Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Atlantean Impulses in the Mexican Mysteries. The Problem of Natural Urges and Impulses. The Problem of Death
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 24, 1916:
As a continuation of yesterday's lecture, certain things must be said that are connected with subjects spoken of here a week ago. As a number of friends who were not then present are here for a special meeting, I will repeat certain matters in the lectures still to be given. This may be useful, because from remarks that have been made to me, it is obvious that important points have been misunderstood.
At the very outset let us be quite clear that the course of evolution as we have learned to know it in connection with great cosmic happenings proceeds both in these great cosmic phenomena and in the phenomena of human historical development. The so-called fourth post-Atlantean epoch, during which the Greco-Roman culture developed and attained its greatness, must be of particular interest to us in our age. As you know, from the standpoint of the science of the spirit this fourth epoch lasted until the beginning of the fifteenth century A.D. With the dawning of the fifteenth century, trends began to manifest in European culture of which we heard, for instance, in yesterday's lecture.
When we picture the nature of the Greco-Roman epoch, it appears to us as a kind of recurrence or revival of what spread over the earth as human culture during the period of Atlantis. It has often been said that the thoughts, the perceptions, and also the social life of the Greeks become intelligible when we regard this fourth post-Atlantean culture — although Atlantean culture was, of course, much more elemental and instinctive. It assumed a more spiritual form in the culture of Greece and Rome. What had been direct experience in Atlantis was transposed into reality in Greece through fantasy, imagination and thoughts, and through the will, which, in turn, was inspired, by fantasy and imagination. We must realize that this Greco-Roman culture constituted a deep disillusionment for the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. The luciferic and ahrimanic powers of the hierarchy standing nearest to the human hierarchy, desired that the Atlantean culture, as it had been in Atlantis, should simply re-appear in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. In other words it was the intention of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers that everything that had constituted the essential nature of Atlantean culture should be merely repeated during the Greco-Roman age. (You can read about this in An Outline of Occult Science or in the book Cosmic Memory.)
This plan was frustrated inasmuch as humanity was raised to a higher stage consistent with the post-Atlantean era. What was essentially new and great in Greek and Roman culture constituted a spiritual disillusionment for the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. Through their different influences these powers desired to educate the Greeks and so to develop their powers of fantasy that the souls of men would gradually have become weary of the earth, would lose their inclination to incarnate further on the earth, and would tend to withdraw, as souls, from the earth in order to found a realm and planet of their own. The effect of this influence was annulled through the leadership of those powers we call the normal hierarchies, whereby the quality of fantasy and imagination in the Greeks, which also influenced their social life, was transformed into joy in the earthly. The Greek received into his nature such a joy in the life of earth and of the senses that he had no desire to live merely in the world of imagination where his soul would be alienated from earthly existence, but inclined rather to the attitude expressed in the well known words, “Better to be a beggar on the earth, than a king in the realm of shades.” This joy in life between birth and death enabled the normal powers to avert from the Greeks the danger inherent in the plan of the luciferic powers, namely, to lead away the souls of men so that the bodies still to be born on the earth would have gone about without egos, and the souls would have departed to a special planet of their own.
In Roman culture, on the other hand, Ahriman's aim was to help Luciferic by shaping the Roman Empire and what followed it in such a way that it would have become a great earthly mechanism for ego-less human beings. In this way he would have been of assistance to Lucifer. Whereas Lucifer's desire was to extract the juice of the lemons for himself, as it were, Ahriman, working in the Roman Empire, set out to thoroughly squeeze the lemons and to create an entirely mechanistic state organization. Thus do Ahriman and Lucifer play into each other's hands. The plan was frustrated by the development in a preeminently egoistic sense in the people of the Roman Empire of the concept of Civis, the citizen. Human egoism, be it remembered, can only develop in physical existence on the earth. Thereby Ahriman's plan to make men into ego-less beings was frustrated. It was precisely the bleakness, the lack of fantasy in Roman culture, the egoism in Roman politics and system of rights that thwarted Ahriman's plan.
The Greek and the Roman epochs were a great disillusionment for Ahriman and Lucifer. Once again they had not attained their goal. The destiny of Ahriman and Lucifer is that they work with their forces in earth evolution and repeatedly make the greatest efforts to hold back the wider progress of evolution; they try to establish a realm for themselves, and have again and again to suffer disillusionment. As I have said before, to ask why Lucifer and Ahriman are unable to perceive that their strivings will ultimately be of no avail is to judge the spiritual by human standards. Lucifer and Ahriman have a faculty of judgment different from that of man. We cannot judge from the human standpoint what is observed in the spiritual world. If we do so, we should soon be considering ourselves much cleverer than a god, or a being belonging to some higher hierarchical order. As we know, Lucifer and Ahriman, although they are retarded spirits, belong to a hierarchical order higher than that of man. It is therefore understandable that they are repeatedly disillusioned, but their strivings always begin anew.
Then came the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, which has definite tasks in the stream of progressive spiritual evolution. Whereas the Greek life of fantasy, and the egoism of Rome were to develop in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the task of the fifth epoch was to develop the gift of material perception. I have characterized this by calling the ideal of material perception, in the sense of Goethe's “primal phenomenon,” the pure perception, the pure beholding of external reality. This faculty could not operate in earlier times because then the perception of material reality was invariably mingled with what came from atavistic clairvoyance. Men did not see the pure phenomenon, and they did not see pure external, material existence as such. They saw external existence veiled in the phantasmagoria of visionary clairvoyance. If people would observe a little more closely they would realize, even from history, that this is so. Plato did not consider sight as being so passive a faculty as we consider it in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Plato, the Greek, says expressly: Sight consists in a kind of fire going out from the eye to the objects. Plato, therefore, still knew something about the activity in sight. This activity had to be laid aside, forgotten, lost, in order that a different faculty belonging to the fifth epoch might arise. This faculty of the fifth epoch, which lasts from the beginning of the fifteenth century until the fourth millennium, consists in the development of the gift of free imagination that arises in complete inner freedom. On the one side, the primal phenomenon; on the other free imagination.
Goethe spoke of the primal phenomenon and also of free imagination. References to what he says in Faust have been made on many occasions. Here we have the beginnings of what must engross evolution in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. The fifth epoch will thereby receive its stamp. But in this same epoch human beings will have to battle against attacks of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers that will be stronger than those launched in the days of Greek and Roman culture. Again in this later epoch the aim of the luciferic and ahrimanic powers is to alienate the souls of men from earthly life on the one hand, and on the other so to mechanize earthly life itself, to make its outer form so entirely mechanistic, that it would be impossible for the ego of man to live in the social order of the earth. He would therefore take leave of it to enter a life apart from the earth upon a separate planet.
When we speak of the attacks of luciferic and ahrimanic powers, such things as are here indicated are prepared long beforehand. These attacks begin actually to operate first during the fourth or fifth century of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, but behind the curtains of world history, even before the beginning of this fifth epoch, complete and intense preparation was made by the luciferic and ahrimanic powers. Their plan was to bring all human faculties and human forces of will under the sway of a longing to be alienated from the earth, to leave the earth and build up a separate planetary body, while the earth was to be deserted and left desolate. As I say, the very strongest attacks have been undertaken. Think of what gave to culture its basic tone in the epoch of Atlantis. Lucifer and Ahriman wish, during the post-Atlantean period, to interpose the old Atlantean culture everywhere so that the faculties imparted by the progressive powers are rendered primitive for the fifth post-Atlantean epoch and human beings will desire to depart. The attempt, therefore, consisted in placing everything that developed into a service of a world beyond the earth, as I have indicated. Thus, from two sides, from that of Lucifer and that of Ahriman, the spirit reigning in ancient Atlantean life was to be revived in order that the impulses connected with that ancient life might enter into the evolution of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
You will remember that in Atlantean times the impulses within the souls of men were turned to the Great Spirit who was designated by a word or sound of which an echo still exists in the Chinese Tao. Such was the designation of the Great Spirit in the time of Atlantis. The luciferic and ahrimanic striving consists essentially in bringing what had come later and what was still to come, into the service of the Tao, into the service of the Great Spirit. This was not, of course, the Great Spirit as he had reigned in Atlantis, but a being who had come after him, a kind of little son. Lucifer and Ahriman strove to resuscitate Atlantean impulses by reckoning, not with the normal powers of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, but with the impulses that had remained behind in the service of the Great Spirit Tao. The only possibility of achieving this end was to transfer the impulses that had worked in the culture of the now submerged Atlantis to the regions that had emerged after the Atlantean flood. Thus a part of what had succeeded the Great Spirit passed over to the East, to Asia, as it were, where certain mystery cults were gradually established during the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D.
These mystery cults assumed a certain character inasmuch as they were a renewal, a revival, of the ancient cult of Tao in its original form, not in the form in which it still exists among the degenerate Chinese who have intellectualized it. These mystery cults in Asia were a revival of that kind of initiation that led to actual perception of the elemental spiritual, living and weaving beneath the material world of the senses, and to actual perception of the One Great Spirit. Certain priests of these Asian mysteries were initiated into the ancient Atlantean cult, which naturally led to delusions because it was unsuited to this later epoch. One of these priests had attained such an advanced stage in his initiation in Asia that he possessed full knowledge of the nature of the Atlantean impulses and was able to hold actual converse with the successor, the unlawful successor, of the Great Spirit Tao. It was he, who, in Asia, transmitted the inspiration he had received through the Great Spirit, to an external, worldly power, to a pupil who then became known in history as Genghis Khan.
Genghis Khan was the pupil of a priest who had been initiated into these Asian mysteries, and he instilled into Genghis Khan the following. The time has now come for divine justice to scour the earth. The charge has been laid upon you to put this divine justice into operation, and you must now place yourself at the head of all those men who, starting out from Asia, can enact divine justice all over the earth. Similar attempts modeled on the campaign of the Huns and so forth, had failed, but now, essentially through the impulse given by this Asian priesthood, the Mongol campaign was set in motion. This campaign was intended to carry into European culture influences that would have caused the souls of men to believe in divine justice, to fall under its sway, and gradually to take leave of the earth without any inclination to return. So the culture of the earth would have been destroyed. This was the inner purpose of the Mongol onslaughts that spread from Asia, and which, as you know, were not overthrown by physical deeds.
Remarkably, at the battle of Liegnitz in the thirteenth century, the Mongols were not conquered but remained the victors. Then, quite inexplicably, they turned back toward Asia without advancing further into Europe. So here too there is actual external evidence that a counterstroke, manifesting in a spiritual way, was put into operation. As has been said, the Europeans had not conquered the Mongols in Silesia; the Europeans had themselves been conquered. Although the Mongols were the victors, they turned back to Asia. But, in a sense, just because the purely external onslaught did not come to pass, or did not go very far, the impulses remained in Europe in the state of distillation in which they would have to operate in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. So, in the cultural impulses that came over from the East, there is clearly and yet to be perceived what was intended to be brought to Europe as an aftermath of the mysteries of the Great Spirit.
Another part of the mystery culture of ancient Atlantis made its way, not toward the East, but toward the West, to the lands of America discovered later on by the Europeans. There the more ahrimanic part of the irregular post-Atlantean culture lived itself out. Whereas the luciferic part lived on more in Asia, the ahrimanic part worked more in America. Within America impulses were to arise that could then percolate from the West. Just as those other impulses could work from the East, so these could infiltrate from the West in order that the ahrimanic attack might be made in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
Hence, in the West, the more ahrimanic side of the outlived Atlantean mystery culture was promulgated. This led to the establishment of mysteries that inevitably make a most repulsive impression upon those who have grown up in the tender culture of modern times, and do not like to hear the truth but only blessedness, as it is often called. These post-Atlantean mysteries developed especially on the soil of Mexico. Mysteries were established there, but they spread over a large part of the America the Europeans had not yet discovered. If their impulses and workings had been victorious, these mysteries would have driven souls away from the earth. By this means the service performed by Ahriman, the squeezing out of the lemons, would have become effective. The earth would gradually have become desolate, having upon it only the forces of death, whereas any living souls would have departed to found another planet under the leadership of Lucifer and Ahriman.
In order to execute the ahrimanic part of this task, it was necessary for the priests of those ahrimanic Atlantean mysteries to acquire faculties possessing the highest degrees of control and mastery over all the forces of death in earthly working. These forces would have made the earth; together with physical man — for the souls were to depart — into a purely mechanistic realm, a great dead realm in which no ego could have a place. These faculties would have had to be connected also with mastery of the mechanistic element in everything living, of the mechanistic elements in all life. For this reason these mysteries had to be instituted in a truly devilish form because such forces as would have been needed for the powerful aims of Ahriman can only arise when initiations of a special kind are attained. Such were these initiations of the ahrimanic post-Atlantean era in America. Everyone who was to attain a certain degree of knowledge was made to realize that this knowledge is acquired through certain faculties of perception that can only be engendered through an act of murder. Thus nobody whom had not committed murder was admitted to a certain degree of this initiation. The murder was performed under special circumstances. Steps led up to a kind of catafalque, a scaffold-like structure. The one to be murdered was tied to this and his body bent in such a way that his stomach could be excised with a single cut. This operation, the excision of the stomach, had to be performed with great dexterity. Certain experiences arose from the act of having cut into the living organism with such consummate skill, and under such special conditions. These experiences had to be acquired and through them a certain degree of knowledge concerning the mechanization of the earth could then be attained. Every time higher stages of initiation were to be reached, further murders had to be committed.
This cult was dedicated to the successor, the son of the Great Spirit, in the form he had assumed in America, and who was designated by a sound that approximates Taotl. Taotl is an ahrimanic distortion of the successor of Tao. This being, Taotl did not appear in a physical body but only in an etheric form. His arts, which were essentially impulses for the mechanization of earthly culture and of all earthly life, were acquired through these initiations I have described to you.
Now these initiations had a definite purpose. As has been said, the initiate acquired actual powers of black magic, the application of which would have led to the mechanization of the culture of the earth and to the expulsion of all egos, so that the bodies born would no longer have been capable of bearing an ego. But as forces in the world are in perpetual interaction, he who possessed such powers would also have become earth-bound; the initiate himself would have been permanently fettered to the earth forces. His act bound him to forces of which you will be able to learn something tomorrow at the performance of the scene from Faust, if you will follow attentively what the Lemurs represent. By these practices the initiate united himself with the earth forces and with everything that causes death on the earth. Thereby, he would himself have lost his soul. He saved himself from this fate by bringing it about that, as a result of the excision of the stomach, the soul of the one whom he murdered had lost his desire to come to the earth again and also the soul of the victim was enabled, through the intention of the murderer, to draw the murderer's soul into the realm that was to be founded beyond the earth. The soul of the initiated murderer was thus also to be drawn into the kingdom of Lucifer and Ahriman.
Many opposing sects were founded with the object of countering this devilish cult. One such sect was that of Tezcatlipoca. He too was a being who did not appear in a physical body but who was known to many of the Mexican initiates, in spite of the fact that he lived only in an etheric body. Tezcatlipoca was a being akin to Jahve or Jehovah. The aim of his cult, working in opposition to those of Taotl, was to establish a Jahve religion suited to the terrible conditions prevailing in Mexico. Tezcatlipoca was a spirit akin to Jahve.
Another sect venerated Quetzalcoatl. He, too, was a being who lived only in an etheric body. Quetzalcoatl was a being of whom we may say that he was connected with the Mercury forces. He was connected with medical art of a certain character. Such beings are always described by those who can perceive them through clairvoyance in such a way that the description conveys the impression of the actual reality. When Quetzalcoatl is described as a figure with a serpent-like body, as a green feathered serpent, this indicates to those who understand such matters that he was an actual being, but one who appears only in an etheric body. This cult continued through many millennia. It was widely practiced, not in public but within the precincts of certain Mexican mysteries, in order that the necessary post-Atlantean cultural impulses might be developed in secret in an ahrimanic form.
A third movement also developed in those regions. Counter-movements were necessary, and had there been none, the influences of these forces upon the culture of Greece and Rome, and later upon the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, would gradually have become so strong that they would have proved invincible to the progressive powers. Thus, a further counter-movement developed as a result of the birth of a being who lived in a physical body in contrast to those beings who only manifested in etheric bodies. The name given to this Being may be expressed by a combination of syllables that approximate Vitzliputzli. Vitzliputzli was a human being, a being who appeared in a physical body. In Vitzliputzli the spiritual individuality lived who, within a human body, took up the fight against the mysteries I have been describing. Among the Mexicans it was said of Vitzliputzli that he was born of a virgin who had conceived by the heavenly influence of a bird having drawn near to her. If by occult means, so far as it is possible, we investigate the life of Vitzliputzli in the Western Hemisphere we find this remarkable fact. He lived at the time when, in the Eastern Hemisphere, the Mystery of Golgotha was taking place, namely, between the years 1 and 33 A.D. That is the remarkable fact. Vitzliputzli was able to make short shrift of the most important initiates of the Mexican mysteries against whom he waged violent war.
It was human being, an initiate, not one of the three spirits, but an initiate, against whom Vitzliputzli fought. Vitzliputzli, a super-sensible being but in human form, battled with every means at his disposal against the initiate who had been responsible for the greatest number of murders, who had attained the greatest power, and of whom it can be said that if his aim had been realized, it would have betokened the victory of this ahrimanic post-Atlantean culture. Vitzliputzli fought against him and — as already said, this can only be discovered by occult means — in the year 33 A.D. succeeded in causing this mightiest black magician to be crucified. Thus, in the other hemisphere of the earth, an event parallel to the Mystery of Golgotha took place, inasmuch as the greatest black magician of all was crucified by the action of Vitzliputzli who had appeared on the earth for this purpose. As a result, the power of these mysteries was thereby broken so far as the fourth post-Atlantean epoch was concerned. It was subsequently revived, however, and history tells of the fate suffered by numerous Europeans who went to America after the discovery of that continent. Many Europeans met their death at the hands of Mexican priest-initiates who bound them to scaffold-like structures and cut out their stomachs with expert skill. This is a matter of historical knowledge, and it was an aftermath of what I have been describing to you.
By these means the ahrimanic impulse was inculcated into the etheric nature of the Western world. As I have said, this impulse in the fourth epoch was broken as a result of the crucifixion of the great initiated black magician by the deed of Vitzliputzli. Nevertheless, so much force remained that a further attack could have been made upon the fifth epoch, having as its aim so to mechanize the earth that the resulting culture would not only have culminated in a mass of purely mechanical contrivances but would have made human beings themselves into such pure homunculi that their egos would have departed. The Europeans were meant to acquire knowledge of this world, and indeed the modern age begins with the people of Europe being drawn to America. Whereas on the one side the campaigns of Genghis Khan and his successors were to have executed as it were a divine justice, on the other side, there was prepared an atmosphere of wild, ahrimanic, elemental forces into which the Europeans were to enter. In such matters complete cooperation takes place between Ahriman and Lucifer. For example, the Europeans were not to go over to that other world with disinterested, unselfish feelings but with hankerings and greed for something concerning which they gave way to all kinds of delusions. Later on it was possible to coarsen what was at first clothed in wonderful fantasy, inasmuch as the discovery by the Europeans of the wealth of external nature in America gave an intense stimulus to their hankerings and greed. But to begin with this was to take a more idealistic form. Thus, here again we have an example of cooperation between the luciferic and ahrimanic forces that always work hand in hand.
A successor of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, had settled in China as a ruler after the Mongols had stormed over to Europe. To Kublai Khan in China there came from Europe a Venetian, Marco Polo. At the court of Kublai Khan, who was himself under the influence of the initiation I have previously described, Marco Polo was deeply and fundamentally influenced. He wrote a book of just such a kind as to excite the imagination of the Europeans concerning the Western Hemisphere. Marco Polo's Travels spoke of a magic land in the West, which stirred up longings to discover it. It was this book that induced Christopher Columbus to set out on his voyage to America. So you see how greed was guided into a world of fantasy. Things work together with extraordinarily clever foresight. You must realize that there is plan in world history in which the evil powers also come into the picture, and that the methods with which history is studied today enable us merely to observe historical life from the external aspect. The only possibility of acquiring real knowledge is to connect the right facts in the light of the science of the spirit, such as the discovery of America at a definite point of time, and the stirrings of desire for a land of fantasy, this desire being, in its turn, an impulse capable of attracting souls away from the earth.
The fitting mood for discovering America at a definite epoch is created by the description of this land of fantasy associated with the stirring up of desire. It is a mood that worked especially upon the subconscious forces in the souls of men, and it was able to work on further in the cultural life. We must think of Marco Polo and his book as being definitely connected with what instigated Christopher Columbus to travel to the West. It is well known that his wish was to discover the magic land; indeed, this is mentioned in ordinary history.
I have here described how the ahrimanic and luciferic impulses work in order to make their attacks upon the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. Now, this fifth epoch is such that the human beings lives in a middle sphere of the life of soul. Man's life of soul in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch must be protected from direct perception of the ahrimanic forces. True, man must learn through the science of the spirit to enter their domain, but external life must be protected in order that the powers that were mentioned both yesterday and today may unfold. These forces that have been brought to the earth in the concrete way that has been described, work below the level of the ordinary normal consciousness. Knowledge of man's life of soul is not attained by saying, as a generalization: There is a realm of consciousness, and there is a realm of subconsciousness, and natural urges and impulses work upward out of the subconscious. It is necessary to know how these urges and impulses are brought into existence on the earth, and to understand the concrete facts. In many domains we see aftermaths in the consciousness that is unfolded by the human soul in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. We can picture the ahrimanic forces that originated in the way described as being active below the threshold of consciousness like lava, like volcanic forces under a soil that emits smoke if one sets fire to paper above it. This shows that beneath the soil there are terrifying forces that pour from every aperture under such circumstances. So it is with the forces of the soul. Beneath what is known to consciousness there are forces that have been influenced by what I have described. Then they press upward. Sometimes they reveal themselves only slightly, but at other times they force their way upward. In the super consciousness the luciferic forces are discharged into the soul as lightning and thunder discharge when the air is to be purified. There is little consciousness of these luciferic forces in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch; during this epoch man's consciousness functions in a middle realm.
Investigations into what is thus working in the subconscious reveal that ahrimanic and luciferic attacks come from two directions, and that culture is really created by an interworking between the normal progressive hierarchies and the luciferic and ahrimanic forces. Now just because culture acquires a specific character in this way, human beings in the several regions of the earth are led in different ways to the great problems of life. I shall speak further of the aspect of knowledge and what then passes into the sphere of the social life.
We may assume that certain ahrimanic forces flow into the European culture from the realm of the subconscious in the wake of the impulses of which we have heard. These ahrimanic forces guide in a definite direction impulses that, in their turn, proceed from the good and progressive powers. It can be said that problems of two kinds, strivings for knowledge of two kinds, have arisen. But we must not say that human life has taken on a certain coloring as a result of the ahrimanic forces alone because interworking has taken place between the ahrimanic forces and the normal progressive forces. The minds of men were directed primarily to two problems. First, the problem of natural urges and impulses and second, the problem of birth. These expressions are derived, of course, from the most conspicuous phenomena. A great deal is embraced by these problems but I shall speak only of certain matters.
Let us think of the problem of natural urges and impulses. Under the influence of the forces I have described, human contemplation and striving is directed to a perception, to an experiencing, of man's natural urges and impulses. The mind is directed to these impulses and a certain view of life gradually unfolds. The problem of natural urges and impulses transforms itself into the problem of happiness or prosperity, which assumes a definite character. Hence in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, especially in the culture of the West, you find strivings in connection with the problem of prosperity, strivings directed to the creation of prosperity in life. Such striving is influenced by the forces I have described. Investigations are made, for example, into what can be done in order that the life of human beings on earth may be as happy and prosperous as possible. The establishment of earthly prosperity becomes an ideal. I do not say that ahrimanic forces alone are at work here; the good progressive forces are also present.
Thought about happiness and prosperity is, of course, quite justified. But under the influence of Ahriman it has assumed a certain character as a result of a really devilish tenet. This tenet defines the good in such a way that the good is a said to manifest actually through happiness or prosperity, through the happiness indeed of the greatest number, and connected therewith is the misery of the minority, just as if one were to describe an organism by suggesting that it develops only to the knees and dies off from there down. In such identification of happiness with the good, with virtue, there is an ahrimanic impulse. The Greeks, as represented by their greatest individuals, were impervious to such identification of the concept of prosperity with that of the good. But ahrimanic influences produced a mentality in humanity in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch that seeks for the good in prosperity, in happiness. It is from this point of view that you must study the philosophy of Saint-Simon, and all the different efforts to discover principles of national economy, especially in Western Europe; only so will you be able to understand them. Even the thought of Rousseau is not free from this impulse. Such matters must be studied concretely and objectively.
Side by side with the problem of natural urges and impulses is that of sensory existence, existence in the material world of the senses. In the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, the culture resulting from sensory existence ought, in reality, to be ennobled, but the ahrimanic powers desired to get this culture under their own control. Hence, their aim to produce a mentality that considers truth to be found in sensory existence alone. To this extent ahrimanic impulses are active in all that is embraced in the problem of sensory existence, of existence in the world of the senses. This problem of sensory existence is closely connected with the problem of birth, just as the problem of happiness and prosperity is connected with that of natural urges and impulses. In order to vindicate sensory existence and to cause men, through instinct, to regard all evolution as a material process, the genesis of the human being in birth was related directly to the evolution of the animals. There you can see the thread leading over to the problem of birth. Thinkers and seekers in the fifth epoch since the fifteenth century, have been deeply engrossed in the question of the birth processes of the human being. Those who understand the connections know the implications of the problem “How does man enter the earth?” Thought has been directed to the question of whether the soul passes over as soul from father and mother to the child, or whether the soul is implanted by super-sensible powers. To tackle the problem of birth in the widest sense is the task of the post-Atlantean era; it is a problem that arises in complete conformity with normal and regular progress, but it became ahrimanic by being made materialistic, inasmuch as man was placed at the apex of the animal world and, compared with the importance attached to sensory existence, the soul was left out of consideration.
Thus we see streaming in from the one side impulses that strive to distort the problem of natural urges into the problem of prosperity in a way that does not accord with the forces of the good and the moral. To make the problem of natural urges into the problem of the good and the moral would be to work in the direction of the normal forces of progress, for to develop the good and the moral in its full range out of the problem of natural urges would be to discover how to spiritualize this problem of man's natural urges and impulses. That is the normal task of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. It should rightly be worked out in great imaginations, of which examples are to be found in Goethe's Faust. Also as a result of ahrimanic influences, the problem of birth was diverted to study of evolution in the world of the senses alone. The problem of natural urges was diverted to the problem of material prosperity, and the problem of birth to the problem of evolution in sensory existence.
Bearing all these things in mind, we see how the ahrimanic powers stream into the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. I have already said that because ahrimanic forces stream in on the one side, and luciferic forces on the other, the strivings of men become specialized. If things had happened otherwise, four great problems would have filled the feelings of men in all their work and productive activity down to the very tilling of the soil. The first of these problems is that of natural urges and impulses; the second the problem of birth; the third the problem of death, which is concerned not only with how the human being comes to the earth through birth but also how he leaves the earth through the gate of death. The fourth is the problem of evil.
That man's concern with these four problems has not been equally distributed over the fifth epoch is due to the fact that on the one side Ahriman has diverted the problem of natural urges into that of prosperity, and the problem of birth into that of material existence in the world of sense, thereby averting the true solution of these problems. Again, on the other side, Lucifer has directed the thought of the culture that is more Eastern in character to the problem of death and the problem of evil. You can see how fundamentally the whole of Russian spiritual life is dominated by the problems of death and evil, just as the spiritual life of the West is dominated by the problems of natural urges and of birth. In the writings of Soloviev, the most powerful Russian thinker of modern times, it is everywhere apparent that his mind is concerned on the one side with the problem of death, and on the other with the problem of evil. Just as the problem of the natural urges becomes that of prosperity, so in considering the problem of evil, man's thought is turned to the question of sin, of the sinful life. Hence the problem of sin, of redemption, of cleansing from sin, has nowhere been tackled so profoundly as it has been tackled in the East. But at the same time there has been something irregular in the endeavors made to solve this problem. The problem of evil and the problem of sin have been used by luciferic powers in order that, by directing thought to sin, and to sin in the bodily carnal life, the souls might be alienated from earth life.
Whereas in the West, Ahriman makes every effort to enchain man in sensory existence on the earth, to found a kingdom where the good is thought to lie in prosperity, and where the natural urges of men therefore find satisfaction, from the East comes abhorrence of sin, as a result of which souls are to be diverted from the earth, alienated from the earth by Lucifer. From the East attention is directed to the problem of sin and the problem of death. Hence, much contemplative thought in the East is directed to how death is overcome by what came to pass in Christ Himself. Impulses for life are sought in the Resurrection. Implicit in what I said a week ago, that the East turns more to the Christ and the West more to Jesus, there is this truth: that the East has need of the Risen One, the Spirit who is not made manifest in material existence but who overcomes material existence. This is the problem of death. In a treatise that is probably one of the most beautiful writings of Soloviev, he says that if death as a physical phenomenon, a physical fact, were to signify an end of human life, man would resemble all the other animals; he would not be man at all, he would be an animal. Through death the human being resembles the animals. Through the evil of which he is capable, he becomes even worse than the animals. This is a direct indication that Soloviev's thinking is influenced by the problem of death, and by the problem of sin and evil. But we find everywhere contemplation about knowledge concerning the soul, such as how the soul is not affected by death, and external life is arranged in such a way that, even in its justifiable expressions, it tends to take a path leading away from the earth. That is why in the East there are so many sects that subdue and mortify the bodily nature, which flood the body with death, as it were, striving to lead the life of natural impulses and the act of birth ad absurdum, through leanings to sacrifice and the like.
In the West there is the danger of becoming enchained within the life of the senses, whereby this life would become egoless. For if prosperity alone were to be established on the earth, the ego would never dwell there. If the good could only be established by the spread of prosperity over the earth, a state of things would arise such as came to pass in old Atlantis. In the middle period of Atlantean culture, too, great impulses were given that would have led to a state of prosperity in their further course. In the form and effects of what men first felt as an impetus of the good, they perceived a vista of prosperity, and so they gave themselves up to prosperity, devoted themselves wholly to it. The earth had to be purged of Atlantean culture because men had preserved from the good the element of prosperity alone. In the post-Atlantean era, Ahriman strives by direct means to institute a culture of mere prosperity. This would mean pressing out the lemon, the doing away with it! Egos would no longer be able to live if prosperity were the only aim pursued by culture. In short, prosperity and the good, prosperity and virtue are not concepts that can be substituted for one another.
We are gazing here into profound secrets of life. A justified element in the founding of culture, an element that inevitably leads to a certain form of prosperity among men, is so distorted that prosperity per se is set up as the goal. And a culture that would certainly enable the human soul, even in life, to rise above and to know both death and evil is distorted in such a way that contact with what can produce death and evil is avoided from the outset, and the bodily nature is shunned. This was to satisfy the aims of Lucifer.
In this way we must endeavor to understand how real and concrete forces work in human existence, and what is at work beneath and above the conscious life of soul in the culture of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. If you recognize this leitmotif you will be able to understand many things. Only you must not give way to the delusion that everything luciferic and everything ahrimanic must for these reasons be avoided. That would be the very way to succumb to these forces! Everyone who lives together with humanity must realize that Lucifer and Ahriman have been granted their places in the world. If errors could not take place, the human being would never reach inner freedom; freedom could never come to man if he were incapable of forming the erroneous conception that prosperity and the good are identical; he would then have no opportunity of rising above this error. If man were incapable of living under the delusion that through subjugation of the external, earthly life, victory can be snatched from death and from evil, he would never in reality overcome death and sin. It is necessary for these things to pass into the life of man.
We must see to it that the woeful doctrine, “Ah! that is luciferic and must be avoided; that is ahrimanic and must be avoided,” does not obsess us, but that we confront these powers in the right way knowing that it is not for us to steer clear of Lucifer but to conquer his forces for progressive human culture. Nor must we simply steer clear of Ahriman, but conquer Ahriman's forces for the progressive culture of humanity. For into our culture these forces must be received. The battle lies in the fact that Ahriman's aim is to snatch the souls away. The task of humanity is to receive Ahriman together with his strong forces — all those forces of intellect, for instance, which are preeminently forces of intellect but they can also assume a form that is more akin to feeling — those forces that have been applied, for instance, to the problem of how a state is established. Think of the numbers of people who have wrestled with this problem, some more theoretically, some more practically. The most intense efforts have been made to solve this problem. Such forces must be wrested into the good service of humanity, and must not be made ahrimanic by resolutions to have nothing to do with Ahriman, or refusals to be concerned with what, in social problems, for instance, is alleged to proceed from Ahriman. That would lead to nothing.
It is the same as regards Lucifer. The impulse of perception, of feeling, given us by the science of the spirit must help us to confront in the right way the forces that are actually present in the world. Those who are unwilling to do this are like a man who says, “Evil elements! Oh no, I don't like them; I don't like them at all!” Of course, both attitudes are one sided, but we must remember that the working together of the evil and the good, the union of the evil and the good, make the elements fruitful in the state of balance we must bring about in life by learning to be master of the ahrimanic and the luciferic forces. In this state of balance lies the impulse that must be inculcated into life, and that it is the task of the science of the spirit to transmit.
As far as is possible, we shall speak of these things again tomorrow.