Monday, October 15, 2018
Anthroposophy: the new initiation science
Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms. Lecture 8.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 22, 1920:
I would like to sum up once more what I said yesterday concerning the differences of the soul constitutions among the various nations and of human beings generally all over the world. I have indicated that various predispositions and soul qualities exist among people in different parts of the Earth. Thus the population of each region on Earth can contribute to what all humanity accomplishes in regard to the whole of civilization. Yesterday we had to point out that the Oriental nations and all the people of Asia are especially predisposed by their nature to develop that element which makes its contribution to the spiritual life of the social organism. Oriental people are especially gifted for everything pertaining primarily to the spiritual development in mankind, hence to knowledge and formulation of the supersensible realm. This is connected with the fact that Oriental people are particularly inclined to develop concepts and ideas on how the human being has descended into this earthly existence from spiritual worlds, in which he has lived since his last death until this birth. The realization or the doctrine of preexistence, which is based on the fact that the human being has undergone a spirit existence before entering into a physical body here, is a principal aspect of these Oriental predispositions. There is therefore also the capability of comprehending repeated Earth lives. It is possible for a person to adhere to the view that life goes on after death, continuing on forever without his returning to the Earth. It is not logically possible, however, to hold the view that life on Earth is a continuation of a spiritual existence without also being obliged to take for granted the thought that this life must repeat itself. Thus the Oriental was particularly predisposed to understand that he dwelt in spiritual worlds prior to this Earth life, that in a sense he received the impulses for this life on Earth from the divine spiritual world.
This is connected with the whole way in which the Oriental arrived at his knowledge, his whole soul constitution. I have already indicated this to some of you. Now there are a number of other friends present here, and I would like to characterize something once more that I have already outlined for some of you.
We know that man is a threefold being, that he is divided into the nerves-and-senses man, the rhythmic man — who includes the activities expressed in breathing, blood circulation, and so on — and the third, the metabolic man, everything that has to do with man's metabolism. Now, these three members of the human organization do not come to expression in the same manner everywhere on Earth; they are expressed in different ways in different parts of the world.
Speaking of the East, all this is in decadence in a sense; it is suppressed and slumbers today in the Oriental human being. We are not concerned now with his present soul condition. Instead we must become principally acquainted with a soul state that he possessed in a distant past. For the very reason that this soul condition has diminished, Asia humanity is about to adopt Bolshevism with the same religious fervor and devotion with which it formerly received the teaching of the holy Brahman — something that Europeans and Americans will become aware of before very long to their horror. Which of the three members of human nature came to special expression in the Oriental? It was the metabolic man. It was particularly the ancient Oriental who dwelt completely in the metabolism. This will not appear a repulsive view to anyone who does not conceive of substance in terms of lumps of matter, but who knows that spirit lives in all matter. The lofty, admirable spirituality of Orientals was brought about by what rose out of their metabolic process and radiated into consciousness. What occurs in the human metabolism is, of course, intimately related with what the external sense world is. From the latter we receive what then turns into matter within us. We know that behind this outer sense world there is spirit. In reality, we consume spirit and the consumed spirit becomes matter first within us. Yet, what we consume in this manner produced spirit in the Oriental even after it had been consumed. Thus a person who understands these things views the remarkable poetic achievements of the Vedas, the greatness of the Bhagavad Gita, the profound philosophy of the Vedas and Vedanta and the Indian philosophy of Yoga without admiring them any less — because he knows that they have emerged from the inner process as a product of metabolism, just like the blossoms of a tree are the result of its metabolism. Just as we look at the tree and see in its blossoms what the Earth pushes toward air and light, so we view what human beings in ancient India produced in the Vedas, in the Vedanta, and Yoga philosophies as a blossom of earthly existence itself. What we see as a product of the Earth in tree blossoms is, in a way, offered up to air and light. Nevertheless, it is a product of the Earth in the same sense as are wheat and grain growing in the fields, and fruits on trees, which are then cooked, enjoyed, and digested by the human being. Within the special nature of the ancient Indian, this — instead of turning into plant blossoms and fruits — became the marvelous formulations of the Vedas, the Vedanta, and Yoga philosophies. One must view the ancient Indian as one would a tree. Both are examples of what the Earth is capable of producing in its metabolism — in a tree, through its roots and sap, in man through his nourishment. Thus, one learns to recognize the divine in something that the spiritualist scorns because he finds matter to be of such a low order.
Moreover, the ancient Indian had an ideal. It was his ideal to go beyond this metabolic experience to the higher member of human nature, namely, the rhythmic system. This is why he did his Yoga exercises, his special breathing exercises, practicing them consciously. What the metabolism brought forth from him as a spiritual blossom of Earth evolution came about unconsciously. What he did consciously was to bring his rhythmic system, the system of breathing and blood, into a regulated, systematic movement. What did he do by thus advancing himself, for this was his specific form of advancement? What did he accomplish? What happened in this rhythmic system? We inhale the air from outside; we give to this air something that comes from the human metabolism, namely, carbon. Within us a metabolic process takes place between something that is a result of our metabolism and something contained in the air that we breathe in. Today's materialistic, physical worldview finds nitrogen and oxygen — ignorant of the true nature of both — mixed together in the air and considers it something purely material. The ancient Indian perceived the air as the process which occurs when the element derived from the metabolism unites in the human being with what is inhaled and is then absorbed. When he fulfilled his ideal inherent in Yoga philosophy, the ancient Indian perceived in the blood circulation the mysteries of the air, that is, what exists spiritually in the air. Through Yoga philosophy he became acquainted with what is spiritual in the air. What does one learn to know there? One comes to recognize what has come into us insofar as we have become beings that breathe. We learn to perceive what entered into us when we descended from spiritual worlds into this physical body. Knowledge of preexistence, of life before birth, is then cultivated. Therefore it was in a sense the secret of those who practiced Yoga to penetrate the mystery of life before birth.
We see that the ancient Indian dwelt within his metabolism, notwithstanding the fact that he produced much that was beautiful, grandiose, and powerful, and he artificially raised himself to the rhythmic system. All this has, however, fallen into decadence. Today all this sleeps in Asia. It only makes itself felt nebulously in abstract forms in Asiatic souls when enlightened spirits, such as Rabindranath Tagore, [ Note 54 ] speak of and revel in the ideal of the Asians.
Going from Asia to Central Europe, we find that the European, provided that he really is one, can be characterized as in Fichte's statement which I pointed out to you yesterday: “The external material world is the substance of my duty become visible; on its own, it has no existence. It is there only so that I might have something with which to fulfill my duty.” The human being who lived and lives in the central regions of the Earth on this basis dwells in the rhythmic system, just as the ancient Indian lived in the metabolic system. One remains unconscious of the element in which one lives. The Indian still strove upward to the rhythmic system as to an ideal, and he became aware of it. The Central European lives in the rhythmic system and is not conscious of it. Dwelling in this way in the rhythmic system, he brings about all that belongs to the legal, democratic, governmental element in the social organization. He forms it in a one-sided way, but he forms it in the sense I indicated yesterday, because he is especially talented in shaping matters dealing with relationships between people, and between a person and his environment. Yet he, in turn, also has an ideal. He has the ideal to rise to the next level, to the man of nerves and senses. Just as the Indian considered Yoga philosophy to be his ideal, the artistic breathing that leads to insight in a special manner, so the Central European considers it his ideal to lift himself up to conceptions that come from the being of nerves and senses, to conceptions that are pure ideas, attained through an inner elevation, just as the Indian by advancing himself attained to the Yoga philosophy.
Therefore it is necessary to realize that if one really wishes to understand individuals who have worked from such a basis as did Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, and Goethe, one must understand them in the same way an Indian understood his Yoga initiates. This special soul disposition, however, tones down the real spirituality. One still gets a clear awareness of it, for instance, in the way Hegel takes ideas as realities. Hegel, Fichte, and Goethe possessed this clear awareness that ideas are truths, realities. One even comes to something like what Fichte says: “The external sense world has no existence of its own; it is only the visible substance of my duty.” But one does not reach the fulfillment of ideas which the Oriental had. One can reach the point of saying, as did Hegel: “History begins, history lives. That is the living movement of ideas.” Yet one limits oneself only to this external reality. One views this external reality as spirit, as idea. Yet, particularly if one is in Hegel's place, one can speak neither of immortality nor of unbornness. Hegelean philosophy begins with logic; this means that it starts with what the human being thinks of as finite; then it extends over a certain philosophy of nature. It has a psychology, however, that deals only with the earthly soul. It also has a theory of government. Finally, it rises to its highest point when it reaches the threefold aspect of art, science, and religion. Yet it goes no further; it does not enter into the spiritual worlds. In the most spiritual way, men like Hegel and Fichte have described what exists in the external world; but anything that would look beyond the outer world is suppressed. Thus we see that the very element that has no counterpart in the spiritual world, namely, the life of rights, of the state, something that is entirely of this world, makes up the greatness of the thought structures that appear here. One looks at the external world as spirit but is unable to go beyond it. Yet, in the process one trains the mind, teaching it a certain discipline. Then, if one values a certain inner development, this can be accomplished, because by schooling oneself through what can be achieved in this area by occupying the mind with the realm of ideas, one is in a sense inwardly propelled into the spiritual world. This is indeed remarkable.
I must admit to you that whenever I read writings by the Scholastics, they evoke a feeling in me that induces me to say that they can think; they know how to live in thoughts. In a certain other way, directed more to the earthly sphere, I have to say the same of Hegel, Fichte, or Schelling. They know how to live in thoughts. Even in the decadent way in which Scholasticism appears in Neo-Scholasticism I find a much more developed life of thought than is found, for example, in modern science, popular books, or journalism. There all thinking has already evaporated and disappeared. It is simply true that the better Scholastic minds think in more precise concepts than do our university professors of philosophy. It is somewhat surprising that when one allows these thoughts to work upon oneself, for example, when reading a Scholastic book, even a truly Scholastic-Catholic text, and allows it to affect one, using it in a sense as a kind of self-education, one's soul is driven beyond itself. Such a book works like a meditation. Through its effect one arrives at something different that brings about enlightenment. Here we confront a very strange fact.
Consider that if such modern Dominicans, Jesuits, and priests of other orders, who immerse themselves in what remains of Scholasticism, would permit the educational effect of Scholastic thought forms to work upon them all the way, they would all come through this discipline in a relatively easy manner to a comprehension of spiritual science. If one would allow those who study neo-Scholasticism to follow their own soul development, it would not be long before those priests of Catholic orders in particular would become adherents of spiritual science. What had to be done so that this would not happen? They were given a dogma that curtails such study, and does not allow what would develop out of the soul to come about. Even today, someone wishing to develop toward spiritual science could be given as a meditation text the Scholastic book written by a contemporary Jesuit that I once showed here. [ Note 65 ] Yet, as I told you, it bears the imprimatur of a certain archbishop. The enlightenment that would occur in a person if he were completely free to devote himself to it has been cut off.
We must be able to see through these things. For then we will realize how important it is for certain circles to prevent by all means the consequences of what would develop if free reign were given the effects of these matters in the souls. The Central European striving is, after all, aimed at lifting oneself out of the rhythmic man, where one dwells as a matter of fact, to the nerves-and-senses man, who possesses what he attains for himself in the ideal sphere. For these people there is a special predisposition to understand earthly life as something spiritual. Hegel did this in the most all-encompassing sense.
Let us now go to Western man. Yesterday I said that Western man, particularly as exemplified by the most brilliant minds as early as Bacon and others, followed by Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Spencer, Buckle, Thomas Reid, and the economist Adam Smith, has a special predisposition to develop the kind of thinking which can then be utilized in the economic part of the social organism.
If we consider Spencer's philosophy, for instance, we realize that this is a kind of thinking which stems completely from the nerves-and-senses man, that in all respects it is a product of the senses and nerves. It would be most appropriate for creating industrial organizations and associations. It is only out of place when employed by Spencer for philosophy. If he had used this same thinking to set up factories and social organizations, it would have been applied in its rightful place. It was out of place when he used it for philosophy.
This comes from the fact that Western man no longer lives in the rhythmic system, but has taken a step upward, living as a matter of course in the human nerves-and-senses system. It is the nature of the Oriental to live in his metabolic system. It is the Central European's nature to live in the rhythmic system. It is Western man's nature to live in the nerves-and-senses system [see drawing]. The Oriental lives in the metabolism; he strives upward, trying to attain to the rhythmic system. The Central European lives in the rhythmic system. He strives towards the nerves-and-senses system. Western man already lives in the latter. Where does he wish to ascend? He is not yet there, but he has the impulse to strive upward beyond himself. It appears at first in a caricatured form, which I characterized for you yesterday as the denial of matter and the autosuggestion of the human being in Mrs. Eddy's Christian Science. Despite the fact that this is as yet a caricature, it is nevertheless a forerunner of what Western man must aim for. The aim must be something superhuman, by which I do not mean to imply that anyone who, instead of striving beyond the nerve-sense system, strives down into unconsciousness, and such as that, would thereby become superhuman.
Yesterday I concluded by saying that it is in this way that the human faculties are distributed over the world's various regions, and it is necessary for real cooperation to come about. We are in a position today where, in regard to civilization, we are completely dependent on the nerves-and senses being of the West. I made use of a paradox, but this paradox quite clearly expresses the reality of the situation. The thoughts in Vienna and in Berlin are not the thoughts that arose from the folk spirit and then culminated in Fichte or Hegel. The spirits of Fichte and Hegel have been buried. What is written today in books and newspapers in Central Europe, in Vienna or Berlin, are not Fichte's thought forms; it is a lie when people quote Fichte today. Rather, the truth is that what reaches the public in Berlin or Vienna today is more closely related to what is being thought in Chicago or New York than to what was thought by Fichte or Hegel.
What had to happen, however, was that these three members, of which this one [in the East] was, to begin with, especially predisposed to the spiritual life, brought across the spiritual life as a tradition of its original, elementary form once existing in the Orient. There in the East the human being lived as fully within the life of the spirit itself as today he is firmly anchored here in Europe in physical life. Only the shadowy reflection of this spiritual life is found in Central Europe, and only its tradition in Western Europe. Western Europe is characterized by its own predisposition to the postmortem life, the life which is envisioned after death. I told you yesterday that in America an awareness is already in the process of developing, if only in a few sects, that man must not merely be passive about his soul life here on Earth if he is to carry something through death and live on in spiritual worlds. He must acquire here through his work and actions what he wishes to carry through the gate of death. The awareness exists that the human being disintegrates if he does not provide for his immortality here, if, on Earth, he does not develop a sense for ideals. This is already emerging in some Western sects, even though this ideal still appears in a distorted form.
That which is the life of the state on the other hand was striven for by what existed in the rhythmic system and could be borne upward into thoughts. This has come into evidence especially in the man of the middle [the Central European]. From there, it affected the West. We are dealing with an odd phenomenon here that is only understood when one looks at its inner aspect. Strange as it may seem, something was astir in Central Europe. It goes without saying that in the rhythmic system the inclination remained for a communal human life, for a social life together in freedom. This impulse remained, to start with, deep in the unconscious realm [see drawing below]. It is true, however, that impulses are present among human beings even if people are not conscious of them. Let us say, therefore, that something definite lived, to begin with unconsciously, in Central Europe in the eighteenth century; it could not rise into consciousness, but its effects were transmitted to the West. Having been received there, but not having developed inwardly as a matter of course, it turned into passion and feeling, thus into the French Revolution.
Schiller had thoughts on this. Here [referring to the drawing] we have the French Revolution. There is even a symbolic event attesting to the fact that Schiller pondered on what actually happened there. You know that he had the honor of being made a French citizen. He therefore pondered on it all, but to begin with, it all lived in his rhythmic system. Then, through his own insight, he lifted it up into consciousness and wrote his letters concerning the aesthetic education of man.
You find in these letters what one could say at that time about people living together in a truly free state. Hume then merely took this concept of the state, which Schiller had lifted up into consciousness in his Aesthetic Letters, and somewhat pedantically fashioned it into a system. There is something extraordinarily important in what Schiller brought out from the depths of the folk spirit in these letters on aesthetic education. Because it was something so profound, it was subsequently not comprehended when the element of the nerves-and-senses man became dominant everywhere.
I have often referred to a lonely man, living in Vienna, by the name of Heinrich Deinhardt. [ Note 66 ] He wrote letters upon letters about this aesthetic education of the human being, most ingenious letters. This man had the misfortune of breaking a leg as the result of a fall in the street. The leg was set, but, being undernourished, Deinhardt could not recover and died from breaking a bone. That is to say, he who already in the second half of the nineteenth century had so conscientiously interpreted Schiller's Aesthetic Letters died of malnutrition. And Deinhardt's letters on Schiller's aesthetic education of man are completely forgotten!
Again, these Aesthetic Letters by Schiller would be a good preparation for purifying and uplifting the soul so as to gain a spiritual view of the world. Schiller himself was not yet able to do this. It is always effective, however, if another person engaged in soul development takes up something originating from the one who as yet does not reach up into the spiritual world. It then has the effect of letting him see into the spiritual world. To be sure, people in Europe have revered as special remedies for the soul Ralph Waldo Trine, Marden, [ Note 67 ] and similar superficial minds instead of Schiller, forgetting the other views that would actually lead upward into the spiritual world.
It is indeed necessary that these matters be grasped and comprehended in the whole context of life and world conditions. People have to realize how differentiated human capabilities are all over the earth. And the following must be pointed out. Up to now, no effort has been spared to publicize Schiller's riotous early works, The Robbers, Fiesco, or Intrigue and Love. People become most enthusiastic about the sentimentalities of Mary Stuart, the very profitable dramatic scenes of Maid of Orleans or the Bride of Messina. Today, Schiller's Aesthetic Letters, in which he surpasses himself in significance for all humanity ~ his Robbers, the whole of Mary Stuart and Wallenstein nothwithstanding ~ should not only be taken up and studied, one should allow them to affect one.
For today it is up to us not just to indulge in the empty talk of philistine academics existing in regard to our classical writers such as Goethe and Schiller, but above all else to take our own stand and on our own to discover what was great about them. We go on repeating what philistine academia has said for over a century about Wallenstein, Mary Stuart, and so forth. Our task today is to grasp such greatness ourselves in a fundamental way, for only then can humanity progress. So here too we discover the necessity for a transformation, a renewal. Even what people in our schools read and hear about Mary Stuart, Wallenstein, The Robbers, and so forth, must be revised. In this critical age we need a complete renewal, for the times are critical indeed.
If we look over to the West, we see that with all that it can produce as the expression of mankind through the nerves-and-senses system, this West is asking for the ascent into what lies beyond human knowledge in the spiritual world. I told you yesterday that in order for the cultural life, the life of the state, and the economic life to be able to assert themselves in the threefold social organism, they must work together. These three elements must work together. Let us not merely say, “Ex Oriente lux!” We can turn to the Orient, study the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga philosophy, and the Vedas; we can grind away at these subjects just as we have become accustomed to grind away at others in Europe. We can start grinding away at Oriental philosophy after the other subjects have become boring to us. But we shall make no progress this way, for what was once right for the Earth will not again be appropriate for the present and future; it will remain something of the past. We can admire it as something that was once right for the Earth; we cannot, however, simply adopt it again in a passive manner as does the Theosophical Society, for instance. Likewise, we cannot just carry over what has been handed down to us of the European past in the old tradition. We cannot say that what is contained in the national characteristics of the Orient, or of Middle Europe, can simply be renewed by us. Rather we must ask, if we wish to achieve a realistic union of these three elements that are inherent dispositions of human nature, how can we do that? We can only do it when we realize in what way the nerves-and-senses life, which has, after all, taken hold of all of us, must pass beyond itself. It means that we must rise to something different that can come neither from the East, nor the Middle, nor the West. It can only come through the new initiation, through the new spiritual science. It is brought about by our ascending from the most current form of thinking, trained by natural science and the nerves-and-senses being, to the science of the new initiation; acquiring from this new initiation the ways and means for bringing about cooperation between what was once the nature of the ancient Orient, later that of the Middle, and now that of the West. We need a new science of initiation that can bring about a unity of these three, a living unity. In this modern age we will not arrive at a cultural life if we do not strive for this new initiation science. We will have no proper politics, no life of the state, if we just continue in the same old way, if we do not turn to those scientific branches born of the new initiation and inquire how the politics of the future must be shaped. Neither will we achieve a new economic life if we do not understand that form of thinking which should be applied neither to philosophy as did Spencer, nor to the life of the state as did Adam Smith, but only to the organization of the economic life. Then, however, we must also know how to integrate the latter into the two other systems. For that we need the science of initiation. We cannot progress if we cannot say to ourselves: From a comprehension of what was once the Oriental disposition we come to the essence of the cultural life, the spiritual life. By truly comprehending the disposition of the human being of the Middle, we reach the point of really understanding the nature of the life of rights, of the state. By understanding the Western nature, we gain a comprehension of what the economic life is. The three fall apart, however, if we cannot unite them in a higher unity. And we can only accomplish that when we view the three from the perspective resulting for us from the new Mysteries, which are here called the anthroposophically oriented spiritual science.
These matters must be understood, for whoever has insight into them knows that all the aspirations coming to expression today are leading toward ruin. People simply do not reckon with the most important factors. Take the most radical socialists. Subjectively they may have honorable intentions for humanity, but they only count on forces of decline. They strike a wrong balance of life. We only take stock the right way when, out of spiritual science, we do not just grasp at anything arbitrarily put there, saying that this is the way it must be if humanity is to be happy, but when we ask ourselves: What will come into being when the cultural life, the life of rights, and the economic life are brought into the right relationship with each other; what kind of social organism results from that? Then such a social body will also contain its permeation with spirit. This implies the presence of a realistic economic life, not one that people dream and fantasize about, but one that can originate as the best possible one. Again, its political system will be the best possible; a cultural life will be present that will unite the prenatal life with that after death. Such a cultural life will see in the human being, dwelling here in this physical world, a being orienting himself according to his rights; a being into whom, in the cultural sphere, shines his prenatal life; a being who in the economic life cannot attain to an ideal, only to the best possible one, yet is able through initiation science in his will to transform the faculties active in the economic sphere so that they allow the life after death to shine forth. Because this is the case, anthroposophically oriented spiritual science is not just one theory among many, not something that takes its place as a party or sectarian program alongside others. Anthroposophy is something that is brought forth out of the knowledge that can be acquired when Earth's and mankind's evolution are comprehended in their working together and in their totality.
In the present time we have to admit that any other relationship to the world or to temporal reforms will lead to nothing, for what can bring progress to mankind must emerge out of the new initiation science.
Today this must be expressed again and again in many different ways. It has been incorporated into this building; it is expressed in all the details of this structure. Looking even at its smallest segment, it can tell you about what is intended here, what is expressed in words in a variety of ways. This is what gives the whole matter here a certain uniform character. At the same time, a will comes to expression here that is intimately connected with the forces of ascent, not the declining forces of evolving humanity: something one could wish people would understand. This is what we should like to work for more and more. This is what we now wish to aim for by means of the courses [ Note 68 ] that will be given here this fall, in which we intend to show that the knowledge derived from anthroposophically oriented spiritual science can work in a truly fructifying manner into the individual branches of science. Then the day will perhaps come when people will understand what is really intended here, when sufficient comprehension will exist in the world so that we can reach the point at some future date when this building, still enshrouded in mist, can be opened up. For as long as this building cannot be opened up, there still exists something that shows a lack of understanding for what is intended here.
I shall continue with this next Friday at eight o'clock.
At eight tomorrow our friend Count Polzer [ Note 69 ] will lecture on European politics of the last century in connection with the testament of Peter the Great. This is an interesting subject about which, hopefully, a discussion will ensue. On Friday I shall continue with the questions already presented, and their application to the individual human being. On Saturday at eight o'clock I will continue with those particular questions that relate to religious problems. Sunday at six-thirty will be the next eurythmy performance, followed by a lecture.