Friday, June 15, 2018
The Remedy for Our Diseased Civilization
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 6, 1921:
Yesterday I tried to explain to you that from the middle of the nineteenth century onward the sensualistic or materialistic world-conception was gradually approaching a certain culminating point, and that this culminating point had been reached toward the end of the nineteenth century. Let us observe how the external facts of human evolution present themselves under the influence of the materialistic world-conception. This materialistic world-conception cannot be considered as if it had merely been the outcome of the arbitrary action of a certain number of leading personalities. Although many sides deny this, the materialistic conception is nevertheless based upon something through which the scientific convictions and scientific results of investigation of the nineteenth and early twentieth century have become great. It was necessary that humanity should attain these scientific results. They were prepared in the fifteenth century and they reached a certain culminating point in the nineteenth century, at least in so far as they were able to educate mankind. And again, upon the foundation of this attitude toward science nothing else could develop except a certain materialistic world-conception.
Yesterday I did not go beyond the point of saying: The chief thing to be borne in mind has become evident in a positively radical manner, at least in the external symptoms, in what may be designated as Haeckel's attitude toward those, for instance, who opposed him in the last decade of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century. What occurred there, and what had such an extraordinarily deep influence upon the general culture of humanity, may be considered without taking into consideration the special definition which Haeckel gave to his world-conception, and even without considering the special definition which his opponents gave to their so-called refutations. Let us simply observe the fact that, on the one hand, we have before us what people thought to win through a careful study of material processes, rising as far as the human being. To begin with, this was to be the only contents of a world-conception; people believed that only this enabled them to stand upon a firm ground. It was something completely new in comparison with what was contained, for instance, in the medieval world-conception.
During the past three, four, five centuries, something entirely new had been gained in regard to a knowledge of Nature, and nothing had been gained in regard to the spiritual world. In regard to the spiritual world, a philosophy had finally been reached which saw its chief task, as I expressed myself yesterday, in justifying its existence, at least to a certain extent. Theories of knowledge were written with the aim of stating that it was still possible to make philosophical statements, at least in regard to some distant point, and that perhaps it could be stated that a supersensible world existed, but that it could not be recognized; the existence of a supersensible world could, at the most, be assumed.
The sensualists — whose cleverest representative, as explained to you yesterday, was Czolbe — the sensualists therefore spoke of something positive which could be indicated as something tangible. Thus the philosophers, and those who had become their pupils in popularizing things, spoke of something which vanished the moment one wished to grasp it.
A peculiar phenomenon then appeared in the history of civilization: namely, the fact that Haeckel came to the fore, with his conception of a purely naturalistic structure of the world, and the fact that the philosophical world had to define its attitude toward, let us call it, Haeckelism. The whole problem may be considered, as it were, from an aesthetic standpoint. We can bear in mind the monumental aspect — it is indifferent whether this is right or wrong — of Haeckel's teachings, consisting in a collection of facts which conveyed, in this comprehensive form, a picture of the world. You see, the way in which Haeckel stood within his epoch was characterized, for instance, by the celebration of Haeckel's sixtieth birthday at Jena, in the nineties of the last century. I happened to be present. At that time it was not necessary to expect anything new from Haeckel. Essentially he had already declared what he could state from his particular standpoint and, in reality, he was repeating himself.
At this Haeckel celebration, a physiologist of the medical faculty addressed the assembly. It was very interesting to listen to this man and to consider him a little from a spiritual standpoint. Many people were present who thought that Haeckel was a significant personality, a conspicuous man. That physiologist, however, was a thoroughly capable university professor, a type of whom we may say: If another man of the same type would stand there, he would be exactly the same. It would be difficult to distinguish Mr. A from Mr. B or Mr. C. Haeckel could be clearly distinguished from the others, but the university professor could not be distinguished from the others. This is what I wish you to grasp, as a characteristic pertaining more to the epoch than to the single case.
The person who stood there as Mr. A, who might just as well have been Mr. B or Mr. C, had to speak during this Haeckel celebration. I might say that every single word revealed how matters stood. Whereas a few younger men (nearly all of them were unsalaried lecturers, but in Jena they nevertheless held the rank of professors; they received no salary, but they had the right to call themselves professors) spoke with a certain emphasis, realizing that Haeckel was a great personality. The physiologist in question could not see this. If this had been the case, it would not be possible to speak of A, B, and C in the same way in which I have now spoken of them. And so he praised the “colleague” Haeckel, and particularly emphasized this. In every third sentence he spoke of the “colleague” Haeckel, and meant by this that he was celebrating the sixtieth birthday of one of his many colleagues, a birthday like that of so many others. But he also said something else. You see, he belonged to those who do nothing but collect scientific facts, facts out of which Haeckel had formed a world-conception; he was one of those who content themselves with collecting facts, because they do not wish to know anything about the possibility of forming a conception of the world. Consequently, this colleague did not speak of Haeckel's world-conception.
But, from his standpoint, he praised Haeckel, he praised him exceedingly, by indicating that, apart from Haeckel's statements concerning the world and life, one could contemplate what the “colleague” Haeckel had investigated in his special sphere: Haeckel had prepared so and so many thousands of microscopic slides, so and so many thousands of microscopic slides were available in this or in that sphere ... and so on, and so on ... and if one summed up the various empirical facts which Haeckel had collected, if these were put together and elaborated, one could indeed say that they constituted a whole academy.
This colleague, therefore, had implicitly within him quite a number of similar “colleagues” for whom he stood up. He was, as it were, a colleague of the medical faculty.
During the banquet, Eucken, the philosopher, gave a speech. He revealed (one might also say, he hid) what he had to say, or what he did not wish to say, by speaking of Haeckel's neckties and the complaints of Haeckel's relatives when they spoke more intimately of “papa,” or the man, Haeckel. The philosopher spoke of Haeckel's untidy neckties for quite a long time, and not at all stupidly ... and this was what philosophy could bring forward at that time! This was most characteristic ... for even otherwise, philosophy could not say much more; it was just an abstract and thorny bramble of thoughts. By this I do not in any way pass judgment or appraise, for we may allow the whole thing to work upon us in an aesthetic way ... and from what comes to the fore symptomatically, we may gather that materialism gradually came to the surface in more recent times, and that it was able to give something. Philosophy really had nothing more to say: this was merely the result of what had arisen in the course of time. We should not think that philosophy has anything to say in regard to spiritual science.
Let us now consider the positive fact which is contained in all that I have explained to you; let us consider it from the standpoint of the history of civilization.
On the one hand, and this is evident from our considerations of yesterday, we have within the human being, as an inner development, intellectualism, a technique of thinking which Scholasticism had unfolded in its most perfect form before the natural-scientific epoch. Then we have intellectualism applied to an external knowledge of Nature. Something has thus arisen which acquires a great historical significance in the nineteenth century, particularly toward its end. Intellectualism and materialism belong together.
If we bear in mind this phenomenon and its connection with the human being, we must say: Such a world-conception grasps above all the head, the nerve-sensory part of what exists in the human being, in the threefold human being, namely the nerve-sensory part, with the life of thoughts, the rhythmical part, with the life of feeling, and the metabolic part, with the life of the will. Hence, this nerve-sensory part of the human being above all has developed during the nineteenth century. Recently I described to you from another standpoint how certain people who felt that the head of man, the nerve-sensory part of man, had been developed in a particular way through the spiritual culture of the nineteenth century began to fear and tremble for the future of humanity. I have described this to you in connection with a conversation which I had several decades ago with the Austrian poet Hermann Rollet. Hermann Rollet was thoroughly materialistic in his world-conception, because those who take science as their foundation and those in whom the old traditional thoughts have paled, cannot be anything else. But at the same time he felt — for he had a poetical nature, an artistic nature, and had published the beautiful book Portraits of Goethe — at the same time he felt that the human being can only grow in regard to his nerve-sensory organization, in regard to his life of thoughts. He wished to set this forth objectively. So he said: In reality, it will gradually come about that the arms, feet, and legs of the human being shall grow smaller and smaller, and the head shall grow larger and larger (he tried to picture the approaching danger spatially), and then ... when the Earth shall have continued for a while in this development, the human being (he described this concretely) shall be nothing but a ball, a round head rolling along over the surface of the Earth.
We may feel the anxiety for the future of human civilization which lies concealed in this picture. Those who do not approach these things with spiritual-scientific methods of investigation merely see the outer aspect. If we wish to penetrate through the chaos of conceptions which now lead us to such an evil, we should also contemplate things from the other aspect. Someone might say: What has come to the fore as a materialistic world-conception can only be grasped by a small minority; the great majority lives in traditional beliefs in regard to the feelings connected with a world-conception. But this is not the case on the surface, I might say, in regard to all the thought-forms connected with what the human being thinks within his innermost depths in regard to his environment and the world. In our modern civilization we find that what is contained in Haeckel's Riddles of the World does not merely live in those who have found a direct pleasure in Haeckel's Riddles of the World — perhaps least of all in these men. Haeckel's "riddles of the world" are, fundamentally speaking, merely a symptom of what constitutes today the decisive impulses of feeling throughout the civilized international world.
We might say: These impulses of feeling appear in the most characteristic way in the outwardly pious Christians, particularly in the outwardly pious Roman Catholics. Of course, on Sundays they adhere to what has been handed down dogmatically; but the manner in which they conceive the rest of life, the remaining days of the week, has merely found a comprehensive expression within the materialistic world-conception of the nineteenth century. This is altogether the popular world-conception even in the most distant country villages. For this reason, we cannot say that it can only be found among a dwindling minority. Indeed, formulated concepts may be found there, but these are only the symptoms. The essential point, the reality, is undoubtedly the characteristic of the modern epoch. We may study these things through the symptoms, but we should realize: when we speak of Kant, from the second half of the eighteenth century onward, we merely speak of a symptom which pertained to that whole period; and in the same way we merely speak of a symptom when we mention the things to which I have alluded yesterday and which I am considering today. For this reason the things which I am about to say should be borne in mind very clearly.
You see, the human being can only be active intellectually and he can only surrender himself to the material things and phenomena (within, they are undoubtedly the counter-part of intellectualism) during the daytime, while he is awake, from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep. Even then, he cannot do it completely, for we know that the human being does not only possess a life of thoughts, the human being also possesses a life of feeling. The life of feeling is inwardly equivalent to the life of dreams; the life of dreams takes its course in pictures; the life of feelings, in feelings. But the inner substantial side is that part in man which experiences the dream-pictures; it is that part which experiences feelings within the human life of feeling. Thus we may say: During his waking life, from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep, the human being dreams awake within his feelings. What we experience in the form of feelings is permeated by exactly the same degree of consciousness as the dream-representations, and what we experience within our will is fast asleep; it sleeps even when we are otherwise awake. In reality, we are only awake in our life of thoughts. You fall asleep at night, and you awake in the morning. If a certain spiritual-scientific knowledge does not throw light upon that which takes place from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, it escapes your consciousness, you do not know anything about it within your consciousness... At the most, dream-pictures may push through. But you will just as little recognize their significance for a world-conception as you recognize the importance of feelings for a world-conception. Human life is constantly interrupted, as it were, by the life of sleep. In the same way in which the life of sleep inserts itself, from the standpoint of time, within man's entire soul-life, so the world of feelings, and particularly the world of the impulses of the will, inserts itself into human life. We dream through the fact that we feel; we sleep through the fact that we will. Just as little as you know what occurs to you during sleep, just as little do you know what takes place with you when you lift your arm through your will. The real inner forces which there hold sway are just as much hidden in the darkness of consciousness as the condition of sleep is hidden in the darkness of consciousness.
We may therefore say: modern civilization, which began in the fifteenth century and reached its climax in the nineteenth century, merely lays claim on one third of the threefold human being: the thinking part of man, the head of man. And we must ask: What occurs within the dreaming, feeling part of the human being, within the sleeping, willing part of the human being, and what occurs from the time of falling asleep to the time of waking up?
Indeed, as human beings, we may be soundly materialistic within our life of thoughts. This is possible, for the nineteenth century has proved it. The nineteenth century has also proved the justification of materialism; for it has led to a positive knowledge of the material world, which is an image of the spiritual world. We may be materialists with our head ... but in that case we do not control our dreaming life of feeling, nor our sleeping life of the will. These become spiritually inclined, particularly the life of the will.
It is interesting to observe, from a spiritual-scientific standpoint, what takes place in that case. Imagine a Moleshott, or a Czolbe, who only acknowledge sensualism, or materialism with their heads; but below, they have their will, the volitive part of man, with its entirely spiritual inclinations (but the head does not know this); it reckons with the spiritual and with spiritual worlds. They also have within them the feeling part of man; it reckons with ghostly apparitions. If we observe things carefully, we have before us the following spectacle: There sits a materialistic writer, who inveighs terribly against everything of a spiritual nature existing within his sentient and volitive parts; he grows furious, because there is also a part within him, which is spiritualistic and altogether his opponent.
This is how things take their course. Idealism and spiritualism exist ... particularly in the subconsciousness of man's will, and the materialists, the sensualists, are the strongest spiritualists.
What lives in a corporeal form within the sentient part of man? Rhythm: the circulation of the blood, the breathing rhythm, and so forth. What lives within the volitive part of man? The metabolic processes. Let us study, to begin with, these metabolic processes. While the head is skillfully engaged in elaborating material things and material phenomena into a materialistic science, the metabolic part of man, which takes hold of the complete human structure, works out the very opposite world-picture; it elaborates a thoroughly spiritualistic world-picture, which the materialists, in particular, bear within them unconsciously. But within the metabolic part of man, this influences the instincts and the passions. There it produces the very opposite of what it would produce if it were to claim the whole human being. When it permeates the instincts, ahrimanic powers get hold of it, and then it is not active in a divine-spiritual sense, but it is active in an ahrimanic-spiritual sense. It then leads the instincts to the highest degree of egoism. It develops the instincts in such a way that the human being then merely makes claims and demands; he is not led to social instincts, to social feelings, and so forth. Particularly the individual side becomes an egoistic element of the instincts. This has been formed, if I may use this expression, below the surface of the materialistic civilization; this has appeared in the world-historical events, and this is now evident. What has developed below the surface, as a germ, what has arisen in the depths of man's volitive part, where spirituality has seized the instincts, this now appears in the world-historical events. If the development were to continue in this consistent way, we would reach, at the end of the twentieth century, the war of all against all; particularly in that sphere of the evolution of the Earth in which so-called civilization has unfolded. We may already see what has thus developed; we may see it raying out from the East and asserting itself over a great part of the Earth. This is an inner connection. We should be able to see it. In an outward symptomatic form, it reflects itself in what I have already explained, in what others have also remarked. I have said that philosophical systems, such as those of Avenarius or Mach, are certainly rooted, in so far as the conceptions permeate the head, in the best and most liberal bourgeois conceptions of the nineteenth century... They are sound, clean people, whom we cannot in any way reproach, if we bear in mind the moral conceptions of the nineteenth century; nevertheless, in the books of Russian writers, who knew how to describe their epoch, you may read that the philosophy of Avenarius and of Mach has become the philosophy of the Bolshevik government. This is not only because conspicuous Bolshevik agitators have, for instance, heard Avenarius at Zurich, or Mach's pupil, Adler, but impulses of an entirely inner character are at work there. What Avenarius once brought forward, and the things which he said, can of course appear to the head as altogether clean, bourgeois views, as a praiseworthy, bourgeois mentality, but in reality it has formed the foundation of what has kindled instincts in a spiritual manner within the depths of humanity and has then brought forth the corresponding fruits; for it has really produced these fruits. You see, I must continually call attention to the difference between real logic, a logic of reality, and the merely abstract logic of the intellect. Not even with the best will, or rather, with the worst will, can anyone extract out of the philosophy of Avenarius or of Mach the ethics of the Bolsheviks, if we may call them ethics; this cannot be deduced through logic, for it follows an entirely different direction. But a living logic is something quite different from an abstract logic. What may be deduced logically need not really take place; the very opposite can take place. For this reason there is such a great difference between the things to which we gradually learn to swear in the materialistic epoch, between the abstract thinking logic, which merely takes hold of the head, and the sense of reality, which is alone able at the present time to lead us to welfare and security.
At the present time, people are satisfied if an uncontradicted logic can be adduced for a world-conception. But, in reality, this is of no importance whatever. It is not only essential to bear in mind whether or not a conception may be logically proved, for in reality both a radical materialism and a radical spiritualism, with everything which lies in between, may be proved through logic. The essential point today is to realize that something need not be merely logical, but that it must correspond with reality, as well as being logical. It must correspond with reality. And this corresponding with reality can only be reached by living together with reality. This life in common with reality can be reached through spiritual science.
What is the essential point in regard to the things which I have explained to you today? Many things are connected with spiritual science, but in regard to what I have said today it is essential to bear in mind that knowledge should once more be raised from depths which do not merely come from the head, but from the whole human being. We might say: If a human being, who in the more recent course of time has undergone a training in knowledge, if such a human being observes the world, he will do it in such a way that he remains inside his own skin and observes what is round about him outside his skin. I would like to draw this as follows: Here is the human being. Outside is everything which forms the object of man's thoughts. (A drawing is made.) Now, the human being endeavors to gain within him a knowledge of the things which are outside; he reckons, as it were, with a reciprocal relation between his own being and the things which are outside his skin. Characteristic of this way of reckoning with such a reciprocal relationship are, for instance, the logical investigations of John Stuart Mill, or philosophical structures resembling those of Herbert Spencer, and so forth.
If we rise to a higher knowledge, the chief thing to be borne in mind is no longer the human being who lives inside his own skin ... for everything which lives inside his skin is reflected in the head, it is merely a “head”-knowledge ... but the chief thing to be borne in mind is the human being as a whole. The whole human being is, however, connected with the whole Earth. What we generally call supersensible knowledge is, fundamentally speaking, not a relation between that which lies enclosed within the skin of man and that which lies outside the human skin, but it is a relation between that which lies within the Earth and that which is outside the Earth. The human being identifies himself with the Earth. For this reason he strips off everything which is connected with one particular place of the Earth: nationality, and so forth. The human being adopts the standpoint of the Earth-being, and he speaks of the universe from the standpoint of the Earth-being. Try to feel how this standpoint is, for instance, contained in the series of lectures which I delivered at The Hague [“What Is the Significance of an Occult Development of Man for His Involucres and for His Own Self?”], where I spoke of the connection between the single members of man's being and his environment, but where I really intended to speak of man's coalescence with his environment — where the human being is not only considered from the standpoint of a certain moment, for instance, on the 13th of May, but where he is considered from the standpoint of the whole year in which he lives, and of its seasons, from the standpoint of the various localities in which he dwells, and so forth. This enables man to become a being of the Earth; this enables him to acquire certain cognitions which represent his efforts to grasp what is above the Earth and under the Earth, for this alone can throw light upon the conditions of the Earth.
Spiritual science, therefore, does not rise out of the narrow-minded people who have founded the intellectual and materialistic science of the nineteenth century, with the particular form of materialism which has unchained unsocial instincts; but spiritual science rises out of the whole human being, and it even brings to the fore things in which the human being takes a secondary interest. Although even spiritual science apparently develops intellectual concepts, it is nevertheless able to convey real things which contain a social element in the place of the anti-social element.
You see, in many ways we should consider the world from a different standpoint than the ordinary one of the nineteenth century and of the early twentieth century. At that time it was considered as praiseworthy that social requirements and social problems were so amply discussed. But those who have an insight into the world merely see in this a symptom showing the presence of a great amount of unsocial feelings in the human beings. Just as those who speak a great deal of love are generally unloving, whereas those who have a great amount of love do not speak much of love, so the people who continually speak of social problems, as was the case in the last third of the nineteenth century, are, in reality, completely undermined by unsocial instincts and passions.
The social system which came to the fore in Eastern Europe is nothing but the proof of every form of unsocial and anti-social life. Perhaps I may insert the remark that anthroposophical spiritual science is always being reproved that it speaks so little of God. Particularly those who always speak of God reprove the anthroposophical spiritual science for speaking so little of God. But I have often said: It seems to me that those who are always speaking of God do not consider that one of the ten commandments says: Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain ... and that the observance of this commandment is, in a Christian meaning, far more important than continually speaking of God. Perhaps, at first, it may not be possible to see what is really contained in the things which are given in the form of spiritual-scientific ideas, from out a spiritual observation. One might say: Well, spiritual science is also a science, which merely speaks of other worlds, instead of the materialistic worlds. But this is not so. What is taken up through spiritual science, even if we ourselves are not endowed with spiritual vision, is something which educates the human being. Above all, it does not educate the head of man, but it educates the whole of man, it has a real influence upon the whole of man. It corrects particularly the harm done by the spiritual opponent who lives within the sensualists and materialists, the opponent who has always lived within them.
You see, these are the occult connections in life. Those who see, with a bleeding heart, the opponent who lived within the materialists of the nineteenth-century, that is to say, within the great majority of men, are aware of the necessity that the spiritualist within the human being should now rise out of subconsciousness into consciousness. He will then not stir up the instincts in his ahrimanic shape, but he will really be able to found upon the Earth a human structure which may be accepted from a social standpoint.
In other words: If we allow things to take their course, in the manner in which they have taken their course under the influence of the world-conception which has arisen in the nineteenth century and in the form in which we can understand it, if we allow things to take this course, we shall face the war of all against all, at the end of the twentieth century. No matter what beautiful speeches may be held, no matter how much science may progress, we would inevitably have to face this war of all against all. We would see the gradual development of a type of humanity devoid of every kind of social instinct, but which would talk all the more of social questions.
The evolution of humanity needs a conscious spiritual impulse in order to live. For we should always make a distinction between the value which a particular wisdom, or anything else in life, may possess in itself, and its value for the evolution of humanity. The intellectualism which forms part of materialism has furthered human development in such a way that the life of thoughts has reached its highest point. To begin with, we have the technique of thinking contained in Scholasticism, which constituted the first freeing deed; and then, in more recent times, we have the second freeing deed in natural science. But what was meanwhile raging in the subconsciousness was the element which made the human being the slave of his instincts. He must again be set free. He can only be freed through a science, a knowledge, a spiritual world-conception, which becomes just as widely popular as the materialistic science: he can only be set at liberty through a spiritual world-conception, which constitutes the opposite pole of what has developed under the influence of a science dependent solely upon the head. This is the standpoint from which the whole matter should be considered again and again; for, as already stated, no matter how much people may talk of the fact that a new age must arise out of an ethical element, out of a vivification of religiousness, and so forth, nothing can, in reality, be attained through this, for in so doing we merely serve the hypocritical demands of the epoch. We should indeed realize that something must penetrate into the human souls, something which spiritualizes the human being, even as far as his moral impulses, his religious impulses are concerned, which spiritualizes him in spite of the fact that, apparently, it speaks in a theoretical manner of how the Earth has developed out of the Moon, the Sun, and Saturn. Just as in the external world it is impossible to build up anything merely through wishes, no matter how excellent these wishes may be, so it is also impossible to build up anything in the social world merely through pious sermons, merely by admonishing people to be good, or merely by explaining to them what they should be like. Even what exists today as a world-destructive element has not arisen through man's arbitrary will, but it has arisen as a result of the world-conception which has gradually developed since the beginning of the fifteenth century. What constitutes the opposite pole, what is able to heal the wounds which have been inflicted, must again be a world-conception. We should not shrink in a cowardly way from representing a world-conception which has the power of permeating the moral and religious life. For this alone is able to heal.
Those who have an insight into the whole connection of things begin to feel something which has really always existed where people have known something concerning real wisdom. I have already spoken to you of the ancient Mystery sites. You may find these things described from the aspect of spiritual science in the anthroposophical literature. There you will find that an ancient instinctive wisdom had once been developed, and that afterwards it transformed itself into the intellectualistic, materialistic knowledge of modern times. Even if, with the aid of the more exoteric branches of knowledge of ancient times, we go back, for instance, into medicine, as far as Hippocrates, leaving aside the more ancient, Egyptian conceptions of medicine, we shall find that the doctor was always, at the same time, a philosopher. It is almost impossible to think that a doctor should not have been a philosopher as well, and a philosopher a doctor, or that a priest should not have been all three things in one. It was impossible to conceive that it could be otherwise. Why? Let us bear in mind a truth which I have often explained to you:
The human being knows that there is the moment of death, this one moment when he lays aside the physical body, when his spiritual part is connected with the spiritual world in a particularly strong way. Nevertheless this is but a moment. I might say: an infinite number of differences is integrated in the moment of death, and throughout our life this moment is contained within us in the form of differentials. For, in reality, we die continually! Already when we are born, we begin to die; there is a minute process of death in us at every moment. We would be unable to think, we would be unable to think out a great part of our soul-life and, above all, of our spiritual life, if we did not continually have death within us. We have death within us continually, and when we are no longer able to withstand, we die in one moment. But otherwise, we die continually during the whole time between birth and death.
You see, an older and more instinctive form of wisdom could feel that human life is, after all, a process of death. Heraclitus, a straggler along the path of ancient wisdom, has declared that human life is a process of death, that human feeling is an incessant process of illness. We have a disposition to death and illness. What is the purpose of the things which we learn? They should be a kind of medicine; learning should be a healing process. To have a world-conception should constitute a healing process.
This was undoubtedly the feeling of the doctors of ancient times, since they healed upon a materialistic basis only when this was absolutely necessary, when the illness was acute; they looked upon human life itself as a chronic illness. One who was both a philosopher and a doctor also felt that as a healer he was connected with all that constitutes humanity upon the Earth; he felt that he was also the healer of what is generally considered as normal, although this, too, is ill and contains a disposition to death.
You see, we should again acquire such feelings for a conception of the world; a world-conception should not only be a formal filling of the head and of the mind with knowledge, but it should constitute a real process within life: the purpose of a world-conception should be that of healing mankind.
In regard to the historical development of our civilization, we are not only living within a slow process of illness, but at the present time we are living within an acute illness of our civilization. What arises in the form of a world-conception should be a true remedy; it should be a truly medical science, a cure. We should be permeated by the conviction that such a world-conception should be really significant for what rises out of our modern civilization and culture; we should be filled with the conviction that this world-conception really has a true meaning, that it is not merely something formal, something through which we gain knowledge, through which we acquire the concepts of the things which exist outside, or through which we learn to know the laws of Nature and to apply them technically. No, in every true world-conception there should be this inner character intimately connected with man's being, namely, that out of this true world-conception we may obtain the remedies against illness, even against the process of death; the remedies which should always be there. So long as we do not speak in this manner and so long as this is not grasped, we shall only speak in a superficial way of the evils of our time, and we shall not speak of what is really needed.