1. spiritual life: life etheric body
2. rights sphere: feeling astral body3. economic-sphere reason ego
Friday, October 20, 2017
Fashioning the world order out of ourselves
Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms. Lecture 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 5, 1920:
In order to comprehend a number of things that have to be mentioned in connection with previously presented matters, it is necessary to recall several facts. We have seen how we are connected with our environment, with the other realms of existence. We have seen how our etheric body is directed toward the animal kingdom, the astral body toward the plant kingdom, and the ego toward the mineral kingdom. We have seen how, as a result of the work which the ego performs upon itself together with others within the social order, there arises what we know as the cultural development of mankind in art, religion, and science. I said yesterday that these soul contents — art, religion, and science — are basically nothing else than what comes about through the work of the human ego upon itself. Thus we have here one of the examples showing the connection of the human being with social life. Art, religion, and science are really, in the widest extent, the contents of the actual spirit realm of the social organism.
Then we have what comes into existence through the transformation of the astral body. As a matter of course, this transformation must be essentially more subconscious at the present stage of human evolution than what is accomplished in the spiritual realm of art, religion, and science; and what grows out of the metamorphosis of the astral body is essentially what we have to designate as the rights sphere within the social organism. Then, even more subconsciously, we have what results from the transformation of the etheric body because of our living in union with our fellowmen. All that springs from this, all that men do through the transmutation of their ether body, belongs to the economic sphere of the social organism. Here then we have the connections, the relationships, of the human being to what is outside him. Yesterday too we saw the significance of such relationships that the human being has to the life of the social order outside him. For as we have seen, he thus actually prepares the basic natural foundation for his next life on Earth. He works in a certain measure at the creation of earthly existence itself. It would indeed be desirable for as many people as possible to grasp the extraordinary importance and relevance of the present moment of human evolution.
It can be said that until this world-historical hour the evolution of humanity has, in general, rested on the providential care of the forces standing above man in the higher hierarchies. As we know, mankind achieved a certain development of the ether body during the old Indian cultural period, a certain development of the astral body during the Egypto-Chaldean time, and a development of the intellectual soul in the Greco-Latin time. Now humanity is on the point of lifting the consciousness soul from the depths of soul existence. But since the germ of what is to come must always be present in the preceding evolutionary stages, what is to be the content of the next cultural epoch — the unfoldment of the spirit-self — is already proclaiming itself; however, this development of the spirit-self must of necessity proceed from man himself.
We have passed through various Earth lives. When we speak of the men of the primeval Indian time, of the ancient Persian, the Egypto-Chaldean, and the Greco-Latin times, we are, in fact, speaking of ourselves; for we lived under quite different conditions in those ancient times. We lived in surroundings of animal, plant, or mineral nature prepared for us at the instigation of our divine progenitors, who were the humanity on the Moon, the Sun, and Saturn and who, in the pre-stages of the Earth, experienced what we are experiencing today. What constitutes content upon an earlier planetary evolution remains as form for the succeeding one. We lived on what was bequeathed to us by the gods, the beings of the higher hierarchies. Now we have reached the point where the Earth would dry up and wither if man, in a sense, did not spin out a new thread of life from himself.
Just think how all this was really prepared for us. Naturally we have a spiritual life within our social life. The people of the Occident are proud of this social life; they are proud of their art, religion, and science. Human beings must distinguish, however, between the Mystery of Golgotha as a fact, and the manner in which it has been heretofore understood through concepts obtained from religion, art, and science. We have comprehended the Christ according to the standard of what we possessed as spiritual content in our souls. Here in the Occident we have established something like a continuation of the old spirituality. When anyone is able objectively to enter upon the nature of the actual spiritual life of Europe and its American extension, he finds that in the end it is all an Oriental heritage. It is nothing else. Certainly, we have changed any number of things. As I have already pointed out in these lectures, the quite different worldview of the Orient — which, once upon a time, could magnificently grasp the causative connections between the successive Earth lives of the human being, but which later in the Greek concept of the cosmos had become a shadow of itself in the fatum, in destiny — all that turned finally through the Latin Roman element into something juristic. I have indicated how this is felt when we look at Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel where Christ appears in the role of World Judge, a cosmic jurist, deciding between good and evil human beings. The world concept had become juristic. This was not so in the Oriental worldview.
Then there was added what results from economic thinking. Bacon was one who actually proceeded entirely from economic thought, and all of Europe allowed itself to be taught by him. What we possess in our sciences, and what today constitutes the popular view of the world permeating all European circles, is the result of this Western economic thinking, which, as I have indicated, simply did not stop with the economic sphere, but has entered the higher domains, the rights domain and even the cultural domain. If individuals like Huxley and Spencer had employed their thinking to bring order into economic relationships, they would then be in the right place. They are out of place when employing their particular kind of thinking for the purpose of creating science. Yet the whole world has imitated them.
We can therefore say that what we possess of actual spirituality is fundamentally only an obsolete legacy of the ancient Orient. Later, legalistic, political thinking began in Greece and Rome. It would simply be nonsense to believe that this could have existed in the ancient structure of the Oriental state. The dignified patriarchal structures, of which the early Chinese constitution was a reflection, were not state formations in the sense that the European understands them. What we now possess as the rights structure did not yet exist in Orientalism. It entered into Occidental culture, faintly at first, by way of Greek thinking, and then quite strongly by way of Latin thinking. Thus we must say that our entire spiritual life basically still has a character which was inherited from what the Oriental possessed. Bear in mind, however, how I had to present this emergence of the Oriental spiritual life. It arose out of man's metabolism — out of the inner impulses of metabolism — in the Vedas, in the magnificent poetry of the Orient. It must be sought as a new outgrowth of the metabolism, just as blossom and fruit issue from the tree. Anyone who can look upon the inner relationships as they are in reality knows how to look upon the blossoms and fruit of the tree; he will observe how the sap rises up from the earth, ascends in the trunk, shoots out into the branches, turns green within the leaves, becomes varicolored in the blossoms, and achieves ripeness in the fruit. This is what presents itself to our eyes. If we then note the result in our metabolic processes of what is drawn up with the substance coming from the earth and taken up into ourselves, how it is digested and burned up, how it passes over into the blood, is refined and etherized within the body, we see that it sprouts, flourishes, and ripens just like the vegetative process that turns to blossoms, fruits. and trees. It only changes into something else by sprouting, flourishing, and ripening through the human organs; it turns into the poetic fruit of the Vedas, it becomes the philosophic fruit of the Vedanta philosophy. In the Orient the spiritual life was considered a fruit of the earth, of the metabolism that courses through the human being, just as one looked upon the process coursing through the verdant, fruit-bearing tree. What appears in the Vedas and in Oriental poetry is intimately bound up with the essence of the earth. It is the flower of the earth. It is nonsense when men of today make our earth into a lifeless product, as geology does, for instance. For not only what arises from the earth in flower and fruit belongs to her, but also what has arisen like a philosophical fruit in the primordial epochs of mankind in the Vedas and the Vedanta philosophy. Whoever wishes to see nothing but stones come into existence in or upon the earth, whoever sees her only as tillable soil, whoever views the earth as nothing but mineral substance, does not know the earth. For to her belongs also what she has borne in times past as blossom and fruit through the body of man.
Then the other age arrived, the age in which man had already emancipated himself from the earth. He was no longer connected with the earth, but only with the climate and atmosphere, in which he brought to expression his rhythmic system rather than his metabolic system. It was the age in which the mighty spiritual intuitions of antiquity were no longer manifest, but in which man's concepts of rights developed.
In the more recent age, particularly since Bacon, the human being has begun to withdraw completely into himself, to divorce himself from the earth, and to manifest what lives only within himself as mere intellect within the economic thinking of the Western world. Thus what evolves through the human being is differentiated over the earth.
All these are matters to which we must pay attention at present. If we would pay attention to these things, we must certainly bring our soul to an inward awakening. We must seek to comprehend what spiritual science can give us. We must confess to ourselves that the time is past when, after having worked hard all week, we can simply sit down and listen to an abstract sermon about the connection of the human being with a divine world order. Those times are over; that is antiquated.
It is the duty of modern humanity to comprehend quite concretely how man's essential being is itself linked with the cosmos, how its existence is bound up with the cosmos. Only as a consequence of this comprehension will the human being understand the necessity of dividing the social life into the spiritual sphere — which is basically only a heritage from the Orient grown more and more lifeless, for our spiritual life today is dead — and the other two spheres. The old Oriental of primeval times could never have grasped what is meant when we say that we do not understand life. Today we say that we do not understand life, for we live only in the dead mineral realm, even though we do so with our ego, which the Oriental did not yet do. Precisely here, life must enter. After all, what do we mean when we strive as human beings to accord a special place and emphasis to the spiritual sphere within the social organism? What is it, after all, that we desire here?
As long as the spiritual or cultural sphere is bound up with the wholly differently constituted rights or state structure — or worse, with the economic life — so long will the single human individuality be unable to contribute to the spiritual life what this spiritual life should contain. Let us understand one another on this particular point! With the thinking habits of the present it is not an easy task to understand just what matters here. In what follows I shall attempt to make comprehensible just what needs to be grasped in this respect.
Consider, for instance, the case where the state enacts its school laws. These school laws are put through either from a despotic, tyrannical point of view or from a democratic one. How are they made? Let us put the matter quite simply. Picture to yourself three people sitting together. When three people sit down together they are “terribly clever” in an abstract sense. Three people who get together really know everything about all things; it is not much better when people come together as a party — they usually know everything about all things. One knows exactly how to set up paragraph one: how religion should be taught; paragraph two: how German or any other language should be taught; paragraph three: how arithmetic should be taught; paragraph four: how geography should be taught. Wonderful paragraphs can be worked out that should represent an ideal condition for the educational system. Then all this can be made into rules and regulations, and then put into effect. It is quite immaterial whether it is done by three or three hundred people, it will always be very clever, for people are very clever when they construct something in abstractions. Then it becomes law. It is something else, however, when, for instance, someone confronts a class of fifty real children. They have quite definite characters; they are not the wax we pretend they are, when, with great cleverness, we formulate paragraphs one, two, and so forth. Children can be molded only as far as their special peculiarities and abilities allow. In addition, something else enters the picture. The teacher himself confronts the class with his particular capabilities. They, too, are limited. And one with experience knows that rules can be this good in an abstract sense [referring to larger form in drawing]; the clever teacher, however, can only apply them this well [referring to the smaller form]. In abstractions, everything can be figured out. In reality, however, it is a question of dealing with reality. In the educational system that is part of the spiritual sphere, the state as such can accomplish nothing but abstractions. These can be quite wonderful and outstandingly good — but leave the state out of it! Take it out of the educational system, which is a part of the spiritual sphere! Make the educational system dependent on the teachers themselves who are available at a particular time. Then it will be a reality; then it will not become a lie but something that is in accordance with the particular age. That is what is meant by working toward realities. Something else, however, takes its place: Paragraphs one, two, three, ten, fifty are all dead, and the way in which they are observed is actually something absolutely irrational. What lives through the body of teachers and comes into existence in the living collaboration among real teachers is alive. Here you have the point where life enters into what is derived from the dead mineral. A higher sphere is reached. We bring life, illuminated life, into the spiritual sphere by resting it upon human individualities, not upon paragraphs one, two, and so on. We infuse life into the spiritual sphere; out of an ether body we permeate the spiritual sphere around us with what is derived from the living human being. In your own attitude of mind what is otherwise dead, inanimate, a machinelike thought, turns into a living being. The spiritual sphere spreads out as something inwardly alive over the entire Earth. That is what must be understood inwardly. One must feel how life streams out of an undreamed-of soul depth into the independent life of the spirit, and how we actually vivify this self-reliant spiritual life by founding it upon the human individuality.
You see from this that what we draw forth from spiritual science for everyday life has to do most intensely with realities. One could really despair when one sees how little actual energy and enthusiasm is generated in humanity for this vivification of the spiritual sphere. One feels as though humanity were imbued by the same attitude of mind as is a person who desires to see only stillborn children brought into the world, and who does not wish the spark of life to enter the body that otherwise would come into the world dead. This is how one feels about modern mankind. Humanity sits upon a dead culture, as if stuck with pitch to comfortable seats, not willing to rise to the enthusiasm of vivifying the spiritual life. Enthusiasm is what we need above all else, for this spiritual life will not be revitalized out of its dead traditions.
Next is the rights sphere. I said that it is born out of instincts, out of half-conscious instincts. This rights sphere was still something semiconscious, glimmering up into consciousness, when born out of Greek life, more particularly, out of the Latin-Roman life, and was then elaborated upon further. Now it is to be placed independently on its own democratic basis. What has developed under the impulse of the rights sphere up to now? The legal paragraphs came into being, in which the individual has such a small share that I must say there has been hardly anything that has left such a bitter taste in my mouth as when I had dealings with a lawyer. This has happened repeatedly in my life. One goes to somebody who is a representative of the law, a man learned in the law. One is concerned with a specific case. One watches this lawyer go to some filing cabinet. He takes out a bundle of briefs. With much effort, he fits together what he is reading at the moment; he himself is quite detached from the matter at hand. One wishes to know how this case fits into the framework of the law. He goes to his library, takes out a certain law book, leafs through it at length, but nothing results because in reality he is entirely unacquainted with the subject. Nothing at all of a living, human connection is present in such a proceeding.
A matter of litigation once caused considerable correspondence between a lawyer and myself; I do not wish to relate the whole affair. In the end, it turned out that it was necessary to refer also to a book on international law. The case had been going on for nearly two and a half years when the good man told me that he did not have a book on international law, and I would have to procure it myself. He said “You will have to supply me with the necessary data anyway, if I am to give you further advice!” Now, those who know me are aware that I am certainly not boastful in such matters. I am certainly not conceited, either. I obtained the book on international law, and within two hours it was clear to me just how the case stood. One need only look into matters with a healthy mind and one finds that what otherwise might be protracted over two years can be accomplished in two hours. This is how far removed the human element has come from what really exists as the system of rights, which has become entangled in what is derived from the three members in the social organism. We must return to a life that experiences what holds sway in rights in the same way we experience the external sense objects. We must be connected in a living manner with what exists as the rights body.
The true meaning of democracy is for the dead paragraphs to be humanized, and for our feelings to participate in what otherwise lies buried in the dead paragraphs. Just as life enters the spiritual sphere through what can be born out of spiritual science, so also will feeling enter into the rights sphere through what is being willed by spiritual science. What lives from man to man will then be felt.
We proceed to the third sphere — the economic sphere. We know that this takes place very much in the subconscious; that based on what he has to deal with, an individual today is simply not in a position to penetrate with full consciousness into what is at hand in the economic sphere. Associations must be formed in which the experience of the one supplements the experience of another. Out of associations, out of group formations, the decisions must subsequently be made. Whereas each one of us must individually create out of ourselves what is commensurate with our talents in the spiritual sphere, what is active in the economic sphere must result from a group decision. From such group judgment, governing reason will then emerge and hold sway in the economic life.
Reason will reign in the economic sphere. This means that we contribute what we have evolved in ourselves as a gift from the gods. We contribute what we have evolved as our etheric element, what we have developed in regard to feeling as astral body, and what we have evolved as reason for our ego. All this we bring to the outer world. In the economic sphere we need not yet make the contribution as individuals; therefore we do so through associations and groups. But what we have developed individually in the ego — reason — becomes something that permeates the whole economic sphere if we aim at associations in the proper manner. Hence we carry the impulses existing in our ether body out into the social order, into the spiritual life, by enlivening the spiritual life; we carry into the rights sphere what pulsates in our astral body as feeling; and we bear into the economic sphere what lives in our ego as reason. As human beings, we have attained three things in the cosmic order: etheric body, astral body, and ego. We leave the world again with the etheric body, astral body, and ego. We yield it up to the world. We fashion the world order out of ourselves. Why should it be otherwise? Among the lower animals much is exemplified for us by the spider that spins out of herself what must come to pass. Man must indeed become a world creator, and must form out of himself what will constitute his environment in the future. We bear the future in us. I have discussed this from the most varied points of view.
Of what use is all the philosophical talk about the reality of the world? We should inform ourselves about the reality of the world by looking at the realities of the future. What is to be real in the future is borne today within us as ideality. Let us fashion the world so that it will be real. This must not live in us merely as theory; it must be a feeling in us, an innermost life impulse. Then we shall simultaneously have a cognitive relationship and a religious relationship to our environment. Out of this innermost impulse, art, too, will become something quite different in the future. It will turn into something that unites with immediate life. Our very existence will have to shape itself artistically. Without that, we will inevitably drift into the philistinism of a Lenin, a Trotsky, or a Lunatsharsky. [ Note 89 ] It is only the Spirit created by man out of himself that can save us from this morass; and if the life of rights is not to succumb to utter desolation, we must permeate it with feeling; and we must permeate the economic life with reason.
There was a man who looked back at the ways and means the world developed and he said “All that is real is rational, and all that is rational is real.” He, however, looked back to what the world had become through the old gods; he did not look to the future. It was Hegel, of whom I spoke here on August 27th, his 150th birthday. Today we are at a point where the world is irrational, and where man must make it rational once more. We must realize this, and this knowledge must pass into thinking, feeling, and will. There is only one social reform: People must realize what part mankind must play in the shaping of the world order.
This is what we ought to repeat to ourselves each morning and night so that we will understand anew what nonsense it is to speak of the eternity and preservation of matter. Everything surrounding us as substance will pass away. What dwells in us as ideals will replace the vacuums brought about by the destruction of matter. The ideals that live within us for the time being will occupy the empty spaces as future reality.
In this way the human being must feel a bond with the world order. In a new way he must experience Christ's words “Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” [ Note 90 ] One who understands this utterance knows that it is a genuinely Christian saying. For Christianity starts from the destructibility of matter and external energy, whereas the recent natural-scientific world outlook mocks Christianity by promulgating the conservation of matter and energy. Indeed, Heaven and Earth — meaning all matter — will pass away and all energy cease to be, but what forms within the soul of man and dwells in the word will be the world of the future. That is Christianity.
This newly understood Christianity must eradicate the anti-Christian attitude of the modern materialistic world outlook, which fantasizes about the conservation of things transitory — matter and energy. Things have gone so far that the tenets of Christianity, namely, eternity of the spirit and the avowal of the transitory nature of matter, are considered sheer insanity as compared to the firmly established phantasm of the conservation of matter and energy. It has gone so far that we lie when we still allege to be Christians while we lend a hand to the dissemination of an anti-Christian world outlook. One who holds fast to modern natural science's basic views on matter would only be honest if he could recant Christianity. Above all, in reality, representatives of Christian confessions, ministers and pastors who make their compromises with modern natural science, are inwardly quite certainly the worst enemies of Christianity. There is no other way but to begin to see these matters clearly and honestly. We must definitely speak about these things more and more in full earnestness. Without this there will be no progress. All talk of reforms, of which any number of organizations and reform movements chatter today, is mere fantasy; it is only grist to the mill of those who bring about the decline. The only hope for renewal can come from grasping the living spirit, the living spirit that has to find its source in the creative human being and which, in turn, becomes the foundation for the reality of the future, not just of some ideal future, but that of the cosmic future.
In all truth, not until modern humanity accepts this metamorphosis of modern thinking with the same ardor with which world outlooks were once accepted in former times, not until then will decline transform itself into ascending progress. One wishes that what is thus being stated would not only be comprehended conveniently by concepts; one wishes that it would be grasped by the feelings and that it would pulse through the will. For unless it is sensed and felt, unless it pulses through the will, all talk of emerging from this catastrophic age remains so much talk into the wind. Most people are unaware of the terrible way in which we are sailing into the decline that now is taking hold already of the physical environment. The physical, however, is always the consequence of the spiritual. The physical of the future will be the consequence of the spiritual we harbor in our souls today. The physical of the present is caused by the spiritual of the past, and the most recent physical conditions are brought about by the most recent past spiritual activities of mankind.
When we hear today that out of about 600 school children in Berlin an average of much more than one hundred do not have shoes and socks at present and no hope of getting them; when we are told that many more than a hundred and fifty of these 600 children have parents who cannot even purchase rations for them and who no longer receive a warm breakfast before going to school; that in the course of the last school year over 100 of these children died of tuberculosis — just add this up for yourselves! — then, my dear friends, you have material occurrences. These physical occurrences are the external expression of the spirituality that has been nurtured in mankind during the past few centuries. One must ask today: Do people wish to go on cultivating social movements — women's movements and any number of other reforms — while continuing the thoughts that have borne such fruit? Or are they willing to create and draw from a new source? This question should place itself in shining letters before our souls as we experience and feel the point in time at which we now stand.