Friday, May 5, 2017

Life Between Death and Rebirth


The Living Gifts of Anthroposophy. Lecture 3 of 7.

Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, April 2, 1918:

In the idea which I developed here yesterday, I wished to point out that it is necessary for the evolution of humanity to impress very clearly upon ourselves certain ideas in Spiritual culture which have not as yet appeared in the present era. This is something that is of main importance, that certain ideas now non-evident, or least not in current use, should again come into the spiritual life of man. If we follow up the spiritual life of modern times in its various ramifications, we see that its characteristic is that in spite of all the arrogance, all the self-conceit which comes to light at times, the spiritual life does not contain any new ideas. Although all sorts of world-conceptions have appeared, of an ethical, artistic, and even philosophical or scientific nature, they all deal with old ideas which have been in use for a long time, and which are then mixed together, as in a kaleidoscope. We need new conceptions, yes new conceptions such as should rise are lacking. For that reason certain old truths cannot be understood to-day, truths which appeared among the Ancients and which are handed down traditionally; for instance, ideas which appeared in Plato or Aristotle as being the latest in this respect. In earlier times they appeared with still more significance; but today they are either not understood at all or else rejected, but only because they are not understood. I will give you an illustration of such a conception. When a man today sees something, he thinks: “The object is outside, it sends the light to me; the light comes into the eye, and in that passive — one may not say mysterious — manner, is produced with the soul experiences as the sensation of color.” In Plato another conception is found. There something appears which we cannot understand otherwise, if we take it literally, than as if the eye sent forth something to the object which grasps it in a mysterious manner; as if the eye stretched out a feeler which grasps the object. This can be found in Plato. The more recent ideas of natural science can of course make nothing of this, can understand nothing of it. It is the kind of idea which you can find recorded in the ordinary textbooks — or even in the ‘scholarly’ books — on the History of Philosophy. But you cannot do much with such books either, because such ideas rests upon something which existed in ancient times in a certain atavistic second-sight or second-feeling, which has gradually died out, but which must be rediscovered in our time, in another way. Since olden times certain ideas have been lost which must be recovered.
These concepts have been lost chiefly because what one may call the Latin or Roman culture had to pour over Europe, especially over Western Europe. The study of this Latin, Roman culture in its expansion over Europe would yield very illuminating results, if we observed it aright. We must be clear on the point that as regards blood, nothing is left in Italy today of the race which we call the “Ancient Roman.” The present-day battalions, although they may be responsible for many things in our time, are certainly not responsible for what I'm about to relate now. What streamed forth from the Roman Empire merely streamed forth into Europe in a cultural way, but it had a parching, burning effect on certain fundamental, basic ideas; ideas which must, as it were, again be redeemed from their grave. We need only call to mind the following fact. With the overthrow of Alesia, that town which was destroyed in the last era before the birth of Christ and is situated in what is now the province of the Côte d'Or in France, a piece of old Celtic-Gaelic culture was entirely rooted out by the Romans. (On the scene of the old ruined Alesia, Napoleon III ordered a monument erected to Vercingetorix!) Perhaps today Alesia would be called a gigantic “Academy.” Ten-thousand Europeans studied there in the way in which science and knowledge was studied at that time. All that was done away with, and in its place came what was spread abroad as the Roman culture. This is only an historical observation, intended to show that in Europe, also, older concepts existed in the old places of culture which have since been destroyed.
Today I wish to draw your attention to two ideas which must be incorporated into science as well as into everyday life, in order that a better understanding of the world may become possible. One of these is that an idea exists that really the perception of the world comes about through the senses. This happens in the following way.
If we stand opposite a color object it certainly impresses us; what takes place between the colored object and the human organism is a destructive process in the latter. I have often laid stress on this. It is in a sense a death in miniature, and the nervous system is the organ for continuous destructive processes. These disturbances, which are continually being brought about through the action of the outer world on our own organism, and balanced again, however, by the action of the blood. In the human organism there is a continual counteracting process between blood and nerves. This process comes about because the blood furnishes a quickening process and the nerves a sort of death-process, a destructive one. For instance if we stand opposite a colored object which works on us from the outer world, a destructive process takes place in our nervous system. Something is destroyed in a physical body as well as in the etheric body, a sort of canal is hollowed out in our organism through the destructive process which runs along a definite course. Thus when we “see” something, a canal is bored from the eye to the edge of the brain. Not that something takes place that has to be analysed and solved, from the brain-covering to the eye; but, on the contrary, a hole is bored and through this hole the astral body slips, so as to be able to see the object. Plato was still able to see this. It could still be perceived through atavistic clairvoyance, and we must re-acquire it through learning really know the human organism with the newer clairvoyance, learning to know this canal, this hole which is bored, leading from the eye to the brain-covering, through which the Ego unites itself with what works from outside. Mankind must learn not to form such concepts as are customary in the present-day theory of knowledge or physiology, but must learn to say: “A canal, a tunnel, is forward from the brain-covering to the eye, and by this means a door opens through which the astral body and the ego come into connection with the outer world.” This is a concept of which the present day has no idea! For that reason it does not know what physiological facts result from this. Today students learn physiology at the Universities, and learn very exactly the customary concepts which I have just mentioned, but they do not learn how things are really related, they learn just the opposite, which has no sense. This is one such concept.
Another is very frequently found today if we go into that sphere which is called the sphere of learning and scholarship — of course with full justification. It is they are described (and this is of course unavoidable today) how man is born as an undeveloped being; how then gradually his ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ develop, and in this gradual development of soul and spirit are produced through the organism of the body becoming finer and more complicated. You can find this idea introduced by psychologists and especially by scholars, as also in all the popular books. Thus it appears to man; but what appears to thus is Maya. In many respects what we first encounter is the opposite of truth. This idea too is the opposite of what is true. Instead of this, we ought really to say (I may just remind you of what you said in “The Education of the Child,” where what I am about to say is expressed, though put somewhat differently): “While the child is quite young, soul and spirit are still ‘psychic’ and ‘spiritual,’ and as the child grows, his soul and spirit are gradually transformed into the material, the bodily. Soul and spirit gradually become of a bodily nature, man gradually becomes a complete image of soul and spirit.” It is very important that we should hold this idea. For if we do, we shall no longer say that what runs about on the ground on two legs is man; we shall become conscious of the fact that that is only the image of man, that man after being born in a super-sensible manner gradually grows in unity with the body and creates a full image of himself in his body. Spirit and soul disappear into the body, and appear less and less in their own nature. Thus we must adopt exactly the opposite concept to the customary one. We must know why, for instance, we really become “20 years old;” it is because spirit has descended into the body, because it has transformed itself into the body, because that which is body is an external image of the spirit. Then we shall also understand that gradually, when we are growing “old,” the reverse transformation is going on. The body becomes chalky and salted, but the spirit becomes more psychic and spiritual. Only man has not then the power of holding on to it, because while here, he stands face-to-face with the physical world and wishes to express himself through the body. What thus becomes more and more independent, only appears in its entirety after death. Thus it is not the case that the soul and spirit becomea blunted in old age; on the contrary, they become ever freer and freer. Of course the materialistic thinker, when these things are put before him, will frequently object that even Kant, for instance, who was a very clever man, grew weak in his old age; so that they are at any rate the soul and spirit could not have made themselves free. Materialistic thinker only makes that objection because he cannot observe the soul and spirit nature, and see how it had already grown gradually into the spiritual world. For very many people it will be a hard nut to crack if they are told to believe that when men grow old they do not become weak or even feeble-minded, but more psychic and more spiritual. Only, when the body is worn out, we can no longer express the psycho-spiritual which we have cultivated, through the body. It is like the case of a pianist: he might become a better and better player, but if his piano is worn out we cannot perceive this. If you were only to know his capabilities as a pianist from his plane, you will not be able to gather much if the piano is out of tune and has broken strings. So that Kant, when he was an old man and “feeble-minded” was not weak minded as regards the spiritual world; there he had become glorious.
Thus when we get the truth we have exactly to reverse certain conceptions. We must take it quite seriously that in the world we have to do with Maya, with the great illusion, for we must exactly reverse many of our ideas. If we seriously consider that in the external physical reality we are face to face with the great illusion, we shall also be able to accept the fact that external physical man when 70 years of age and apparently weak has his spirit somewhere else than on the physical plane. The obstacles in the way of understanding the teachings of Spiritual Science to a great extent consist in the fact that we are not able to form correct ideas as to what is happening on the ordinary physical plane. We form false ideas about what is happening on the physical plane, and the consequences is that these separate us from the true and right world and do not allow us to reach it. If we form such concepts as the second one to which I referred, we shall then no longer be very far from the knowledge which Spiritual Science is now giving out from its investigations concerning man immediately after death.
When man enters physical life through birth, he gradually enters more and more closely into relationship with his physical body. We have now become acquainted with a correct idea of this relationship. We do not always notice, because it would require too much explanation, that something similar also takes place between death and a new birth. The matter can be presented in a similar manner as regards the time between death and rebirth. We may say that man then gradually enters into relation with something similar to this physical body here on earth. Our physical bodily nature is not merely physical; it embraces, as we know: the physical body, the etheric body or body of formative-forces, and the astral body, the outer psychic or soul-body. As we have to appropriate these three ‘skins’ or ‘shells’ for physical life, so have we to put on coverings between death and rebirth, indeed three such coverings which, I will call: “Soul-Man,” “Soul-Life” or “Life-Soul,” and “Soul-Self.” As we take on the physical body here for use in the physical world, so do we take on the “Soul-Life” or the “Life-Soul.” Just as we take on the astral body, the Soul-body for our life Earth, so do we take on after death the “Individual Soul” or “Soul-Self.” I select these expressions for the reason that they should not be confused with what men will appropriate in another way for the Jupiter, Venus, and Vulcan time; there is a resemblance, but, because it belongs to another stage of being, it must in consequence be differentiated. But names are not the important thing in this matter. It is only necessary for us to study a little how these coverings are appropriated.
When man enters that life which runs its course between death and rebirth, the first characteristic is that he finds himself surrounded by a number of pictures. These pictures all proceed from his experiences between his last birth and last death, or even from earlier times; but we will first of all limit ourselves to what happened in the last earth-life. Thus first of all appear pictures which proceed from the last life; they are to be found in the environment of man. The essential point is that these are in the environment of the dead. The remarkable thing is that at first he has a certain difficulty in developing a consciousness that these pictures are connected with himself. This world of pictures is what is referred to in the book “Theosophy” as the experiences in the Soul World; but this retrospect in pictures is only a part of the collective picture-world which surrounds him there. Other pictures besides these are present; and the life of the dead consist in gradually recognizing these pictures as belonging to himself. Consciousness has to set to work to make them fully recognize in the right way that these pictures belong to him. We can only thoroughly understand what is here in question when we become conscious that the life which we lead here between birth and death is much richer than we are aware of. Suppose you live in certain circumstances, in company with certain people — what takes place consciously between you is really only one part of what goes on. Things are continually happening. You must recollect that life here so runs its course that we observe but a small part of what we experience. Take an ordinary occurrence for instance. You have gathered together here this evening, each one of you present has entered into some relationship with the others. Did you probably consider how much of this you have carried over into your consciousness, you will find it is indeed but very little. For if you are three yards away from another person and then approach him, this drawing three yards nearer to him represents a whole sum of facial impressions; you see his face differently the nearer you approach and so on. The ordinary physical intellect is quite unable to grasp what we are really always experiencing during physical life. What we experienced consciously is but a quite small part of it; by far the most important part remains subconscious. For instance, if you read a letter; as a rule you become conscious of the content, but in your subconsciousness much more than that goes on; there is not only happens that you are always either slightly vexed or pleased by the beautiful or ugly handwriting, but with every feature of the handwriting something passes from the writer into you which you do not observe with your ordinary consciousness but which lives as a dream, continuously through your whole life. We indeed find it so difficult to really to understand dreams for the reason that much appears in them which is not taken into consideration at all in our waking consciousness. Suppose one lady sits here and another there. If the one lady does not particularly notice that another is sitting over there and does not look at her very closely, it may occur that she does not observe the other at all, does not become aware of her gestures, or what she's doing. But all that remains in the subconscious soul, and into our dreams may enter just that which we hardly observed or noticed in our waking consciousness. This may very easily happen when in waking consciousness one directs one's attention to a particular subject, for instance, if when walking along the street plunged in thought and a friend passes by; perhaps one may not even have noticed him, yet one may dream of him, in spite of not knowing that he had passed one in the street. A great deal happens in life, of which but very little enters the waking consciousness. But all the enormous amount that goes on in the life of man, especially what is concerned with the soul and which remains in the subconsciousness, all this becomes pictures around a man. The fact that you come here today and will go away again causes the picture of the whole room to remain bound up with you, and all the more so inasmuch as it has all made a more psychic impression; psychically it is not confined in rigid boundaries.
Thus innumerable pictures are connected with human life. They are all rolled up — I can find no other expression for it — within the life of man. You carry millions of pictures which are being rolled up all through your life; and the first thing that happens after death is the “unrolling of the pictures,” as one might call it; the unrolling of posthumous imaginations. Around each man a world of imaginations gradually forms; and his consciousness consists in recognizing himself in this imaginative world. This is described from somewhat different point of view in the Vienna lectures of life between death and rebirth; but one must observe things from the most varied points of view. The unrolling of the pictures: here we can draw a comparison with what we are, as little children just born, when we still have a somewhat unformed body. Many people (though not precisely the mothers of the children concerned) say that every little child looks like a frog; it is not yet quite human but gradually shapes itself. Just as the child shapes itself, and that grows of which we may say that we have it in us when we lived materially, so does the growth take place in life which we might call the “unrolling of life's pictures.” For in this unrolling of the pictures the “Soul-Man” is formed, one of the principles of man. You must absolutely imagine that this, which is there after death, spreads out, and that the Soul-Man, the picture-man, the imaginative spiritual-body, forms itself thus; it first of all develops in the imaginative images.
Herein we can help the dead tremendously if we go through such ideas together with him as are at the same time those of Spiritual Science, or such ideas as we evolved yesterday of the bluish-red Earth with the golden Jerusalem. These are concepts for which the dead man longs, for he yearns for well-directed and ordered Imaginations. By means of these we can help him, and especially do we help him if we go through with him what we have experienced together with him, for the pictures can hold onto that they may wish to unroll. If we live call up things which have passed unnoticed, and go through these with the dead man, he gains enormously thereby. For instance, I mean by this, if you call to mind the picture of him while he was still alive, how he went through the door as he came out of his office and reached home, how you greet him — incidents wherein the Soul came to expression in a visible pictorial manner. There may be loving memories connected with these things — and of course it may also be otherwise. You will by this means come together with the dead man in thought. I have shown in many different ways how we can mingle this picture-world, in which the dead man must develop, and in which his consciousness must expand, with our own concepts. Concepts and ideas which the dead man strove to attain but could not fully reach and which make something clear to him — these become his picture world. You must work with him at the forming of his Soul-Man.
Of course, in the time which follows on death, the other bodies, the Soul-Life or the Life-Soul and also the Soul-Self, are already formed in the dead. But these very principles form themselves more and more definitely, in such a way that at first, immediately after death, the dead feels them as something for the future which he will only gradually developed by and by. In this respect the deceased has the feeling that he must work out the “Soul-Man,” he must work upon that, but the “Life-Soul” he must allow to develop, that must develop itself gradually. It is of course already present, as is the intelligence in the child; but it must develop gradually as the intelligence does in the child. Thereby an inspirational force appears in the dead man immediately after his death, but this develops and becomes ever stronger and stronger; and when we help the dead, we help them to develop this inspirational force. For gradually something must speak to the deceased from out of the pictures. They must become more than merely the remembrance of life; they must tell him something new, something which life could not yet tell him; for what they now say to him must become the germ for what he builds up as his next Earth-life.
Thus the Soul-Life, the Life-Soul, begins to develop and the pictures become more and more speaking. The dead man first of all directs his attention chiefly to the Earth — if I may express myself thus. As we here on Earth direct our thoughts to the Spirit-world, so does the dead man turn his soul downwards to the Earth, which is seen by him, for example, as I described yesterday, as blue in the Eastern hemisphere and reddish in the Western hemisphere; into this come these pictures, they are interwoven in it. He always sees his own life within the universal picture of the Earth; he sees his life among us. Therefore we can help him to understand these pictures aright. He certainly leaves the Earth, but with the eye of his soul does not leave it. And as inspiration develops more and more, gradually the Earth begins to sound, the pictures gradually tell him more and more.
The question is often asked whether this help can only be given to the dead soon after death or can it also be given after years or tens of years. It never ceases! No one can live on Earth long enough for it to have become unnecessary to help someone who died before us. Even if a person has been dead for 30 or 40 years, the connection, if it was karmic, still exists. Of course we must clearly realize that when the soul of the friend who is still here is undeveloped, he may have a clearer consciousness of disconnection at the beginning. At the beginning the consciousness of the connection with the dead friend may be felt and experienced very strongly, because the pictures are still passive and chiefly still contain what they contained on earth. Later on, they begin to sound; the music of the spheres sounds forth from them. That is something strange and unknown, and we can only gain information about it from Spiritual Science, through which we learn what will take place on the Earth in the future epochs. But it is not very frequent that there is such an active need to approach the dead man after decades, as immediately after his departure. Gradually the inclination towards the dead disappears in the living (experience proves this) — the living feeling for them dies out . This is too a reason why a later time the connection with the dead is felt less actively. This calls our attention to the fact that the first part of life between death and rebirth is chiefly devoted to the formation of the “Soul-Man,” which floats around man is a world of Imagination. Later on, his time is devoted to the inspirational force of the soul: the Life-Soul — though of course it was there from the beginning. And before him, as an ideal, is what we may call the Soul-Self. That too was there from the beginning, fir the Soul-Self gives him individual consciousness. As the intelligence of the child must be cultivated, although present within him from the beginning, so does man develop the Soul-Self in his life between death and rebirth. The time when the soul is again slowly approaching the earth life is chiefly devoted to the cultivation of the Soul-Self. Between death and rebirth man's Soul-Self reaches its highest development in the time when he becomes, spiritually, blooming with youth. Here on Earth we speak of growing old; in the spiritual world between death and rebirth, we have to speak of growing young. Here we speak of becoming gray with age, there we speak of one becoming blooming with youth. These things were well known not so very long ago. Let me remind you of Goethe's “Faust;”, where it says: “He grew young in the Land of the Mist,” which means: “He was born in the Northern World.” In former times they did not say: “someone was born,” but “he has become young,” which referred to his life before birth. Goethe still used this expression “become young in the Land of the Mist.
Thus the last part of the time between death and rebirth is that in which the soul chiefly works out the intuitive side. The first part of the time after death the imaginative part of the soul is active; that is the Soul-Man. Then the inspirational part of the soul, the Life-Soul, develops gradually to its full height, and afterwords that which gives full individuality to the soul is developed, the Soul-Self, the intuitive part, the capacity of entering something different and other than oneself and of finding one's way into it. Into what does the soul find its way? From what do its intuitions chiefly proceed?
At a certain point of the life between death and rebirth the soul begins to feel itself related to the succession of generations which lead down to Father and Mother. It gradually feels itself related to the ancestors, as they are brought together in marriage and have children and so on. Immediately after death, we feel the unrolling of the pictures and looking down upon the Earth, we see these pictures grouped together in their great imaginative connections. And as we turn again to the Earth-life we become more and more intuitive, and the pictures which I called forth yesterday appeared before the soul in larger outlines: the sphere of the Earth gleaming bluish over Asia, India and East Africa; and on the other side where lies America (one circles around the earth) glittering reddish; between these there is green and other shades. The Earth also ‘sounds’ in manifold tones: melodies, harmonies, courses of the music of the spheres. Amidst all this, the pictures we had gradually began to move — the pictures of the successive generations which we had first of all. Gradually one learns no one's 36th and 35th pair of ancestors, then the 34th, 33rd, 32nd and 31st, right down to one's own father and mother. One learns to know this; it is interwoven into the imaginative images. Intuition is impressed into it until one comes to father and mother. This ‘impression’ is really an entering into what lives through the generations. The second half of life between death and rebirth is of such a nature that during this time a man becomes quite accustomed to live in what is below, to live in the outer world already in advance, in that which then becomes his nearest as well as his less near environment, to live not in himself but in this other world. That living in the other is the first experience of life after death. Then one is born again and that first one still retains something of this other life. For this reason we must say that in the first seven years the human being is an “imitator,” he imitates everything that he perceives. Read the book “The Education of the Child” on this subject . Imitation is like the last impression of this “living in the other”which continues into physical life. It is the pre-eminent quality when transformed into the spiritual element, between death and rebirth, and it is the first quality which appears in the child: to imitate everything it sees. This imitative faculty of the child will never be understood unless we know that it proceeds from the magnificent intuitive life in the psycho-spiritual world during the latter part of the time between death and rebirth.
Here is again a concept which the spiritual development of the future must grasp. In olden times — chiefly because men knew of the Spirit through atavistic clairvoyance — the belief in immortality, which has become doubtful to men who think materialistically, was actuated by direct perception; men knew that life continued. But in the future the thought of immortality must be aroused from the other end. Men will understand that life here is the continuation of the spiritual life. As formally in conformity with the nature of the times, men looked first to the continuation of life after death, so in the future they will learn more and more looked chiefly at all life here as a continuation of the life between death and rebirth. Certainly the churches have erected barriers against this. For nothing is considered so great a heresy by the church as the thought of the “pre-existence of the soul” and, as is well known, the old Church Father Origen was looked at askance, principally because he still knew of the pre-existence of the soul. It was not only because — as I have already said — the “spirit” was done away with in the ninth century by the Church Council at Constantinople, by setting up the dogma that man does not consist of body, soul and spirit, but only of ‘body and soul,’ though it conceded that the soul has something of a spiritual nature in it. “It is forbidden to think,” said the Council, “that man consists of body, soul and spirit; he has a soul-like in the spirit-like soul, but he only consists of body and soul.” That is of course still the law of the church today. But something else is bound up with this, which is at the same time “unprejudiced science.” And this is the more interesting part. Among philosophers you find men everywhere divided into body and soul; a threefold division into body, soul and spirit is still very little supporter. Read the “celebrated Wundt” and you will see that it is “unprejudiced science” to divide man into body and soul. It is not unprejudiced science. It is the last remnant of the dogma of the eighth Ecumenical Council! Only the philosophers have forgotten that and look upon it as unprejudiced science. That is the one barrier: the doing away with the spirit. The other barrier which the church has erected is the suppression of the believe in pre-existence. I recall the celebrated philosophical theologian or theological philosopher — whichever you like to call him — Frohschammer in Munich. His books are on the Index. But that has not prevented him, however, from turning against the thought of a pre-existence of the soul, because, he says, that if really the soul did not exist beforehand, if it were not conceived at the same time as the body, then the parents would only produce a “little animal”which later receives the soul. That to him is an uncomfortable concept. (I have introduced this as a note in my ”Riddles of the Soul.”) But it is not so. When we know the fact that man is connected for more than thirty generations with the blood running through the generations, we cannot say that the parents only produce a little animal; for the whole process of the spirit which passes through more than thirty generations, belongs to it. Only one must become conscious of this.
Thus in the future men will not only turn their minds to the question of whether this life lasts after death; they will be able to say, if they study the physical earth-life correctly, that this physical earth-life is the continuation of a spiritual life! Close attention will be directed to this in the future. It will be recognized that the spiritual life continues into the mortal one, and the mortal into the immortal one; and when men recognize the mortal in the immortal, they will have therewith a sure foundation for the knowledge of the immortal. If they understand this earth-life properly, they will no longer try to explain it out of itself alone. Of course it would then be necessary to acquire other ideas such as I have just now set forth. It is indeed necessary to correct many an idea. One acquires with much difficulty ideas which count in life, and popular language is a great hindrance in this respect. We must indeed reckon with popular language first of all, because otherwise we should not be understood at all. But it is a great hindrance to think that we acquire a “likeness” direct from the parents. That is nonsense. I have said in the public lecture that our method of science is suffering very much because what is acknowledged in regard to the science of the inorganic is not also apply to the organic. No one will seek to refer the magnetic power in the magnet to the horseshoe-shaped piece of iron, but will explain the magnetism in the magnet or in the magnetic needle by what pertains to the Cosmos; but the origin of the egg in the hen or the embryo in man — these are not explained from the Cosmos! The Cosmos, however, works everywhere. And strange as it may appear, just as though a sense-impression a canal is poured into the eye in order to open the door for the Ego to come out, so does propagation rest on the fact that in reality room is made for it. What happened is that the organism of the mother is so prepared that room is created and what originates therein is derived from the Cosmos, from the whole Macrocosm. It is a complicated process; but in the being of the mother the room only is prepared; the organization of the mother is so far disturbed as to provide a cavity into which the macrocosm can enter. That is the essential point and even embryology will grasp this before long. They will understand that the most important part connected with embryo is where there is nothing, where the substance of the mother is pushed back because the macrocosm wishes to enter. But man is already united with and beholds the forces which work from the Cosmos through this macrocosmic element, which prepared itself ever since he was intuitively bound up with his ancestors — in the longest case from 32 to 35 generations ago. From the sphere of his stars, to which he is assigned, man beholds the ray fall upon the Earth, he beholds the place where he will be incarnated. Then he gradually approaches the Earth.
These are things which — as I think — can fill our minds with a significant impression. We cannot take up Spiritual Science as we might perhaps take up mathematics, but we shall accept it as something deeply connected with our higher feelings, which makes us in reality different beings, and which deeply enriches human life and lays the foundation of a real cosmic consciousness. This vivifying, in the best sense of the word “quickening” effect of spiritually-scientific knowledge is both essential and important. We certainly should not fail to recognize that at the present time we are to a certain extent in a state of transition with regard to the things here meant. Our age must take this on itself, as its Karma. Today people still say lightly: “Must I indeed except such complicated ideas in order to understand your teaching of the destiny of man? Other teaching makes it easier for people.” the point is that we are living in a time of transition and these ideas are still strange to people; but you will have to become accustomed to them. The time must come when these things will even be taught to children and thereby the discovery will be made that children will understand them surprisingly well. They will understand much better than others what comes from the pictures of Spiritual Science, for they bring much imaginative faculty with them out of the spiritual world, which we set to work to drive out of them, do not take into account and sometimes brutally ignore; otherwise we should admit that many a child says uncommonly clever things, much cleverer than grown-up people. Sometimes what a child says is much more interesting than what the professor says, because it is more connected with the real being of the world. These things should really be taken with a certain coloring, then it will no longer be difficult to introduce things in a suitable manner to the child-mind. The transition to this is naturally not easy and therefore people very willingly abandon the thought. But just from many questions of a child-mind we can recognize, if we pay attention to the direction and tone of the question, that reminiscences of a former life are present in the child.
We must take what is called Spiritual Science absolutely in earnest and must be of the opinion that it must find its way into the social life to which education and instruction also belong. In this respect much more might be done today than is usually considered possible. For what I recently remarked is absolutely true: when those who wish to become teachers or educators are examined today, attention is paid above all to what they have acquired in the way of knowledge — which really is quite unnecessary, for when they are preparing themselves, they can always read up in a suitable compendium what it is necessary for them to have for teaching purposes. What is learnt on examination is very soon forgotten again. We can see this best when we remember how our own school life was carried on. I once had to go through an examination. At the appointed time the professor was ill. I went to the assistant who said: “Yes, the Professor is ill, and his illness may last another week; I can sympathize with you; if you have to go about in this grand condition for a week, you will have forgotten everything, but there is no help for it.” It is therefore reckoned that what one has to give out in the examination will very soon be forgotten! It is simply a comedy! But what will have to be taken into account will be to consider what sort of man is being let loose on the young. The question is to study the human being in each one, not only what he has squeezed into the mechanism of his life of ideas. The question is whether the real man is in a position to establish that mysterious relationship to youth which is necessary. It will then not be at all so difficult really to bring to youth what Spiritual Science can evolve for it.
I want chiefly to draw your attention today to such facts of the human collective life as can make clear to your consciousness that we must not only preserve old ideas, but that man needs new ideas, that our legacy of ideas must be enriched by many things. You will see how it will be sought after when once such a thing as Spiritual Science is spread abroad. Mankind has been longing for it for a long time. Most people wish to spare themselves from taking in too many ideas; for that reason they go so willingly to lime-light lectures, or other illustrative lectures, where they can look on and need not take in many ideas. As a rule when something new is offered to people they ask: “Now what does he really want?”But what do these people themselves want when they ask: “What is he really after?” they would like the matter to be translated into what they already know! But in the domain of Spiritual Science there can be no question of that; there one must take up new ideas which do not already exist, which once in olden times were partly present in another form, but which are not yet here today. One must resolve to penetrate into new ideas. This is often very difficult, for if men would really take up new ideas they would not ask: “What is he really after?” but would accept it. In future a much more useful question will be: “What ought I really think?” and not “What does he really want?” Then we should see how that which is developed as “opinion,” also sets free life-forces within us, so that we come to the truth; we should see that although vision is certainly subtle, it is not at all so far away. First, however, prejudices will have to be overcome. There is, for example, a popular little book called “Introduction to Philosophy.” In it are ideas which I criticized both yesterday and today. But the compiler is especially remarkable when he speaks about “Supernaturalism.” He considers the supernatural, the super-sensible as particularly harmful, for the reason that he is of the opinion that “what is natural”is something which every man can judge and test for himself, but with the super-sensible, supernatural, the danger would be in the fact that everybody would not be able to judge for himself but would have to accept a thing on the authority of others. Of course this is related to the other statement, that the priesthood of all times had made use of this and that men have become spoiled by supernaturalism, because they thereby became dependent on the belief in authority. If however we observe the true circumstances, we can say that when the official philosophies of today come to speak of the super-sensible, they simply become childish. For it is a childish conception, and implies that the man had no idea of how universally prevalent the belief in authority is, just as in our present time, even though people wish to hold themselves free from it. How many people are there who know upon what the Copernican teaching is based? They learn it by someone illustrating it to them by placing some spirit or other on a chair as it were in the universe and showing from there how the Sun moves and how the planets revolve around it. All that is nonsense. If men were shown all that really can be disclosed to them, they would have a quite different concept and would see how uncertain all the hypotheses are. But just think what an enormous amount men believe in authority today! How happy they are today in another sphere (to remind you of a side-phenomena) when secret acts are discovered through a Bolshevik Government, upon which the fate of countless people depend! There is a proof of the matter as regards what is “natural,” everyone can prove it; but as regards the supernatural, it is believed that men would lose their independence! This is really turning things upside down. And one of the tasks of Spiritual Science will in many respects consistt in setting things on their feet again. That things should have been turned upside down is quite natural, for the Consciousness Soul had to be developed. Now however they must again be set on their feet, in a proper manner.
In the next lecture we will follow this up and we shall see that this picture of “setting things on their feet” is by no means untrue, but has indeed an even deeper significance.