Friday, April 15, 2011
The Ego and Race: Individuality and the Group Soul
Rudolf Steiner, December 4, 1909:
My Dear Friends,
Today we shall occupy ourselves with a general theme, and indeed with the question of the significance and the tasks of anthroposophically orientated spiritual science in the present, and then, on Tuesday, with a more individual theme concerning individual destiny and being.
We have indeed often emphasized that Anthroposophy has a special task and significance for mankind in the present age. Whoever occupies himself with anthroposophy as a thinking human being must put this question again and again to himself: What aims does this spiritual movement pursue, and how are they related to the other tasks of our age? These tasks can be illuminated from the most diverse points of view, as we have often done. Today we will try to grasp the evolutionary path of mankind at that point on which we ourselves stand, to look a little into the future, and then ask ourselves: What task has anthroposophy with especial reference to the evolutionary stage of mankind at which we stand at present?
We know that since the great Atlantean Catastrophe, which entirely transformed the Earth as man's dwelling-place, up to our own time, five great epochs of civilization are to be distinguished. We have often designated these five epochs of culture as the old Indian, old Persian, the Chaldaic-Egyptian, the Greco-Latin epoch, and then the epoch in which we ourselves stand, the fifth, which prepared itself in — let us say — the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, and in the middle of which we now are. We must be clear that such divisions are naturally not meant as if any one epoch of evolution sharply came to an end, and then a new one began, but that the one gradually and slowly passes over into the other, and long before one such epoch has run its course, the new one already prepares itself within it.
Thus we can say of our own epoch of culture, of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch: there is already now being prepared, and indeed in a very significant way, that which will constitute the real characteristic of the sixth epoch of civilization. And in general, human beings of our present age will separate themselves into two parts: those who today form no idea of all this, who know nothing of the preparation of the sixth epoch, who live as it were blindly, for the day, and those who form ideas for themselves that something new is preparing, and who also know that what is being prepared is fundamentally something which must be accomplished through human beings, must be prepared by mankind. We can in a certain connection place ourselves in the time as a human being and say we are doing what is generally the custom, what the others do, what our parents have educated us for, or we can so place ourselves that we know consciously the following: “If you will consciously be a link in the chain of humanity, then you must do something — either in yourself or in your environment — which contributes to what must come, i.e., to prepare the sixth period of culture as much as in you lies.” The possibility of thus making preparations for the sixth period of culture can only be understood by entering a little into the character of our own epoch. For this, the comparative method offers itself as the best.
We know that these epochs of time are essentially different from each other, and in the course of years, in our anthroposophical movement, we have brought forward various characteristics whereby they are distinguished. We have pointed to the old Indian period of civilization, and have shown that the soul-qualities of man then were different from what they later were, how man then was still endowed to a high degree with clairvoyant consciousness. And we have shown that evolution through the following epochs consisted in man losing this clairvoyance ever more and more, and having to limit his power of perception and understanding more and more to the physical world. We have seen how the fourth epoch of civilization was slowly prepared, in which man, as it were, appeared entirely in the physical world, so that that Being Whom we call Christ Jesus could incarnate in the physical world as a being, as a human being of the physical world. We have then seen how since that time, through a certain stream, the following appeared: how all human powers strengthened themselves still further in the physical world, how indeed the materialistic tendency of our age, the whole urge of man only to hold as valid what offers itself in the physical surrounding world, is connected with a further descent of man into the physical world. But by no means should things remain thus in evolution. Humanity must ascend again into the spiritual world, ascend with all the attainments men have acquired, with all the fruits of the physical world. And Anthroposophy should be just that which can bring to people the possibility of again ascending into the spiritual world.
Now we can say: “Immediately after the great Atlantean catastrophe there were numerous human beings who knew through their direct powers of perception: Around us is a spiritual world. We live in a spiritual world.” Fewer and fewer became the human beings who knew this; more and more were the powers of man limited to the perception of the senses. But if, on the one hand, today, the power of perception for the spiritual world is the least conceivable, yet, on the other hand, something is preparing in our age which is so significant that already for a great number of people quite different faculties will exist in that incarnation which follows the present one. As the faculties of man have changed during the five epochs of culture, so they will also change into the sixth, and a great number of people today will clearly show already in their next incarnation through their whole mood of soul that their faculties have essentially changed. Today we will make clear to ourselves how different these souls of human beings will be in the future, with a great number already in the next incarnation, with others, in the incarnation following.
We could also look back in another way into past epochs of human evolution. Then we would see that the farther we go back to the ancient clairvoyance, at the same time the more we have united with the human soul what one can call the character of group-soulness [Gruppenseelenhaftigkeit]. It has often been pointed out to you that the consciousness of group-soulness existed in the ancient Hebrew people in an eminent degree. He who felt himself — really consciously felt himself — as a member of the ancient Hebrew people said to himself — especial attention has been drawn to this — “As an individual man I am a transitory phenomenon, but in me lives something that has an immediate connection with all the soul-being which has streamed down since the racial father Abraham.” A member of the old Hebrew people felt that. We can indeed esoterically admit as a spiritual phenomenon what was thus felt by the old Hebrew people.
We understand better what then happened if we keep the following in mind.
Let us consider an old Hebrew initiate. Although initiation was not so frequent among the ancient Hebrews as among other peoples, we could not characterize such a real initiate otherwise — not merely one initiated into the theories and the Law, but an initiate really seeing in the spiritual worlds — than by taking into consideration the entire racial peculiarity. It is the custom today in external science, which busies itself with documents without any misgiving, to take everywhere what stands in the Old Testament, to test it by all kinds of external records, and then find it unsubstantiated. We shall have occasion to point out that the Old Testament gives the facts more faithfully than external historical records. In any case, spiritual science shows that a blood relationship of the Hebrew people can really be demonstrated back to the racial father Abraham, and that the assumption of Abraham as racial father is fully justified. This was something especially known in the old Hebrew secret schools: Such an individuality, such a soul-being, as that of Abraham was not merely incarnated as Abraham, but is an eternal being, who remained existing in the spiritual world. And in truth a real initiate was inspired by the same spirit as he who inspired Abraham, and he could testify for him of himself that he was permeated by the same soul-nature as Abraham. There was a real connection between every initiate and the racial father Abraham. We must hold that fast: that expressed itself in the feeling of membership of the old Hebrew people. That was a kind of group-soulness. One felt what expressed itself in Abraham as the group-soul of the people. One felt group-souls similarly in the rest of humanity. Mankind in general goes back to group-souls. The farther we go back in human evolution, the less do we find expressed the single individuality. That which we still find today in the animal kingdom: that a whole group belongs together — that was existing among mankind, and appears ever clearer and clearer the farther we go back to ancient times. Groups of human beings then belonged together, and the group-soul was essentially stronger than what constituted the individual soul in the single human being.
We can now say: Today in our time the group-soulness of people is still not yet overcome, and whoever believes that it is completely overcome does not keep in mind certain finer phenomena of life. Whoever keeps it in mind will very quickly see that certain human beings not only appear alike in their physiognomy, but that also the soul-qualities are similar in groups of human beings: that one can, as it were, divide human beings into categories. Each person can still today be reckoned into a certain category; with reference to this or the other quality, he will belong perhaps to different categories, but a certain group-soulness is not only valid because the races exist, but also in other connections. The boundaries drawn between the single nations fall away more and more; but other groupings are still perceptible. Certain basic characteristics stand so connected in some people that he who will only look can still today perceive the last relics of the group-soulness of man.
Now we, in our present age, are living in the most eminent sense in a transition. All group-soulness has gradually to be stripped off. Just as the gaps between single nations gradually disappear as the single parts of different nations understand each other better, so also will other group-soul qualities be shed, and the individual nature of each single person come to the foreground more and more.
We have therewith characterized something quite essential in evolution. If we want to grasp it from another side we can say: That idea whereby the group-soulness chiefly expresses itself loses meaning ever more and more in the evolution of mankind, i.e., the idea of race. If we go back beyond the great Atlantean catastrophe we see how the human races are prepared. In the old Atlantean age human beings were grouped according to external characteristics in their bodily structure far more strongly than today. What we call races today are only the relics of those important distinctions between human beings as were customary in old Atlantis. The idea of race is only really applicable to old Atlantis. Since we deal with a real evolution of mankind, we have never employed the idea of race in the most eminent sense for the post-Atlantean age. We do not speak of an Indian race, a Persian race, etc., because that is no longer correct. We speak of an old-Indian period of civilization, of an old-Persian period of civilization, etc. And it would be utterly devoid of sense if we would speak of our time preparing a sixth race. If relics of the old Atlantean distinctions, of their group-soulness, are still existing in our time, so that one can still say the racial division continues to work on — that which is preparing for the sixth period of time consists just in the character of race being stripped off. That is the essential. Therefore it is necessary that that movement which is called the anthroposophical movement, which should prepare the sixth period of time, adopts in its basic character this stripping off of the character of race — that especially it seeks to unite people out of all “races,” out of all nations, and in this way bridges over these differences, these distinctions, these gaps, which are existing between various groups of human beings. For the old racial standpoint had in a certain connection a physical character, whereas what will fulfil itself in the future will have a much more spiritual character. Therefore it is so urgently necessary to understand that our anthroposophical movement is a spiritual one, which looks to the spirit, and overcomes just that which arises from physical distinctions, through the force of a spiritual movement. It is, of course, thoroughly comprehensible that any movement has, as it were, its childish illnesses, and that in the beginning of the theosophical movement matters were so represented as if the Earth fell into seven periods of time — they were called Root-races — and each of these Root-races into seven sub-races, and that would always repeat itself, so that one could always speak of seven races, and seven sub-races, etc. But one must get beyond the illnesses of childhood, and be clear that the idea of race ceases to have any meaning, especially in our age.
Something else, in addition, is being prepared — something connected with the individuality of man in a quite special way — in man becoming ever more and more individual. It is only a question of this occurring in the right sense, and the anthroposophical movement should serve to this end, that human beings become individualities — or we could also say personalities — in the right sense. How can it do this?
Here we must look to the most striking new quality of man's soul, which is preparing. The question is often put: Well, if reincarnation exists, why does a person not remember the former incarnations? That is a question which I have often answered. Such a question appears as when one brings along a four-year-old child, and because it is a human being, and cannot reckon, one would say: Man cannot reckon. But let the child become ten years old, and then it will reckon. It is thus with the human soul. If today it cannot remember, yet the time will come in which it can remember — the time when it has the same powers as he possesses who is initiated today. But just today that transition is happening. There exist today a number of souls who are so far on in our time, who stand close to the moment where they will remember their former incarnations, or at least the last one. A whole number of human beings today are, as it were, before the self-opening of the door to that embracing memory, which comprises not only the life between birth and death but the previous incarnations, or at least, the last, in the first place. And when, after the present incarnation, a number of human beings are reborn, then they will remember this present incarnation. It is merely a question of how they remember. Anthroposophical development should give help and direction to remember in the right way.
In order to characterize this anthroposophical movement from this point of view, it must be said: Its character is that it leads man to realize in the right way what one calls the human “I,” the innermost member of the human being. I have often pointed out that Fichte rightly said, most human beings would sooner regard themselves as a piece of lava on the Moon than as an “I.” And if you consider how many people there are in our time who make any idea at all of what is in the “I,” i.e., of what they themselves are, then in general you would come to a very dismal result.
When this question arises, I have always to call to mind a friend I had more than thirty years ago, and who as a quite young student was completely inoculated at that time by the materialistic mood — today it is more modern to say “monistic” mood. He was already injected by it, in spite of his youth. He always laughed when he heard something was contained in man which could be designated as spiritual being; for he was of the view that what lives as thought in us was produced by mechanical or chemical processes in the brain. I often said to him: “Look, if you earnestly believe this as a content of life, why do you continually tell lies?” He really lied, continually, because he never said: My brain feels, my brain thinks, but: I think, I feel, I know this or that. Thus he built up a theory which he contradicted with every word — as every man does; for it is impossible to maintain what one imagines as a materialistic theory. One cannot remain truthful, if one thinks materialistically. If one would say: My brain loves you, then one should not say “you,” but, my brain loves your brain. People do not make this consequence clear. But it is something which is not merely humoristic, but something which shows what a deep basis of unconscious untruthfulness lies at the basis of our present education.
Now, most people really would sooner regard themselves as a piece of lava on the Moon, i.e., as a piece of compact matter, than as that which can be called an “I.” And today one naturally comes least of all to a grasp of the “I” through external science, which indeed, as such, must think materialistically, according to its methods. How can one attain this grasp of the “I”? How can one gradually get an idea, a concept, of what he instinctively feels when he says: "I think"? Solely and alone through this: that he knows by means of the anthroposophical view of the world how this human being is constituted, how the physical body has Saturn character, the etheric body has Sun character, the astral body has Moon character, and the Ego has Earth character. When we keep in mind everything we thus get as ideas out of the entire cosmos, then we understand how the “I,” as the real Master-worker, labors at all the other members. And so we come gradually to an idea [Begriff] of what we profess with the word “I.” We gradually struggle up to the highest ideas of this “I” if we learn to understand [verstehen] such a word. We not merely feel ourselves as a spiritual being if we feel ourselves within an “I,” but when we can say: In our individuality lives something which was there before father Abraham. When we cannot merely say: I and father Abraham are one, but: I and the FATHER, i.e., the Spiritual, weaving and living through the world. What lives in the “I” is the same spiritual substance that weaves and lives through the world as Spirit. Thus we gradually work our way up to understand this “I,” i.e., the bearer of the human individuality, that which goes from incarnation to incarnation.
In what way, however, do we grasp the “I”? Do we grasp the world at all through the anthroposophical view?
This anthroposophical view of the world arises in the most individual way, and is, at the same time, the most un-individual thing that can be conceived. It can only arise in the most individual way by the secrets of the cosmos revealing themselves in a human soul, into which stream the great spiritual beings of the world. And so the content of the world must be experienced in the human individuality in the most individual way, but at the same time it must be experienced with a character of complete impersonality. Whoever will experience the true character of cosmic mysteries must stand entirely on the standpoint from which he says: Whoever still heeds his own opinion cannot come to Truth. That is indeed the peculiar [eigenartige] nature of anthroposophical truth: that the observer may have no opinion of his own, no preference for this or the other theory, that he may not love this or the other view more than any other because of his own especial individual qualities. As long as he stands on this standpoint it is impossible for the true secrets of the world to reveal themselves to him. He must pursue knowledge quite individually, but his individuality must develop so far that it no longer has anything personal, i.e., anything of his own peculiar sympathies and antipathies. This must be taken strictly and earnestly. Whoever still has any preference for these or the other ideas and views, whoever can incline to this or the other because of his education or temperament, will never recognize objective truth.
We have attempted here, this summer, to grasp Oriental wisdom from the standpoint of Western learning. We tried to be just towards Oriental wisdom, and truly presented it in such a way that it received its full rights. [see: The East in the Light of the West] One must strongly emphasize that in our time it is impossible for independent spiritual knowledge to decide through any special preference for either the Oriental or the Occidental view of the world. Whoever says according to his different temperament he prefers the nature, the laws, of the world as existing in the Oriental view — or correspondingly in the Occidental view — has not yet a full understanding for what is here essential. One should not decide, e.g., for the greater significance of, let us say, the Christ, as compared with what Oriental teaching recognizes, because one inclines to the Christ through one's Occidental education or one's temperament. One is only fitted to answer the question “How is the Christ related to the Orient?” when from a personal standpoint the Christian is as indifferent to one as the Oriental. As long as one has preference for this or the other, so long is one unsuited to make a decision. One first begins to be objective when one lets the facts alone speak, when one heeds no reasons derived from personal opinion but lets facts alone speak in this sphere.
Therefore something meets us in the anthroposophical worldview, if it meets us today in its true form, which is inwardly woven with the human individuality, because it must spring out of the “I”-force of the individuality, and on the other hand, must be independent, so that this individuality is again quite indifferent. That person in whom anthroposophical wisdom appears must be unconcerned by it, must be independent of it. This is essential: that he has brought himself so far that he forces nothing of his own coloring into these matters. Then they will indeed be individual, because the spiritual cannot appear in the light of the Moon, or the stars, but only in the individuality, in the human soul; but then, on the other hand, this individuality must be so far on that it can exclude itself in the production of what constitutes the wisdom of the world. Thus that which appears to mankind through the anthroposophical movement will be something which concerns each human being, no matter from what race, nation, etc., he is born, because it applies itself only to the new humanity, to man as such, not to an abstract, general man, but to each single human being. This is the essential. As it proceeds out of the individuality, out of the kernel of man's being, so it speaks to the deepest kernel of man's being, so it grasps this kernel of man. As we usually speak from man to man, fundamentally it is only surface speaking to surface, something which we have not united with the innermost kernel of our being. Understanding between man and man, full understanding, is hardly possible today in any other sphere than in that where what is produced comes from the center of man's being, and, when it is understood aright by another, speaks again to his center. Hence in a certain connection it is a new speech that is spoken by Anthroposophy. And if today we are still obliged to speak in the various national languages what has to be announced, the content is a new speech, which is spoken by anthroposophy.
What is spoken today outside in the world is a speech which is only really valid for a very limited sphere. In ancient times, when people still looked into the spiritual world through their old, dreamy clairvoyance, their word then meant something which existed in the spiritual world. The word signified something which existed in the spiritual world. Even in Greece things were still different from what they are today. The word “idea” used by Plato signified something different from the word “idea” as used by our modern philosophers. These modern philosophers can no longer understand Plato, because they have no perception of what he called “idea,” and they confuse it with abstract concepts. Plato still had something spiritual before him, even if already rarefied; it was still something quite real. Then also, one still had in the words the sap of the spiritual, if one may express it thus. You can trace that in the words. If anybody today uses the word “wind,” “air,” then he means something external, physical. The word wind here corresponds to something external, physical. If, e.g., in old Hebrew, the word wind, “Ruach,” was employed, one did not merely mean something external, physical, but a spiritual, which swept through space. When man breathes in today he is told by materialistic science that he simply inhales material air; in ancient times one did not believe one inhaled material air, but then one was clear that one inspired something of spirit, or at least, of soul. Thus the words then were absolutely designations for spirit and soul. That has ceased today; today speech is limited to the external world, or at least those who seek to stand at the peak of the age busy themselves seeing only a materialistic meaning, even behind those things where it is still obvious they are derived from soul and spirit. Physics speaks of an “impact” of bodies. It has forgotten that the word “impact” is derived from that which a living being performs out of its inner living nature, when it pushes another being. The original significance of words is forgotten in these simple things.
And so today, our speech — and this is most of all the case with scientific speech — has become a speech which is only able to express what is material. Because of this, what is in our soul while we speak is only comprehensible to those faculties of our soul which are bound to the physical brain as their instrument. And then the soul understands nothing more of all that is designated with these words, when it is disembodied. When the soul has gone through the gate of death, and no longer employs the brain, then all scientific considerations of today are forms quite incomprehensible to the disembodied soul. It does not even hear or perceive what one expresses in the speech of the time. This has no longer any meaning for a disembodied soul, because it only has meaning for what is the physical world.
That again is something which is still more important to consider in what one can call the mode of thinking, the method of representation. It is even more important to consider it there than in theory, because it is a question of life, not of theory, and it is characteristic that one can see in the theosophical movement itself how materialism has crept in. Because it is the mode of the time, it has often crept into the theosophical view, so that real materialism prevails even in theosophy itself, e.g., when one describes the etheric or life-body. Whereas a person should exert himself to come to a grasp of the spirit, one mostly describes it as if it were a finer matter; and the astral body also. One starts as a rule from the physical body, goes further to the etheric or life-body, and says: that is built after the pattern of the physical body, only finer — thus one progresses to Nirvana. Here one finds descriptions which take their images from nothing else than the physical. I have already experienced that when one wanted to express the good feeling present in a room among those present, one did not do so directly, but one said: Fine vibrations are existing in this room. One did not heed that one materializes what exists spiritually in a mood if one thinks the space filled with a kind of thin cloud, permeated with vibrations. That is what I should like to call the most material way of thinking possible. Materialism has even got by the neck those who want to think spiritually. That is only a characteristic of our time, but it is important that we are conscious of it. And therefore we must pay especial heed to what has been said: that our speech, which is always a kind of tyrant for human thinking, has implanted in the soul a tendency to materialism. And many who today would so willingly be thorough idealists express themselves entirely in a materialistic sense, misled by the tyranny of speech. That is a speech which can no longer be understood by the soul as soon as it no longer feels itself bound to the physical brain.
There is, indeed, something else, you may believe it or not. For one who knows occult perception, real spiritual perception, the method of presentation often employed today in theosophical-scientific writings causes real pain — because it appears irrational to him if he begins to think no longer with the physical brain but with the soul, which is no longer bound to the physical brain, i.e., which really lives in the spiritual world. As long as one thinks with the physical brain, so long can he go on characterizing the world thus. As soon, however, as one begins to develop spiritual perception, then to speak of things in this way ceases to have any meaning. Then indeed it even causes pain if one must hear the utterance: There are good vibrations in this room, instead of: A good feeling prevails here. That at once causes pain in anyone who can really see things spiritually, because thoughts are realities. Space then fills itself out with a dark cloud, if one forms the thought: Good vibrations are in this space, instead of: A good mood is prevailing.
It is now the task of the anthroposophical way of thinking — and the method of thought is more important than the theories — that we learn to speak a language which is really not merely understood by the human soul so long as it is in a physical body, but understood also when this soul is no longer bound to the instrument of the physical brain; for instance, either by a soul still in the body but able to perceive spiritually, or by a soul gone through the gate of death. And that is the essential! If we bring forward those ideas which explain the world, which explain the human being, then that is a speech which cannot merely be understood here in the physical world but also by those who are no longer incarnated in physical bodies but live between death and a new birth. Yes, what is spoken on our anthroposophical basis is heard and understood by the so-called dead. There they are fully one with us on a basis where the same speech is spoken. There we speak to all human beings. Because in a certain connection it is chance whether a human soul is in a body of flesh, or in the condition between death and a new birth. And we learn through anthroposophy a speech comprehensible to all human beings, whether they are in the one or other condition. Thus we speak a speech within the field of anthroposophy which is spoken also for the so-called dead. We really contact the innermost kernel of man, the innermost being of man, through what we cultivate in a real sense in anthroposophical considerations, even if they appear apparently abstract. We penetrate into the soul of man.
And because we penetrate to the soul of man, we liberate man from all group-soulness, i.e., man becomes in this way more and more capable of really grasping himself in his ego, his “I.” And that is the characteristic, that those who come to anthroposophy today, who really take up anthroposophy, appear in comparison with others who remain far from it — as if through anthroposophical thoughts their ego would crystallize as a spiritual being, which is then carried through the gate of death. With the others, in that place where the I-being is, which remains there — which is now there in the body, and which remains after death — there is a hollow space, a nothingness. Everything else which one can take up as ideas today will become more and more worthless for the real kernel of man's soul-being. The central point of man's being is grasped through what we take up as anthroposophical thoughts. That crystallizes a spiritual substance in man; he takes that with him after death, and with that he perceives in the spiritual world. He sees and hears with it in the spiritual world; with it he penetrates that darkness which otherwise exists for man in the spiritual world.
And thereby it is brought about that when through these anthroposophical thoughts and way of thinking man develops this “I” in him today, which now stands in connection with all the world wisdom we can acquire — if he develops it — he carries it over also into his next incarnation. Then he is born with this now developed “I,” and he remembers himself in this developed “I.” That is the deeper task of the anthroposophical movement today: to send over to their next incarnation a number of human beings with an ego in which they remember themselves as an individual ego. They will be the human beings who form the kernel of the next period of civilization. These people who have been well prepared through the anthroposophical spiritual movement to remember their individual “I” will be spread over the whole Earth. For the essential in the next period of culture will be that these people will not be limited by single localities, but spread over the entire Earth. These individual people will be scattered over the whole Earth, and within the whole Earth sphere will be the kernel of humanity, who will be essential for the sixth period of civilization. And so it will be the case among these people that they will know themselves as those who in their previous incarnation strove together for the individual “I.”
This is the right cultivation of that soul-faculty of which we have spoken. This soul-faculty so develops that not only those just described will have this memory. More and more human beings will have this memory of their former incarnation — in spite of their not having developed the “I.” But they will not remember an individual “I,” because they have not developed it, but they will remember the group-ego, in which they have remained. Thus people will exist who in this incarnation have cared for the development of their individual “I” — they will remember themselves as independent individualities, they will look back and say: You were this or the other. Those who have not developed the individuality will be unable to remember this individuality.
Do not think that through mere visionary clairvoyance one acquires the faculty of remembering the previous ego. Humanity was once clairvoyant. If mere clairvoyance sufficed, then all would remember, for all were clairvoyant. It is not merely a matter of being clairvoyant — humanity will already be clairvoyant in the future — it is a matter of having cultivated the ego in this incarnation, or not. If one has not cultivated it, it is not there as an inner human being; one looks back, and remembers as a group-ego, what one had in common. So that these people will say: Yes, I was there, but I have not freed myself. These people will then experience that as their FALL, as a new Fall of mankind, as a falling back into conscious connection with the group-soul. That will be something terrible for the sixth period of time: to be unable to look back to oneself as an individuality, to be hemmed in by not being able to transcend the group-soulness [Gruppenseelenhaftigkeit]. If one will express it strongly, one could say: The whole Earth with all it produces (this holds at least as an image) will belong to those who now cultivate their individuality; those, however, who do not develop their individual “I” will be obliged to join on to a certain group, from which they will be directed as to how they should think, feel, will, and act. That will be felt as a fall, a falling back, in the future humanity.
So we should regard the anthroposophical movement, the spiritual life, not as mere theory, but as something which is given us in the present because it prepares what is necessary for the future of mankind.
If we grasp ourselves aright in that point where we are now, whence we have come from out the past, and then look a little into the future, then we must say: Now the time is come where man begins to develop the human faculty of remembering backwards. It is only a question of our developing it aright, i.e., that we train in us an individual “I;” for only what we have created in our own soul can we remember. If we have not created it, then there only remains to us a fettering memory of a group-ego, and we feel it as a kind of falling down into a group of higher animality. Even if the human group-souls are finer and higher than the animal, yet they are but group-souls. Humanity of an early age did not feel that as a fall, because they were intended to develop from group-soulness to the individual soul. If they are now held back, they fall consciously into it, and that will be the oppressive feeling in the future of those who do not take this step aright, either now or in a later incarnation. They will experience the fall into group-soulness.
The real task of anthroposophy is to give the right impulse. We must thus grasp it within human life. If we keep in mind that the sixth period of time is that of the first complete conquest of the racial idea, then we must be clear that it would be fantastic to think that even the sixth “race” starts from one point on the Earth, and develops like the earlier races. Progress is made by ever-new progressive methods of evolution appearing. By progress we do not mean that what was valid as ideas for earlier times should also hold for the future. If we do not see this, the idea of progress will not be quite clear to us. We will as it were fall again and again into the error of saying: So and so many rounds, globes, races, etc., and it all goes on revolving round again and again in the same manner. One cannot see why this wheel of rounds, globes, races, etc., should always revolve again. It is a question of seeing that the word “race” is a term only having validity for a certain time. This idea no longer has any meaning for the sixth period. Races have only in themselves the elements which have remained from the Atlantean age.
In the future, that which speaks to the depths of man's soul will express itself more and more in the external nature of man; and that which man on the one side as a quite individual being has acquired, and yet, again experiences unindividually, will express itself by working out even to the human countenance; so that the individuality of man — not the group-soulness — will be inscribed for him on his countenance. That will constitute human manifoldness. Everything will be acquired individually, in spite of its being there through the overcoming of individuality. And we will not meet groups among those who are seized of the ego, but the individual will express itself externally. That will form the distinction between human beings. There will be such as have acquired their egoity; they will indeed be there over the whole Earth with the most manifold countenances, but one will recognize through their variety how the individual ego expresses itself even into the gesture. Whereas among those who have not developed the individuality, the group-soulness will come to expression by their countenance receiving the imprint of the group-soulness, i.e., they will fall into categories similar to each other. That will be the external physiognomy of our Earth: a possibility will be prepared for the individuality to carry in itself an external sign, and for the group-soulness to carry in itself its external sign.
This is the meaning of earthly evolution: that man acquires more and more the power of expressing externally his inner being. There exists an ancient script in which the greatest ideal for the evolution of the “I,” the Christ Jesus, is characterized by the saying: When the two become one, when the external becomes like the inner, then man has attained the Christ nature in himself. That is the meaning of a certain passage in the so-called Egyptian Gospel. One comprehends such passages out of anthroposophical wisdom.
After we have attempted today to grasp the task of anthroposophy out of the depths of our knowledge, we will consider something on Tuesday which as a spiritual problem — as a specially individual affair of man — can lead us to his destiny, to his being.