Tuesday, December 5, 2017
History as the working of Christ in the middle between Lucifer and Ahriman; Catholicism versus spirituality
Materialism and the Task of Anthroposophy. Lecture 12.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 1, 1921:
Yesterday I tried to outline the various preparations of different nations for the significant point in humanity's development in the middle of the nineteenth century that then, in a sense, flowed from that time on into our present age. All this can be illustrated through descriptions of the connections between external phenomena and the inner spiritual course of development. Today, we shall bring together several facts that can throw some light on the actual underlying history of the nineteenth century. After all, it is true that the middle of that century is the point when intellectual activity completely turned into a function, an occupation, of the human physical body. Whereas this activity of the intellect was a manifestation of the etheric body during the whole preceding age — from the eighth century B.C. until the fifteenth century A.D. — it has increasingly become an activity of the physical body since that time. This process reached a culmination in the middle of the nineteenth century. Along with this, the human being has in fact become more spiritual than was previously the case.
The insights into the spiritual world that had come about earlier and had diminished since the beginning of modern times were derived, after all, from the more intensive union of the physical body with the etheric body. Simply because they were now in a position to carry out something completely nonphysical with their physical body, namely, intellectual activity, human beings thus became completely spiritual beings in regard to their activity. But as I already pointed out yesterday, they denied this spirituality. People related what they grasped mentally only to the physical world. And as I attempted to characterize it yesterday, the different nations were prepared in different ways for this moment in the development of modern civilization.
From this earlier characterization, the fundamental difference between the soul condition of the Roman-Latin segment of Europe's population and that of the Anglo-Saxon part will have become clear. A radical difference does indeed exist in regard to the inner soul constitution. This radical difference can best be characterized if certain spiritual streams that have run their course in humanity's evolution since ancient times and have been recognized long ago are juxtaposed to the contrast between France, Spain, Italy, and the inhabitants of the British Isles and their American descendants. This can be characterized in the following way. Everything that was part of the Ahura-Mazdao cult in the ancient Persian culture, mankind's looking up to the light, encountered in a diminished form in the Egypto-Chaldean civilizations and, even more diminished, in Greek culture, finally became abstract in the Roman culture. All this left residual traces in what has been preserved throughout the Middle Ages and the modern era in the Romance segment of the European population. The last offshoot of the Ormuzd or Ahura-Mazdao culture has remained behind, as it were, whereas, on the other hand, the stream that was considered the ahrimanic one in the ancient Persian world view emerges as modern culture. Indeed, like Ormuzd and Ahriman, these two cultures confront each other in recent times. We find poured into this Ormuzd stream everything that comes from the Roman Church. The forms Christianity assumed by enveloping itself with the Roman-juristic forms of government, by turning into the papal church of Rome, are the last offshoots. We have indicated much else from which these forms originated, but together with all these things they are the last offshoots of the Ormuzd cult. These last traces can still be detected in the offering of the Mass and all that is present in it. A proper understanding of what lies at the basis of these traces will be attained only if less value is placed on insignificant aspects as compared to the great streams of humanity, only if in studying these matters the true value is sought in the forms of thought and feeling that hold sway.
In regard to external civilization, modern impulses came to expression in a tumultuous way in the French Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. As I indicated yesterday, there lived in it though in abstractions, the appeal addressed to the individual, the conscious human being. We might actually say, like a counterblow against what continued to survive in Romanism, these abstractions of freedom, equality, and brotherhood came into being out of the world of ideas. We must distinguish between what found its way into the Roman forms of thought and feeling out of ancient spiritual streams, and the element that originated from human nature. After all, we must always distinguish the essence of a single nationality from the ongoing stream of humanity in general. We shall see how a light that clearly points to the characteristic moment in humanity's evolution in that century also takes shape precisely in the French civilization later on in the nineteenth century. But the national element in the French, Spanish, and Italian cultures contains in itself the continuation of the Ormuzd element in those times in which this element — naturally transformed through the Catholicity of Christianity — appears as a shadow of an ancient civilization. Therefore, we see that despite all aspirations towards freedom Romanism became and has remained the bearer of what the Roman Church in its world dominion represents.
You really do not understand much of the course of European development, if you do not clearly realize in what sense Roman ecclesiasticism continues to live in Romanism to this day. Indeed even the thought forms employed in the struggle against the institutions of the Church are in turn themselves derived from this Roman Catholic thinking. Thus, we have to distinguish between the general stream of humanity's evolution, which has assumed abstract character and flows through the French Revolution, and the particular national, the Roman-Latin stream, which is actually completely infected with Roman Catholicity.
Out of this stream of Roman Catholicity, a remarkable phenomenon arises in the beginning of the nineteenth century. This phenomenon and its significance for the development in Europe is given far too little attention. Most people who spend their lives being asleep to the phenomena of civilization know nothing of what has been living in the depths of European culture since the beginning of the nineteenth century and is still fully grounded in Roman Catholicity. All this is concentrated, I should say, in the first third of the nineteenth century in the activities of a certain personality, namely, de Maistre. [Note 1] De Maistre is actually the representative of the Catholicity borne by the waves of Romanism, Catholicity that has the aspiration to lead the whole of Europe back into its bosom. With de Maistre, a personality of the greatest imaginable genius, of compelling spirituality but Roman Catholic through and through, appears on the scene.
Let us now give some consideration to something that is completely unfamiliar to those who think along Protestant lines, yet is present in a relatively large number of people in Europe. It is not commonly known that a spiritual stream does in fact exist that is quite unknown to what has otherwise developed since the beginning of the fifteenth century, but that is itself well-acquainted with the effects of this new mentality of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch.
Let us try to characterize the world view in the minds of those for whom de Maistre was a brilliant representative in the first third of the nineteenth century. He himself has long since died, but the spirit that inspired him lives on in a relatively large number of people in Europe. Our present is the time in which it is coming to life again, assuming new forms and seeking to gain larger and larger dimensions. We shall characterize the world view at its roots in a few sentences. This view holds that since the beginning of the fifteenth century the course of human life on earth is going downhill. Since that time, only dissipation, godlessness, and vapidity have proliferated in European civilization; the mere intellect focusing on usefulness has gripped humanity. Truth, on the other hand, which is identical with the spirituality of the world, expresses something different since time immemorial. The problem is that modern man has forgotten this ancient, sacred truth. This primordial, sacred truth implies that man is a fallen creature. The human being has cause to appeal to his conscience and remorse in his soul so that he can lift himself up, so that his soul will not fall prey to materiality. But inasmuch as European humanity utilizes materiality since the middle of the fifteenth century, the European civilization is falling into ruin and with it the whole of mankind.
That is the world view whose main exponent is de Maistre. According to this view all of humanity falls into two categories, one representing the kingdom of God, the other representing the kingdom of this world. The followers of this view look upon the earth's population and distinguish those who they say belong to the kingdom of God. They are the ones who still believe in the ancient truths, who, in fact, have vanished in their true form since the beginning of the fifteenth century. Their noblest aftereffects can still be detected in the views of Augustine, [Note 2] who also differentiates between human beings who are predestined to salvation and those predestined to damnation. The adherents of de Maistre claim that when one encounters a person in this world, he either belongs to the kingdom of God, or to the kingdom of this world. It only appears as though human beings were all mixed together. In the eyes of the spiritual world they are strictly separated from one another, and they can be distinguished from one another. In antiquity, those who belonged to the kingdom of the world, worshiped superstition, that is, they fashioned for themselves false images of the deity; since the beginning of the fifteenth century, they cling to unbelief. That is what de Maistre and his followers say. They know very well what the majority of the European population has slept through, namely, the new age that has in fact dawned since the beginning of the fifteenth century. They indicate this point in time; they indicate it as that moment in time when humanity forgot the source, the actual source of divine truth. They put it like this: Through sole use of the shadowy intellect, human beings found themselves in a position where the connecting link between them and the source of eternal truth was severed. Since that time, Providence no longer extends mercy to mankind, only justice, and this justice will hold sway on the day of Judgment.
If one relates something like this, it is like telling people a fairy tale; nevertheless, there are those in Europe who cling to this view that since the beginning of the fifteenth century divine world rule has assumed a quite different position in regard to earth humanity. They cling to this tenet just as modern scientists adhere to the law of gravity or something like that. Despite the fact that the existence of this view of life is of fundamental significance particularly for the present, people today do not wish to pay any heed to something like this. De Maistre sees the most pronounced defection from ancient truth in the French Revolution. He does not view it in the way we considered it, namely, as the arising in abstract form of what is supposed to direct human beings to the consciousness soul. Instead, he views this Revolution as the fall into unbelief, the worst thing that could have happened to modern humanity. The French Revolution in particular signifies to him that the seal has now been set on the fact that the divine world power no longer has any obligation to extend mercy in any form on the human being but merely justice, which will be sure to prevail on the Day of Judgment. It is assumed in these circles that those who will fall prey to the powers of doom are already predestined, and also already preordained are those who are the children of the Kingdom of God, who are destined to save themselves because they still cling to ancient wisdom that enjoyed its special bloom in the fourth century A.D.
Such an impulse pervades the text Observations About France de Maistre wrote in 1796 when he still lived in Piermont. Already then he reproached France, the France of the Revolution, for its long list of sins. Already then, he referred to the foundations of Romanism that still retain what has come down from ancient times. This sentiment is expressed even more strongly in de Maistre's later writings, and the latter are connected with the whole mission in world history de Maistre ascribed to himself. [Note 3]
After all, he chose Petersburg as the setting for his activity; his later writings proceeded from there. De Maistre had the grandiose idea to tie in with Russianism, particularly with the element that had found its way since ancient times from Asia into the Orthodox Catholic, Russian religion. From there, he wished to create a connection to Romanism. He tried to bring about the great fusion between the element living in the Oriental manner of thinking in Russian culture, and the element coming from Rome. The article he wrote in Petersburg in 1810, ”Essay Concerning the Creative Principle of Political Constitutions,” is already imbued with this view. We can discern from this text how de Maistre refers back to what Christianity was in regard to its metaphysical view prior to the scholastic age, what it was in the first centuries and what was acceptable to Rome. De Maistre aimed for Roman, for Catholic, Christianity as a real power, but in a certain sense he even rejected what the Middle Ages had already produced as an innovation on the basis of Aristotle's philosophy. In a certain sense, de Maistre tried to exclude Aristotle, for the latter was to him already the preparation for what has appeared since the fifteenth century in the form of the modern faculty of reason. Through human faculties other than logic, de Maistre wanted to attain to a relationship with spirituality.
The essay he wrote in the second decade of the nineteenth century, “Concerning the Pope,” moves particularly strongly in the direction of this concept of life. We might say that it is a text that exudes a classic spirit in its composition, a spirit that belongs, in a manner of speaking, to the finest times of French culture under Louis XIV. At the same time, it had as penetrating an effect as any inspired writing. The Pope is presented as the rightful ruler of modern civilization, and it is significant that this is being stated in Petersburg. The manner of presentation is such that one is supposed to distinguish between the temporal, namely, the corruption that has come into the world through a number of Popes, the objectionable elements in regard to some of the Popes, and the eternal principle of Roman Papacy. In a sense, the Pope is represented as incarnation of the spirit of the earth that is to rule over this earth. One is moved to say: All the warmth that lives in this essay about the Pope is the shining forth of Ormuzd's spirit that very nearly sees Ahura-Mazdao himself incarnated in the Roman Pope and therefore makes the demand that the Roman Catholic Church in its fusion with all that found its way from the Orient into Russia — for this is implied in the background — will rule supreme, that it will sweep away all that the intellectual culture has produced since the beginning of the fifteenth century.
De Maistre was really brilliantly effective in this direction. In 1816, his translation of Plutarch was published. [Note 4] In it he tried to demonstrate the sort of power that Christianity possessed; a power, so he thought, that had insinuated itself as thought form into Plutarch's dissertations although the latter was still a pagan. Finally, the last work from de Maistre's pen, again proceeding from Petersburg, Twilight Hours in St. Petersburg, was published in two volumes. [Note 5] First of all, everything I have already characterized appears in them in an especially pronounced form; in particular he depicts the radical struggle of Roman Catholicism against what appears on the British Isles as its counterpart.
If, on the one hand, we see how Roman Catholicism crystallizes in all this in a certain direction, if we note what is connected in the form of Roman Catholicism with personalities like Ignatius of Loyola, [Note 6] Alfonso di Liguori, [Note 7] Francis Xaverius, [Note 8] and others and relate this to the brilliant figure of de Maistre; if we observe everything that is present here, then, in a manner of speaking, we see the obsolete, archaic light of Ormuzd. On the other hand, we note what de Maistre sees arising on the British Isles and what he then assails cuttingly with the pungent acid of his penetrating mind. This struggle by de Maistre against the true essence of the Anglo-Saxon spirit is one of the most grandiose spiritual battles that has ever taken place. In particular, he aims at the personality of the philosopher Locke [Note 9] and sees in him the very incarnation of the spirit that leads mankind into decline. He opposes Locke's philosophy brilliantly to excess.
We need only recall the significance of this philosophy. In the background, on the one hand, we must note the Roman principles of initiation that express themselves like a continuing Ormuzd worship. We must be aware of everything that flowed into this from somebody like Ignatius of Loyola, Bossuet, [Note 10] and in such grand manner from de Maistre himself. On the other hand, in contrast to everything that has its center in Roman Catholicism in Rome itself, yet is based on initiation and, I might say, is certainly the newest phase of the Ormuzd initiation, we have to observe all the secret societies that spread from Scotland down through England and of which English philosophy and politics are an expression. From a certain, different viewpoint, I have described that on another occasion. De Maistre is just as well informed about what makes itself felt out of an ahrimanic initiation principle as he is knowledgeable about what he is trying to bring to bear as the Ormuzd initiation in the new form for European civilization. De Maistre knows how to evaluate all these things; he is intelligent enough to recognize them esoterically, inasmuch as he attacks the philosopher Locke who in a sense is an offspring, an outward, exoteric offspring, of this other, ahrimanic initiation. He is attacking an important personality, the one who made his appearance with the epochal book Concerning Human Reason, which then greatly influenced French thinking. Subsequently, Locke was indeed revered by Voltaire. [Note 11] His influence was such that Madam de Sevigne [Note 12] remarked concerning an Italian writer who made Locke palatable in a literary sense for Italy, that the latter would have liked to consume Locke's rhetorical embellishments in every bowl of boullion.
Now de Maistre took a close look at Locke and said: It is impossible that Voltaire, for example, and other Frenchmen could have even read this Locke! In his book Twilight Hours in St. Petersburg de Maistre discusses in detail how writers actually gain world fame. He demonstrates that it is quite possible that Voltaire had never read Locke; he really could not have read him, otherwise he would have been smart enough not to defend Locke as he did.
Even though de Maistre sees a veritable devil in Voltaire, he still does him justice by saying this of him. And in order to substantiate this, he offers long essays on how individuals like Locke are written and spoken about in the world, individuals who are viewed as great men. This is notwithstanding the fact that in reality people are not concerned with gaining firsthand knowledge about them, but instead familiarize themselves with such individuals by means of secondary sources. It is as if humanity were imprisoned in error — this is how Locke affects these people. The whole modern way of thinking that, according to de Maistre's view, then led to the catastrophe of the French Revolution actually proceeds from Locke; in other words Locke is the exponent, the symptom, the historical symptom for this. From the point from which Locke proceeded, this way of thinking dominates the world. De Maistre scrutinizes Locke, and he says that there were few writers who had such an absolute lack of a sense of style as did Locke, and he demonstrates this in detail. He tries to prove in every instance that Locke's statements are so trivial, so matter of fact, that one need not reckon with them at all, that it is quite unnecessary to trouble one's thoughts with them. He states that Voltaire said Locke always clearly defined everything, but, asks de Maistre, what are these definitions by Locke? Nothing but truisms, “nonsensical tautologies,” to use a modern term, and ridiculous. According to him, all of Locke's pen pushing is supposedly a joke without style, without brilliance, full of tautologies and platitudes.
This is how de Maistre characterized something that became most valuable for modern mankind, namely, that people today see greatness in platitude, in popular style, in the lack of genius and style, in what can be found in the streets but passes itself off as philosophy.
Yet, de Maistre is actually a person who in all instances pays attention to the deeper spiritual principles, to the spiritually essential. It is most difficult for matters such as these encountered here to be made comprehensible to a person today. For the way a personality like de Maistre thinks is really quite foreign to present-day human beings who are accustomed to the shadowy intellect. De Maistre not only observes the individual person; he sees the spiritual element working through that individual. What Locke wrote must be characterized in de Maistre's sense in the way I have just described it. However, de Maistre expresses this with extraordinary brilliance and geniality. At the same time, he says: If, in turn, I consider Locke as a person he was indeed a quite decent fellow; one can have nothing against him as a person. He is the corrupter of Western European humanity, but he is a decent person. If he would be born again today and would have to watch how human beings make use of this triviality that he himself recognized as such after death, he would cry bitter tears over the fact that people have fallen for his platitudes in this manner.
All this is expressed by de Maistre with tremendous force and plausible emphasis. He is imbued with the impulse thus to annihilate what appears to him as the actual adversary of Roman Catholicism and what, according to his view, thrives especially on the other side of the Channel. I would like to read to you one passage verbatim from the “Petersburg Twilight Conversations,” where he speaks of the — to his view wretched — effect of Locke on politics: “These dreadful seeds” — so he says — “perhaps would not have come to fruition under the ice of his style; animated in the hot mud of Paris, they have produced the monster of the Revolution that has engulfed Europe.”
After having uttered such words against the spirit working through Locke, he again turns to Locke as a person. This is something that is so difficult to impress on people of our age who constantly confuse the external personality with the spiritual principle that expresses itself through that human being and see it as a unit. De Maistre always distinguishes what reveals itself as actual spirituality from the external human being. Now he turns again to the outward personality and says: He is actually a man who had any number of virtues, but he was gifted with them about as well as was that master of dance who, according to Swift, [Note 13] was so accomplished in all the skills of dance and had only one fault — he limped. Thus, says de Maistre, Locke was gifted with all virtues. Yet, de Maistre truly sees him as an incarnation of the evil principle — this is not my figure of speech, de Maistre himself uses this expression — that speaks through Locke and holds sway supersensibly since the beginning of the fifteenth century. One really gains some respect for the penetrating spirituality that imbued de Maistre. One must also be aware, however, that there really exist people who are gaining influence today and are on the verge now of winning back their influence over European civilization, who are definitely inspired by that spirituality that de Maistre represented on the highest level.
De Maistre still retained something of the more ancient, instinctive insights into the relationship between world and man. This is particularly evident from his discourse about the Sacrifice Offering and the ritual of the Sacrifice. He had somewhat of an awareness of the fact that what is linked to the physical body in regard to the consciousness soul must make itself felt independently in the human being and that it is embodied in the blood. Basically, it was de Maistre's view that the divine element had only been present in human evolution up to the fourth Christian century. He did not wish to acknowledge the Christ Who works on continuously. Above all, he tried to extinguish everything existing since the fifteenth century. He longed to return to ancient times. Thus, he acquired his particular view of the Christ, a view that possessed something of the ancient Yahweh, indeed of the old pagan gods, for he really went back to the cult of Ormuzd. And he gathered from this viewpoint that the divine element can only be sought far beyond the human consciousness soul, hence, beyond the blood. Based on such profound depths of his world view de Maistre expressed the thought that the gods — namely the gods of whom he spoke — have a certain distaste for the blood, and in the first place have to be appeased by the blood sacrifice. The blood has to offer itself up in sacrifice. [Note 14]
It goes without saying that this is something the supremely enlightened modern human being laughs at. Yet it is something that has passed on from de Maistre to those who are his followers and who represent a segment of humanity that must be taken seriously, but who are also intimately connected with everything proceeding today from Roman ecclesiasticism. We must not forget that in de Maistre we confront the finest and most brilliant representative of what infused France from Romanism and what indeed has come to expression in French culture, I would say, in an ingenious but folk-oriented form. It is this that lives in French culture and has constantly brought it about that clericalism played a significant role in everything motivating French politics throughout the whole nineteenth century.
In France, the abstract impulses of freedom, equality, and brotherhood clashed with what existed there as Roman Catholicism. Actually, we must vividly feel what imbued a person such as Gambetta [Note 15] when, at a decisive moment, the deep sigh escaped from him: “Le clericalisme, voila l'ennemi!” (“Clericalism, that is the enemy!”). He sensed this clericalism that pulsed up from everything in the art of social experimentation during the first half of the nineteenth century. It lived in Napoleon III; it was something even the Commune [Note 16] had to struggle against. It was an element that survived into later times, permeating the Boulangism [Note 17] of the 1880's and the conflicts around the personality of Dreyfus; [Note 18] it is something that is alive even today.
An element is present in France that stands in an inner, spiritual, and absolutely radical difference to all that exists on the other side of the Channel in Great Britain and is basically embodied in the elements that remained behind from something else, from the various Masonic orders and lodges. Whereas, on the one hand, we are dealing with initiated Roman Catholicism, on the other hand we encounter the movements of secret societies, which I have already characterized here from another viewpoint and which represent the ahrimanic stream. There is a tremendous difference in the way the modern question of one person's individual status is expressed, say, in the elections to Parliament in France, or over in Great Britain. In France, everything proceeds from a certain theory, from certain ideologies. In England, everything emerges directly from the practical relationships of commercial and industrial life and collides, as I pointed out yesterday, with the ancient patriarchal conditions that prevailed particularly in the landowners' lifestyle. Just look at the way things take place in France. You find everywhere what you might call spiritual battles. There are struggles for freedom, for equality and brotherhood; people fight for the separation of school and church. People struggle to push the church back. But it is not possible to do so, for the church dwells in the depths of the soul's existence. Everything runs its course, in a manner of speaking, in the domain of certain dialectics, of certain arguments.
Over in England, these matters run their course as questions of power. There, we find a certain spiritual movement that is typical of the Anglo-Saxon people. I have often pointed out that as the middle of the nineteenth century approached, certain people came to the conclusion that things could not be allowed to go on in the same way any longer; human beings had to be made aware of the fact that a spiritual world does exist. The merely shadowlike intellect did not suffice. Yet people could not make up their minds to bring this inclination towards the spirit to the attention of the world in a manner other than through something that is “super-materialistic,” namely, through spiritism. This spiritism, which in turn has a greater impact than one would think, has its origins there. Spiritism, out to grasp the spirit externally, so to speak, just as one grasps matter, is therefore super-materialistic, is more materialistic than materialism itself. Locke lives on, so to say, in this super-materialism. And this element that in a sense, dwells in the inner sphere of the modern cultural development, expresses itself outwardly. It is certainly again and again the same phenomenon.
We encounter a tendency toward that spiritual stream de Maistre opposes so radically in the 1840's across the Channel: The tendency to comprehend everything by means of material entities. Locke basically referred to the intellect in such a manner that he deprived the intellect of its spiritual nature. He made use of the most spiritual element in the human being in order to deny the spirituality in the human being, indeed, in order to direct human beings only to matter. Similarly people in the nineteenth century referred to the spirit and tried to demonstrate it through all sorts of material manifestations. The intention was to make the spirit comprehensible to human beings through materialism. The element, however, that imbued the initiates of the various fraternities then passed over into the external social and political conditions.
One is inclined to say: By fighting for the abolition of the grain tariff in 1846 and succeeding in that endeavor, the cotton merchant Cobden and the Quaker Bright [Note 19] were the outward agents of the inner spiritual stream in the political life in the same way as the two most inept individuals who ever existed in politics, Asquith and Grey in the year 1914. [Note 20] Certainly, Cobden and Bright were not as blind as Asquith and Grey, but basically it is the same symptom, presented to the world in outward phenomena such as the abolition of the grain tariff in 1846 when industry was victorious over the ancient patriarchal system, only on a new stage. Yesterday, I listed the other stages preceding this one. Then we can observe, so to speak, stage following upon stage. We see the workers organizing themselves. We note that the Whigs increasingly become the party concerned with industry, that the Tories turn into the party of the landowners, of the old patriarchal system. But we also see that this ancient patriarchal element could no longer resist the abrupt clash with modern technology — I characterized the manner of that yesterday — and that, all at once, modern industrialism pushed its way in. Thus, centuries, indeed millennia, were skipped, and England's mental condition that dated back to pre-Christian eras and existed well into the nineteenth century simply merged with what has developed in recent times.
Then we see the right to vote increasingly extended, the Tories calling for the support of a man, who only a short while ago certainly would not have been counted among them, Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield, who was of Jewish extraction, an “outsider.” [Note 21] We watch the Upper House finally becoming a shadow and the year 1914 approaching in which a quite new England emerges. Only future historiography will be able to evaluate this emergence of the new England correctly.
You see, this is the course of the major events in the development of the nineteenth century. We see the various moments flashing up, indicating how significant a point in humanity's evolution has actually appeared. Only the most enlightened minds, however, can discern the light flashes that are the most important. I have frequently called attention to a phenomenon that is highly significant for the comprehension of the development in the nineteenth century. I have called attention to the moment in Goethe's house in Weimar when, having heard of the July revolution in France, Eckermann appeared before Goethe and Goethe said to him: “In Paris, unheard-of things have occurred, everything is in flames!” Naturally, Eckermann believed that Goethe was referring to the July revolution. That was of no interest at all to Goethe; instead, he said: “I don't mean that; that is not what interests me. Rather, in the academy in Paris, great controversy between Cuvier and Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire has broken out concerning whether the individual types of animals are independent or whether the one type passes over into the next.” Cuvier claimed the first, namely, that one is dealing with firm, rigid types that cannot evolve into other types. Geoffroy held that one has to view a type as being changeable, that one type passes over into the next. [Note 22] For Goethe, this was the major world event of modern times!
In fact, this was true. Goethe, therefore, had a profound, tremendously alive sensitivity. For what did Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire argue against Cuvier? The former sensed that when human beings look into their inner being, they can animate this shadowy intellect, that it is not merely logic, which is passively concerned with the external world, but that this logic can discover something like living truth about the things in this world within itself. In what imbued Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, Goethe sensed the assertion of the living intellect, something that arose, I might say, in the occult development of modern humanity and reached its culmination in the middle of the nineteenth century. Goethe really sensed something of great significance.
Cuvier, the great scholarly scientist, claimed that one had to be able to differentiate between the individual species and had to place them side by side. He stated that it was impossible to transform one type into the next, least of all, for example, the bird species into that of the mammals, and so on. Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, on the other hand, claimed that it was possible to do so.
What sort of confrontation was that? Ordinary truth and sublime error? Oh no, that is not the case. With ordinary, abstract logic, with the shadow-intellect, one can just as easily prove the correctness of what Cuvier claims as of what Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire has stated. On the basis of ordinary reason, which still prevails in our science today, this question cannot be resolved. This is why it has come up again and again; this is why we see Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire confront Cuvier in Paris in 1830 and in a different manner Weissmann [Note 23] and others confront Haeckel. [Note 24] These questions cannot be determined by way of this external science. For here, the element that has turned into the shadowlike intellect since the beginning of the fifteenth century, something that de Maistre detests so much, is really aiming at abolishing spirituality itself.
De Maistre pointed to Rome, even to the fact that the Pope — except for the temporal, passing papal personalities — sits in Rome as the incarnation of what is destined to rule over modern civilization. The culmination point of these discourses by de Maistre was reached in the year 1870, when the dogma of the Pope's infallibility was proclaimed. By way of the outmoded Ormuzd worship, the element that should be sought in spiritual heights was brought down into the person of the Roman Pope. What ought to be viewed as spirituality became temporalized matter; the church was turned into the secular state. This was subsequent to the fact that the church had already for a long time been successful in fitting the secular states into the form it had assumed itself when it had turned into the state religion under Constantine.
Therefore, in Romanism, we have on the one hand something that turns into the modern state inasmuch as the legal principle itself rebels and brings about its own polarity, so to speak, in the French Revolution; on the other hand, we have the outdated Ormuzd worship. Then we confront the element arising from the economic sphere, for all the measures that are taken on the other side of the English Channel originate from that sphere. In de Maistre we encounter the last great personality who tries to imprint spirituality into the judicial form of the state, who tries to carry the spirit into earthly materiality. This is what anthroposophically oriented spiritual science has to oppose. It wishes to establish supersensible spirituality. It tries to add to the prolonged Ormuzd worship, to the ahrimanic worship, something that will bring about a balance, it wishes to make the spirit itself the ruler of the earth.
This cannot be accomplished other than in the following manner. If, on the one hand, the earthly element is imprinted into the structure of political laws and, on the other hand, into the economic form, this spiritual life, in turn, is established in such a way that it does not institute the belief in a god who has become secular but rather inaugurates the reign of the spirit itself that flows in with each new human being incarnating on earth. This is the free spiritual life that wishes to take hold of the spirit that stands above all that is earthly. Once again, the intention is to bring to bear what one might call the effusion of the Spirit.
In A.D. 869, during the general ecumenical council, the view of the spirit was toned down in order to prevent human beings from arriving at the acknowledgment of the spirit that rules the earth from heaven, at the beginning of the fifteenth century, in order to make possible the appearance of a man such as de Maistre as late as the nineteenth century.
This is what is important: Rather than appealing to the spirit believed to be incarnated in an earthly sense, a Christ-being believed to be living on in an earthly church, we must appeal to the spiritual entity that is indeed connected with the earth, yet must be recognized and viewed in the spirit. But since everything human beings must attain in the earthly domain has to be acquired within the social order, this cannot come about in any other way but by acknowledging the free right of the spirit descending with each new human life in order to acquire the physical body, the spirit that can never become sovereign in an earthly personality and dwells in a super-sensible being.
The establishment of the dogma of infallibility is a defection from spirituality; the last point of what had been intended with that council of 869 had been reached. We must return to the acknowledgment, belief in, and recognition of the spirit. This, however, can only come about if our social order is permeated with the structure that makes possible the free spiritual life alongside other things — the earth-bound political and economic life.
This is how the insight human beings must acquire today places itself into the course of civilization. This is how it has to be experienced within the latter. If we fail to do that, we cannot arrive at the essence of what is actually trying to come to expression in the “Threefold Social Organism,” of what tries to work for the salvation of a civilization that otherwise must fall victim to decline in the manner described by Spengler.