Tuesday, January 13, 2015
The Etheric Vision of the Future
Rudolf Steiner, Hanover, May 10, 1910:
The question often arises today as to why the teachings of spiritual science must be imparted now, while one hundred and twenty years ago, for instance, one heard nothing of it. Actually, the communication of spiritual truths has always taken place, but in a different form from today. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the teachings penetrated out of small brotherhoods and, for well-considered reasons, were put into writing not by the originators but by other people. Only scanty accounts penetrated out of those early Mystery schools. One can still find today, however, one or two books in whose dim pages — dim only on the surface — are quite wonderful things. Such a book, Aurea Catena Homeri, was mentioned by Goethe. What its pages reveal will seem like fantasy or nonsense to modern readers, especially the most “enlightened.” If one approaches this “nonsense” with the tools of spiritual science, however, one will find something quite different. The greatest secrets are disclosed to one who studies its pages carefully. In earlier times only a few individuals could advance into this occult science, but now there is unlimited opportunity for everyone whose heartfelt longing leads him there. How has this come about and why may these secrets now be brought to the public?
There is almost no historical age that cannot be described as a time of transition. Every age is asserted to be so, with more or less justification. Our present time, however, in which such fundamental events are occurring, can rightly be called an era of transition. To understand the deep foundations of our time, it is necessary to consider some well-known facts. We are approaching an era in which the ascent to higher worlds must take place with clear, clairvoyant consciousness. The old clairvoyance of Atlantis expired in 3101 BC, and then the time came when human beings began to perceive everything around themselves with an understanding bound to the brain. (This date is not to be taken as an absolute but as an approximate date.) The clairvoyant consciousness of humanity had to be darkened for a certain time in order that man should fully master the physical plane. The lesser Kali Yuga, or the Dark Age, now began and lasted 5,000 years; it had run its course by 1899. Now a time is being prepared in which it will become possible for people to unfold delicate clairvoyant faculties even without special training. From 1930 to 1950 there will already be people who will say, “Around that person I can see something like a bright band of light.” Another will see something rising before him like a dream-picture with a strange content. If this person has just performed a deed or action, something will appear to him that will rise like a picture in his soul. This picture will show him what action he must undertake sooner or later to compensate for this deed. It may happen that a person in whom these faculties are found relates them to a friend who will perhaps tell him, “Yes, there have always been human beings who know what you have seen. They call it ‘the etheric body of man,’ and what rises up in you like a dream-picture they call ‘karma.’”
Spiritual science has had to appear so that this age of etheric clairvoyance, which redeems the age of thinking that is controlled by an understanding bound to the brain, should not pass by unrecognized. As the Christ had to have a forerunner, so spiritual science had to appear in order to prepare for this clairvoyant age. Something could certainly happen now that would crush the bud of these delicate faculties of soul. This danger exists when people will not listen to the teachings of spiritual science, when they close themselves to them. Then the persons in whom these faculties appear will be called fantastic and foolish and will be locked up in mental hospitals. Many will themselves believe that they have had hallucinations; others will be afraid to speak about them, dreading to be laughed at or ridiculed. All this can lead to destruction of the new faculties of soul. Clever and enlightened persons in that era — you can put “enlightened” in quotation marks — will then say, “Look here! People lived long ago who declared that in our age there would be individuals with special faculties of soul. Where are these people? We are not aware of them.” Nevertheless, the prophecy of spiritual science will have been fulfilled. Although everything could be stifled by the increasing power of materialism, one can expect from souls today an understanding for that freer and lighter age just beginning.
Everything that happens in the world has an effect on everything else. The microcosm corresponds to the macrocosm. Let us study the events in the world that are connected with us. People are so easily satisfied when they can assert the truth of something. For spiritual science, however, it is of less concern always to emphasize that something is true than that this truth is also important. Much, for instance, is spoken and written about the similarity between human and animal skeletons. That is certainly a fact to which there could be no objection; yet there are truths that are much, much more important. There is, for example, the truth everyone can observe, a fact standing right before our eyes and yet connected with a great cosmic event. This is the truth that man is the only being who walks erect, who has raised himself up. Concerning the oft-mentioned similarity of the human skeleton to that of the ape, the erect gait of the ape has been botched. The ape tried to raise himself up but did not succeed. His erect gait is bungled. The erect gait of man is directly connected with the sun and the earth, with their spiritual working one upon the other. In order for man to walk upright, the sun and earth had to separate from each other. The animal is earthbound, but man has raised himself, and his countenance is turned upward. He walks in a vertical line, and with his erect gait he is a continuation of the earth's radius. That this truth is of importance is something we must feel; we must learn to feel it.
Let us look at another important instance of correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm. In outer form a human being appears as either masculine or feminine. It is important to consider, however, that only in the outer form is one a man or a woman, not in one's inner being (we are speaking now of the outer characteristics in one incarnation). What contrast in the macrocosm corresponds to what appears in us as masculine and feminine? To clarify this, we must cast a glance into world space. There we find material substances that have remained backward; they have not taken on the laws of the sun and earth but have remained at the ancient Moon stage of evolution. Just the opposite is the case with the present moon, which is a body that has precipitated its own evolution. On account of this, it has become too strongly hardened. It had to dry up and freeze because it overshot its normal development. It is a future Jupiter condition that has miscarried, as if in human life a child had the constitution of an old man. The moon has thus missed its strength by going too far, thereby causing its own death.
In general, people will swear to a truth if it comes to them as an abstract principle; in concrete terms, however, this same truth appears to them as illusion. In all theosophical books one finds the remark that the world is an illusion or maya. Every theosophist knows this as truth and often repeats it. To say that the masculine or feminine body is only an illusion contributes something concrete to the abstraction. It is a fact that neither the masculine nor the feminine body, with the exception of the head, is properly developed. The feminine body is not fully developed, whereas the masculine has gone too far in its development. There is no middle position here. The feminine form is untrue in its backwardness, the masculine because it went too far beyond the middle position of development. Great artists have always felt these imperfections. Clothing arose from an exalted feeling for this fact. The ancient robes of priests were supposed to represent what the human body should be. Only sensual people can devote themselves to nudist colonies, because they recognize no higher expression than the body they see before them.
There is thus a lunar body, the moon, which has gone too far in its evolution, and such bodies as have remained at an earlier stage of evolution, namely, the comets. You may ask what all this has to do with man and woman. A comet brings with it the laws of the earlier Moon and therefore renews these ancient laws. It also brings with it the cyanide compounds, as has recently been established by outer science and has been known for a long time to occult science. Just as oxygen and carbon compounds are necessary to us on earth, so the cyanides were essential on the ancient Moon. In 1906 I enlarged on this in Paris, at the annual meeting of the Theosophical Society, in the presence of Colonel Olcutt, our president at that time, and various others.
Because a woman's body has remained behind in its development, it has preserved a softer, more flexible, less substantial materiality; her brain can more easily be ruled by the spirit. A man, however, having rushed ahead in his development, now has difficulty prevailing over his rigid material and more impermeable brain substance. For this reason, a woman is more receptive to new ideas, her soul takes possession of them, and she can more easily direct her thoughts through the brain. It is harder for a man to set into motion the rigid parts of his brain. It thus stands to reason that there are, for example, more women than men in the Theosophical Society, a fact much deplored on various sides. Perhaps the men who stand in such dread of appearing as women in a later incarnation will find these thoughts somewhat consoling.
We will now apply the law of correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm, between the large and small worlds, to another important matter. Just as in ordinary life we have our humdrum days — waking up, going to bed, waking up again, going about our usual tasks — so it is also in the far reaches of space. There, too, everything goes about its usual course; the rising and setting of the sun are repeated in a regular rhythm. Just as a family's methodical pace is interrupted when a child appears, since a completely new impulse enters earthly existence with a new spiritual being, so the appearance of a new heavenly body, such as a comet, has the same effect in space. All material is the expression of something spiritual, and occult science is able to indicate what lies behind the phenomena. The way in which modern science tries to occupy itself with comets is similar to a fly observing the Sistine Madonna. When it crawls over the Madonna, it certainly sees the colors, sees a spot of red here, a spot of blue there, but beyond this it sees nothing at all. This “fly-science” — the term is naturally used only in reference to what was mentioned above — knows nothing of the inner lawfulness whose outer sign is the comet. Halley's Comet particularly has the tendency to drive humanity still further into materialism. Without Halley's Comet, the books of the Encyclopedists would not have appeared, and there would not have been articles by Moleschott and Büchner after 1835. Today the ominous sign of the comet is appearing again, and if people do not listen to the teachings of spiritual science and do not make use of what is offered through it, spirituality will receive a death-blow.
There is another significant sign, however, one that makes it possible for humanity to escape the destructive influence of the comet; its forces are even stronger than the comet's. This is the spring sign of Pisces, the Fish, in which we have stood for several centuries; at the time of Christ the vernal equinox was in the constellation of Aries, the Ram. We are thus well into this sign of great spiritual forces that will carry us upward. Through understanding these forces, we will develop the faculties that we will be able to attain in this age of Pisces.
Man rises to true human dignity only when he grasps from the depths the relationships that lie at the foundation of the spiritual. People should not rush so blindly past what the heavenly signs have to show them. Wisdom should inflame and enlighten its association with small and great. You may take as an example of this the wisdom-filled organization of an anthill. There the whole has a meaning; every ant feels itself to be a member of a whole. Human beings, however, regulate their social life according to what each individual considers useful for himself. They run around each other senselessly, without understanding. Human life is really nonsensical in many ways.
Whenever a person takes on an inner discipline, however, he makes himself ripe for what should be brought forward as a third fact: the possibility of looking out into the etheric with newly awakened faculties. There the soul will see what Paul once saw: the Christ in His etheric body. Without books and documents this great event — the second coming of Christ — will take place for those who have made themselves worthy of it. It is the obligation of anthroposophy to announce this. There are already human beings who sense that we have overcome the Dark Age and are approaching a more luminous era. Anthroposophists must walk this path consciously. Anthroposophy must bring its fruits to humanity, so that souls are made capable of uniting themselves with Christ. Whether these souls inhabit a physical body or not makes no difference; He has descended to the dead as well as to the living. The great and sublime event of Christ's appearance in the etheric thus has significance for all the world.