Thursday, August 3, 2017
Changes in Humanity's Spiritual Make-up
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 7, 1917:
The spiritual constitution is such today that we are getting to know grave and significant truths and insights, as you have seen. I have had to emphasize that the insights which humanity currently finds acceptable will not be adequate for the future. But we must know the reasons why such insights are not adequate, if we are to connect ourselves in all seriousness and dignity with the impulses which really have to be given for the further evolution of humanity. What I want to say today is perhaps best understood if I start by going back to the fourth post-Atlantean period. As you know, this began in the eighth century before the Mystery of Golgotha and ended in the fifteenth century after the Mystery of Golgotha when human beings essentially related to the environment, the outside world, in a very different way from the way in which we inevitably must do today. I have often stressed that human evolution has to be taken seriously. Souls change much more than we believe, and it is part of the sheer modern laziness of mind to think that the inner life was just the same in ancient Greece, say, as it is today. Today I will merely consider one aspect of this: the relationship to the world around us.
Lazy thinkers will say: The Greeks and the Romans perceived the world around them and we, too, perceive the world around us; there is no appreciable difference. Oh, but there is an appreciable difference. It is actually true to say that today, at the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean period, people perceive the world around them, in so far as it is perceptible to the senses, in quite a different way from the ancient Greeks, for example. The Greeks also saw colors and heard sounds; but they still saw spiritual entities through the colors. They did not merely think spiritual entities, for these made themselves known to them through the colors.
In my book Riddles of the Soul [ Note 1 ] I attempted to make this peculiarity of the Greeks into a thread running through the whole book. Modern people think thoughts. The Greeks did not think thoughts in the same degree; they saw the thoughts which came to them out of the world they perceived around them. Instead of merely being blue or red, the blue and the red in the world around them told them the thoughts which they would then think. This created an intimate relationship to the world. It also created an intense feeling of being connected with an environment which had spiritual qualities. The nature of the human constitution was totally different in the fourth post-Atlantean period, and perceptions were therefore different.
In the evolution of the present Earth, distinction must be made between major epochs, a general description of which is given in Occult Science — first and second age, Lemurian age, Atlantean age, our own post-Atlantean age, and two which are to follow. We may say that during the Atlantean age both the Earth and humanity had reached their midpoint. Up to then everything was growth and development. In some respect this has not been the case since the Atlantean age. It certainly is no longer the case where the Earth is concerned. When we walk on the soil today — I have mentioned this on a number of occasions — we are walking on something which is crumbling away; it is no longer something that is growing, as it was in early times. Before and until the middle of the Atlantean age the Earth was much more of a growing, sprouting organism. It then started to develop cracks and fissures, we might say; and it was only then that the rocks of today, with their cracks and fissures, developed. This is something known not only in Anthroposophy today. You find an excellent description of the breaking up, shattering, of our present-day Earth in Eduard Suess's outstanding scientific work The Face of the Earth. [ Note 2 ] Using broad brush-strokes he presents the outer conformation of the Earth today — its face, as it were — by outlining the properties of minerals, rocks, and the different formations to be found both on and in the Earth, as well as the properties of organic life forms in the realm of the Earth. Basing himself entirely on scientific facts, Suess comes to the conclusion that the Earth is decaying and crumbling away.
This, however, is also true for all physical creatures which inhabit the Earth. They are on the downward curve of evolution and have been so, essentially, from the middle of the Atlantean age. Evolution does, however, go in waves and it is possible to say that the fourth post-Atlantean period, the Greek and Roman civilization, was a kind of recapitulation of what existed in the Atlantean age. Up until the time of ancient Greece, therefore, it was not so clearly evident that humanity was on the downward curve of evolution. It was a feature of ancient Greece that the inner life was still in complete harmony with physical development — I have spoken of this before. That harmony was, of course, greatest in the middle of the Atlantean age, but it was recapitulated in ancient Greece. The total human constitution of the ancient Greeks has been discussed on a number of occasions, especially in our characterization of Greek art, which we know to have come from quite different impulses than the art of later periods. [ Note 3 ] The Greeks still had an inner feeling for the etheric in the human form; they did not need the models we need today, because they felt the form inside themselves. We are thus able to say that until the time of ancient Greece, the living human body was determined and maintained by the immediate environment. Human beings were intimately bound up with the space immediately around them.
This changed with the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean age. Strange as it may seem to you, it is nevertheless true to say: We really are no longer in this world to take care of our own organization. We do still incarnate, but no longer in order to take care of our own organization. This organization evolved until the middle of the Atlantean age, or until ancient Greek times. Then, human bodies were as perfect as they can be during time spent on Earth. It will not be until the Jupiter epoch that humanity achieves a higher level of physical perfection. Now, we are really here to be part of a downward curve of evolution, to incarnate in order to learn and experience all manner of things by the very fact that we are in bodies which are dying, increasingly crumbling and withering away. I am using fairly radical terms. The fact is, however, that anything we inwardly develop, and inwardly are, will no longer become part of the outer physical body to the same extent as it did in the past. The consequence of this will be all kinds of changes in development.
In March this year, a very important person died in Zurich — Franz Brentano. [ Note 4 ] You will find a memoir in my book Riddles of the Soul, [ Note 5 ] which is due to appear shortly. The book will have three parts and an appendix. In the first part I discuss the relationship between anthropology and Anthroposophy; in the second part I show the attitude of modern ‘scholars’ to Anthroposophy, giving Dessoir [ Note 6 ] as an example; and in the third part I intend to show how Franz Brentano, a man with a fine mind, was held in thrall by modern science, but nevertheless came as close as anyone can get to Anthroposophy with his psychology. The appendix will give brief outlines of aspects which in the present situation can only be touched on, though they might well provide the subject matter for several volumes. I have made it into a number of short chapters in the new book because the times are getting more and more difficult today and the situation does not permit a more extensive treatment. With some of the things which are written in this manner for the present time, one does have the feeling that one is in a way writing something of a testament. Those who are inwardly conscious of the whole weight of present events will no doubt know what I mean.
One of the many things Franz Brentano's sensitive mind has produced is a treatise on genius. [ Note 7 ] Oddly enough, Brentano is actually showing that there is no such thing as genius, demonstrating over and over again that a genius has the same inner qualities and impulses as anyone else, that memory and the ability to make connections are merely more flexible and comprehensive in the case of a genius, etc. Franz Brentano creates an idea of genius which differs a great deal from the usual idea. We have to admit that our usual idea of genius tends to be pretty vague, like all the stereotyped ideas people have today. In general terms we may say that Brentano's characterization of genius does not agree with the idea of a genius as it has existed until now; it does, however, agree with what genius will be in the future, for it will not be the same in the future.
In the past, people were geniuses because their souls still had the power, through heredity or education, to send impulses into the physical body which caused the Intuitions, Inspirations, and Imaginations of a genius to arise unconsciously. The power of genius was therefore available when the body was still in the ascendant. In future, bodies will be in the descendant and the power will no longer be available. Anything resembling genius in the future will arise because the individuals concerned, whom we may also call geniuses, see more deeply into the spiritual world which is all around them. Thus the impulses will not come from their unconscious physical aspect but out of deeper insight into the world of the spirit. The changing nature of genius provides an excellent demonstration of the break which has occurred between evolution as it was in the past and evolution as it will be in the future. We might say that in the past genius arose from the body, but in the future this will be replaced by something which comes from insight into the realm of the spirit. A mind sensitive to present developments like that of Brentano would be aware of this, just as Suess, looking at the Earth, realized that it is now in the process of dying.
What lies behind it all? The fact that human beings now relate to their environment in a different way. The space around us no longer speaks to us in the way it did when human bodies were ‘fresh’, as it were. The world around us is one of space, but it no longer yields up the spiritual element. Colors no longer speak to us as elements filled with spirit, sounds no longer reveal the spirit that is in them; they have become substantial. And human nature has become more inward. It is strange to say, is it not, that the superficial human beings of the present time really and truly have become more inward. On the other hand human beings of today may be said to be superficial because in their present incarnation their inner constitution is such that they simply cannot reach their own inner being. They do not become aware of their inner nature; they do not gain the power to know themselves; they do not discover what they really are.
Someone who sees the world with the eye of the spirit sees many people today who simply are not themselves. Bodies are walking around, and the soul is not entirely inside them. Why? Because it is no longer the soul's task to enter fully into the body, which is beginning to crumble away; instead the soul's task is to prepare for what will happen on Jupiter. Our souls are even now making preparations for the future.
This is the situation we must penetrate with a perceptive mind. We are entirely constituted to hear the words of a cosmic spirit: ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ But it will be a long time before human beings are prepared to grasp this truth. Yet in spite of our outward superficiality we are truly less and less of this world. This, however, should not be confused with something else. People might well believe they could now walk around like Nietzsche's followers who called themselves ‘tawny beasts’, saying: We are in the world of the spirit; we do not belong to the physical world. The answer to this must be: The part of yourself of which you have knowledge does belong to the physical world; the rest is occult; it is hidden.
Nevertheless, we have the task of using all our powers of insight and all our inner strength to become aware of the essential element in us which can no longer give itself completely to the body, nor penetrate the whole body. We must see ourselves as candidates for the Jupiter age. This will only happen gradually, however. For the time being, human beings still continue in what they receive from their environment. It means that they continue in something which is below them. With every incarnation we withdraw more and more from the body, so that to some extent we are hovering above it.
If this were not the case, and people had to depend entirely on being like the ancient Greeks, the prospects for the further development of humanity would be dire indeed. Strange as it may seem, conscientious occult research aiming to penetrate the laws of human evolution reveals a truth which may well cause dismay at first sight. It shows that in a time not all that far ahead, possibly as early as the seventh millennium, all women will be infertile on Earth. The withering and crumbling of human bodies will go so far that this will happen. Just think — if the relationships that can only come into their own between the inner life and the physical body were to continue unchanged, people would no longer find anything to do on Earth. The fact is that women will no longer be able to have children, even before the Earth has gone through all its stages. Human beings therefore have to find a different way of relating to earthly existence. The final stages of Earth evolution will make it necessary for them to do without physical bodies and yet be present on Earth. Existence holds more mysteries than people would like to think when they base themselves on the primitive ideas of modern science.
There was an instinctive feeling for this in the twilight of the fourth, and the dawn of the fifth, post-Atlantean age. Things were said then which relate to developments in our own age. They could not be understood, however, and people often did not even properly understand human nature. Think of the seemingly brutal teaching of Saint Augustine, for example, and also of Calvin, that some people were destined to be blessed, others to be condemned, some to be good, therefore, and others evil. Such was the doctrine. It seems brutal. And yet, seen in the right light, such doctrines do not seem entirely wrong. Many things which seem wrong are also to some extent relatively right. Knowledge of human nature at the time of Saint Augustine and in the centuries which followed did not actually relate to the human mind and spirit — as you know, the human spirit was decreed to be non-existent at the Council of Constantinople — but to the human being who walks the Earth. Let me try and put as clearly as I can what this is really about.
You may meet one person and then another, and in Saint Augustine's terms we might say: this one is destined for good, and that one for evil. But only the outer physical body, not the individual personality. The latter was not even discussed in Augustine's day. If you have a number of people you may say — but it only has come to have meaning in more recent times and it would have been meaningless at the time of the ancient Greeks — These are human souls; they do, of course, fashion their own destinies. No impulses come to them from predestination. But they dwell in bodies destined for good or evil.
As Earth evolution progresses, human beings will be less and less able to develop their souls parallel to their bodies. Why, then, should it not be possible for an individual to incarnate in a body the whole constitution of which destines it for evil? The individual can still be good inside such a body, for the connection with the physical has become less close. This, then, is another awkward truth, but a truth which we must make our own.
In short, human beings are becoming more and more inward, and we must seriously come to realize that during the final epochs of Earth evolution they will withdraw from the outer physical body. It will, however, need the brutal reality of the facts to get human beings to accept these things, and this can only be gradually, as I have said on a number of occasions. The facts will force them to know these things.
Looking at the way people appear on the outside today we get one image. Looking at the way they do not immediately appear on the outside we get another image. Today the two images are no longer in complete agreement, and they will agree less and less as time goes on. It is really necessary for people today not to rely entirely on outer appearances if they want to form an idea; they have to base their ideas on the things which influence human beings out of the spirit.
In the future, ideas like these will be particularly vital in everything connected with politics, the social sciences, and so on, and especially also the sphere of education. Ideas coming from the natural and not from the spiritual world can no longer adequately meet human needs. Hence the inadequate political and social theories we have today. People want to base their judgment only on their physical environment; they do not want to be inspired by anything of a spiritual nature. This is the reason why their theories and political programs are so inadequate. We are living in an age when programs like the one which Woodrow Wilson is presenting are no longer appropriate; [ Note 8 ] the age demands world programs created out of other depths. It will need the assistance of the spirit to make world programs today.
People have not yet reached the point, however, where they can really be conscious of the truth of everything I have just told you. They are lumbering behind. They have been people of the fifth post-Atlantean age for a long time, but they still want to think like people of the fourth post-Atlantean age. That was right, it was great and truly in harmony in ancient Greek times. It is utterly wrong, however, to think like a Greek today.
The Greeks were given everything they needed from their environment, an environment which no longer exists today. In many respects one first of all notes a form of hatred or dislike arising — hatred being merely another aspect of fear — when it comes to taking an inward look at the human being. People want to limit themselves to the outer aspect. And so we get echoes of the past that are nothing but echoes of a time when human beings were not fully in control of their lives.
A very interesting phenomenon, one I would ask you to take a really good look at, is the following. Imagine we have a number of people putting their heads together, in a meeting, let us say — illuminated minds are meeting all the time nowadays. Well, the actual spiritual element has already separated to some extent; it really is no longer entirely present in those heads, for it has become inward. If there are thinkers present at the meeting, even superficial thinkers, the real heads are hidden from view — the people who are sitting there are not aware of them. And so it may be that you get meetings, or individuals, with old ideas running on like clockwork in those visible physical heads. These people have no idea of the demands of our time, but their automatic minds may bring up all kinds of echoes from the past. It is interesting that such things happen every now and again.
In 1912 a science called eugenetics was established in London. [ Note 9 ] People tend to use high-falutin' names for anything which is particularly stupid. The ideas you find in eugenetics really came from people's brains and not from their souls. What are the aims of this science? To ensure that only healthy individuals are born in future, and not inferior ones; economics and anthropology are to join forces to discover the laws according to which men and women are to be brought together in such a way that a strong race is produced.
People are really beginning to think in this way. The ideal of the London congress, which was chaired by Darwin's son, [ Note 10 ] was to examine people of different classes to see how large the skulls of the rich were compared to those of the poor, who have less opportunity for learning; how far sensibility went in rich and poor; how far the rich could resist getting tired and how far the poor would do so, and so on. They want to gain information on the human body in this way which may at some future date enable them to establish exactly the following: This is how the man should look, this is how the woman should look, if they are to produce the true human being of the future; he should have such a capacity for getting tired and she such a capacity; this size skull for him, and a matching size for her, and so on.
Those are the rumblings, natural rumblings, in brains which are emptied of soul; ideas rumbling about which had reality in the Atlantean age. Then there really were laws which enabled people to determine size, growth, and all kinds of things by cross-breeding and the like. It was a science that was widespread in Atlantean times and — as I mentioned yesterday — sorely misused. Atlantean science worked on the basis of physical relationships and it was known that if such a man was brought together with such a woman — differences between men and women were much greater at the time — the result would be such and such a creature, and then a different variety could be produced — just as plant breeders do today. The Mysteries brought order into this cross-breeding, where related and different elements were brought together. They established groups and withdrew anything which had to be withdrawn from humanity . The blackest of black magic was practiced in Atlantean times, and order was created by establishing classes and taking these matters out of human control. This was one of the factors which led to the nations and races of today. The issue of the nation as an entity is coming up again in our present time; it is an echo of the soulless brain from Atlantean times. There is so much talk about national issues today. But it is only the body speaking. The spirit has withdrawn and already belongs to a totally different world today. There you have the discrepancy between the reality and the speechifying about the ‘principle of nationality’ which goes on today. This will never lead to anything good; if politics are based on issues relating to nations, which are no longer issues of the day because the soul belongs to entirely different orders and realms than those which come to expression in our physical nature, this will inevitably take us into chaos over and over again. All this must be known, and it can only be known through Anthroposophy. Those rumblings in brains emptied of soul are the reason why ideas that human beings should be produced on the basis of certain laws are now coming up again.
Something else also reveals the rumblings of outdated ideas, ideas which can still be active in dried-up brains but which no longer come from the soul. The soul needs to be made strong, so that Anthroposophy can enter into it. Then people will speak out of their individual reality again.
You have no doubt heard of all the nonsense we get now, with all kinds of different people shown to be what they are in the light of psychopathology. All it needs is for someone to write a decent poem; the doctor will immediately tell you what illness he has. So we get all kinds of treatises — on Viktor Scheffel from the psychiatrist's point of view, on Nietzsche from the psychiatrist's point of view, and on Conrad Ferdinand Meyer from the psychiatrist's point of view.[ Note 11 ] Reading between the lines we feel the authors of these books are saying: Pity he did not get treatment in time. If he had had treatment at the right time, someone like Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, for example, would not have written the kinds of things he has written, for they are entirely written out of a diseased state.
It is very much in the spirit of our time that no attention is paid to the growing inwardness of individual human beings. Sometimes this must inevitably have the effect, especially in someone like Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, of the outward, physical body showing signs of disease, so that the inner life can achieve the highest spiritual level in a work of art, quite independent of the physical body. [ Note 12 ]
I am not bringing these things up in order to criticize them. From the purely medical point of view they are, of course, correct; there is nothing to be said against them. It is equally possible to do something else from a purely medical point of view. You can take the gospels and show, from a number of things, that Jesus Christ — that strange individual — existed because some quite specific pathological elements had come together. Such a book has in fact been written, and anyone can read it. [ Note 13 ] Another book shows that everything which came from the individual called Jesus could only have come from this individual because he was suffering from a particular disease.
We must penetrate all these things with our understanding if we are to enter into present developments. I especially want to discuss the education issue in this context, to show you that today growing children cannot be considered in a way which focuses only on things which come to outward expression. If we were to do so, our efforts at education would sometimes simply fail to reach the element which is now becoming more and more inward. Such things are not properly taken into account today, and this is why there is so little understanding and so much philistinism. In some respects, philistinism is the opposite of a true understanding of human nature, for philistines always like to stick to the norm. Anything which does not fit in with this is considered abnormal. But this will not help us to understand the world around us and, above all, other human beings. One of the things we should encourage in our Anthroposophical Society is to learn to understand human beings so that we may give due regard to the individual nature of others. Individuals differ much more from each other than one thinks, for the human soul no longer relates entirely to the body, and this makes human beings very complex today.
This, of course, has other consequences, though the matter is dealt with rather clumsily today; we must hope that Anthroposophy will help people become less clumsy about it. Just consider: in ancient Greece the whole body was filled with the whole soul, and they were in agreement. Today this is not the case, for the bodies are partly empty. I am not saying anything derogatory about empty heads; they will stay empty as part of evolution. In reality, however, nothing stays empty in this world. The heads are merely empty of something which was destined to fill them at another time. Nothing is ever completely empty.
With the human soul withdrawing more and more from the body, the body is increasingly in danger of being filled with something else. And if human beings are not prepared to take up impulses which can only come from spiritual knowledge, the body will be filled with demonic powers. Humanity is facing a destiny where the body may be filled with ahrimanic demonic powers. So we have to add to what I said yesterday about future development: there will be people in future who are Tom, Dick, and Harry in ordinary life, which is something determined by social circumstances, but their bodies will be empty to such an extent that a powerful ahrimanic spirit can live in them. One will be meeting ahrimanic demons. Human beings will not be what they appear to be. The individual person will be deep down inside, and outwardly one will get a totally different picture.
This shows the complexity of life to come. It is reasonable to say that there will be situations in future when it will be difficult to know who one is dealing with. Ricarda Huch's longing for the devil really arises from what will be coming in the future. The institutions and ideas, especially the social ideas people have today, are abstract and crude; they are clumsy in the face of the complexities that are lying ahead. And because people are not able to have ideas or concepts about the true nature of things, they are sliding more and more deeply into chaos — the events of the war make this quite clear. Chaos is arising because reality has changed; reality is becoming fuller and richer than anything people are able to think of or create in their heads. And we shall have to be clear in our minds that we are faced with a choice: To go on beating each other to a pulp, shooting at one another, in the way we do now, because we do not know how to bring order into the world, or start to develop concepts and ideas to match the complexity of the situation.
A spiritual movement must exist where people seek to develop concepts which meet the real situation. There will be vast numbers of people in future who want to stick to the rumblings of the past — today they are still in the minority. Their concepts, ideas, and actions will be based on the outside world around them and on the fact that their bodies are being filled with the ahrimanic spirit which wants them to form such ideas. We should not fool ourselves, for we are faced with a quite specific movement. At the Council of Constantinople it was decreed that the spirit did not exist; it was dogmatically stated that the human being consisted only of body and soul, and it was heresy to speak of a human spirit. In the same way attempts will be made to decree the soul, the inner life, as nonexistent.
The time will come — and it may not be far off — when quite different tendencies will come up at a congress like the one held in 1912 and people will say: It is pathological for people to even think in terms of spirit and soul. ‘Sound’ people will speak of nothing but the body. It will be considered a sign of illness for anyone to arrive at the idea of any such thing as a spirit or a soul. People who think like that will be considered to be sick and — you can be quite sure of it — a medicine will be found for this. At Constantinople the spirit was made non-existent. The soul will be made non-existent with the aid of a drug. Taking a ‘sound point of view’, people will invent a vaccine to influence the organism as early as possible, preferably as soon as it is born, so that this human body never even gets the idea that there is a soul and a spirit.
The two philosophies of life will be in complete opposition. One movement will need to reflect how concepts and ideas may be developed to meet the reality of soul and spirit. The others, the heirs of modern materialism, will look for the vaccine to make the body ‘healthy’, that is, make its constitution such that this body no longer talks of such rubbish as soul and spirit, but takes a 'sound' view of the forces which live in engines and in chemistry and let planets and suns arise from nebulae in the cosmos. Materialistic physicians will be asked to drive the souls out of humanity.
People who think that playful ideas will help them to look ahead to the future are very much mistaken. We need serious, profound ideas to look ahead to the future. Anthroposophy is not a game, nor just a theory; it is a task that must be faced for the sake of human evolution.