connection with man's soul-development must be correctly perceived. The impulse to conquer the Earth, as it prevails among the Anglo-American peoples, is inwardly connected with the ideal of becoming disembodied earthly beings in the future; and Rabindranath Tagore's remarkable lecture on the “Spirit of Japan”, now published in book form, is entirely impregnated with what is dawning in the East. Not that it contains what I have been saying; but pulsing through it are the experiences which such an Eastern thinker, at any rate one from the Far East — what dawns in the Far East is more significant — has to express concerning the coming development in eastern Europe. It is, however, necessary for everybody, whether in the West or East, to recognize the content of the spiritual substance of Middle Europe.
Of course what people first look at are the outward, physical surroundings. Eastern writers — I call to mind Ku Hun Ming — are now publishing significant works; but supposing that the name of Goethe comes up for discussion, where can such an Easterner turn but to the “Goethe Society”, with its headquarters in the town from which Goethe's spiritual activities once rayed forth? There he would find this Goethean spiritual life cared for in the most remarkable way — as never before. The opportunity was presented of making princely munificence fruitful for a widely spread spiritual life; for what the Grand-Duchess Sophie did to encourage the Goethe-cult was immeasurably great. That was really equal to the occasion; but other people were by no means equal to it. A “Goethe Society” was founded. Looking at it from outside one must ask — who supports it, who represents it? Is there anyone in whom the spirit of Goethe lives? It is very characteristic of our time that its representative is a former Finance Minister! We must take into account all the experiences, the soul-experiences, which lead to such a thing. The only ray of hope in the concern is his name, “Kreuzwendedich” [literally: Cross, turn thyself about!], a surname in use for generations. Usually such things are ignored, but they ought not to be; the great need is for more understanding of what is going on in the world.
Now I pointed out last time that by reason of the developments of the last centuries, 540 million extra hands, machine-hands, have been added to the Earth population of 1500-million. Through this an Ahrimanic element entered into human development. It is related to something which has become altogether necessary — the exploration of the world by natural science, as I said before. Within the last four centuries this exploration has obliged man to study nature in detail, to acquire knowledge of natural laws and beings. This sort of observation has been carried into every possible field, even that of history, where it is out of place. Nobody is supposed, in the realm of natural science, to talk for ever about “Nature, Nature, Nature!”, as though the idea were to establish a sort of pan-nature, a universal nature. This conception would do little to advance modern culture, but some outlooks are always inclined to stop short at that point. I will give you an example.
When the investigator of Nineveh, Layard, once asked the Kadi of Mosul about the characters of certain of his subjects and the previous history of his different states, that was a far too concrete scientific way of thinking for the Kadi. He could see no reason why anyone should need to study the characteristics of his subjects as though they were a landscape, or the history of his provinces. That, he supposed, was the foolish European way of studying nature; and he said to the explorer: “Listen, my son; the one and only truth is to believe in God, and this truth should restrain a man from wishing to enquire into His deeds. Look up; you see one star circling round another, also a star with a tail; it has needed many years to get so far; it will need years to pass out of our orbit. Who would be so foolish as to enquire into the path of this star? The hand that created it will lead it and guide it. Listen, my son; you say that it is not curiosity, but that you have a greater craving for knowledge than I have. Now if your knowledge has made you a better man than you were before, you are doubly welcome; but do not ask me to trouble about it. I trouble about no wisdom except that contained in the belief in God. I disdain all other. Or I ask you another question: Has your wisdom, which spies into every corner, gifted you with a second stomach, or opened your eyes to paradise?” — Thus the Kadi of Mosul, on the subject of natural science.
It may perhaps amuse you that the Kadi, a typical representative of this view, should give utterance to such sentiments, but Spiritual Science, although in another realm, has to reckon with the same type of thought. There are plenty of Kadis of Mosul. They are for ever saying, “It is not at all necessary to trouble ourselves about the Spiritual world or anything else, except trust in God.” As the Kadi of Mosul declined to know anything about natural science, so plenty of people around us — esecially official representatives of spiritual life — reject Spiritual Science. A little book has just been printed, written from the best of motives, in which is to be read this sentence : “The wickedness of Spiritual Science lies in the fact that it wishes to know about the spiritual world, whereas the true value of religious life consists in knowing nothing about it — to have faith, great faith to believe in what you do not know.” A man is supposed to be admirable if he can admit “I know nothing, but I accept the Divine.” People do not yet see that with regard to the spiritual world this is the same view as the Kadi's — which makes us smile — with regard to the physical sense-world and the knowledge of it.
That is just the point: man must find the transition to knowledge of the spiritual world exactly as he found it to knowledge of the natural world. This needs to be clearly and firmly recognized, for it will determine whether in the future we shall have a view of the universe on which a social structure for humanity can be founded. Such a structure cannot be founded on what nowadays is called the science of political economy, or something like that. All the doctrines and views that make up political economy are either an inheritance from ancient times, no longer useful, or they are useless, foolish encumbrances, withered rubbish. A real political economy will arise only when thought is permeated by ideas taken from the spiritual world. What is taught in official schools as political economy or as the science of human happiness gets into the heads of such enemies of mankind as Lenin and Trotsky; they are the culmination of it.
What should fill mankind with the creative force of the future must come from knowledge of the spiritual world. It may seem paradoxical to speak as I have done about the West and the East, but spiritual realities are contained in this paradox! Without knowledge of these spiritual realities it will be impossible to find a sound way of ordering earthly conditions, which are inclining more and more towards future chaos. Ideas that not long ago were recognized as significant and valuable are no longer taken seriously. Everywhere there will have to be a complete change of outlook. Religions will mean nothing to humanity unless they are vivified by real knowledge of the spiritual worlds. Their exponents will have to learn — I am referring not to the content of religions but to the way in which they have crystallised into form — that these outer forms are not adapted to speak truly to the inner being of humanity unless they appeal to the real forces which come from the Spiritual World. The counterparts of the Kadi of Mosul can no longer be tolerated in the realm of public life. I speak humbly, unpretentiously; but I believe you will feel that there is much, very much, in what I am saying.
A distinct question now remains to be considered. How is it that these metamorphoses of the human soul, accomplished, say, from the twelfth century till now, or in a wider sense between the seventh or eighth century B.C. and the present time — are so entirely hidden from humanity at large? This depends on the fact that in human nature something still exists belonging to another world, and that this remaining part appertains to the very deepest mysteries of humanity. Man can only be understood by learning something of this other world, which has a continuous interest in not being known. We will speak of this next time.