I remarked yesterday that what we have to say on the subject of anthroposophical moral principles and impulses will be based upon facts, and for this reason we brought forward a few facts in which moral impulses are pre-eminently exhibited.
It is, indeed, most striking and illuminating that in the case of a personality such as Francis of Assisi mighty moral impulses must have been active in order that he could perform his deeds. What sort of deeds were they? They were such that what they reveal is moral in the very highest sense of the word. Francis of Assisi was surrounded by people afflicted with very serious diseases for which the rest of the world at that time knew no cure. Moral impulses were so powerful in him that many lepers through him were given spiritual aid and great comfort. It is true that many could gain no more — but there were many others who by their faith and trust attained a stage when the moral impulses and forces which poured forth from Francis of Assisi had even a healing, health-giving effect.
In order to penetrate still more deeply into the question whence do moral impulses come, we must inquire in the case of such an exceptional personality as Francis of Assisi as to how he could develop them, and what had really happened in his case. We shall have to look more deeply if we want to understand what was active in the soul of this outstanding human being.
Let us go back to the ancient civilization of India. In that civilization there were certain divisions of the people; they were divided into four castes, the highest of them being the Brahmins, who cultivated wisdom. The separation of the castes in ancient India was so strict that, for example, the sacred books might only be read by the Brahmins and not by members of the other castes. The members of the second caste, the Warrior caste, were only allowed to hear the teachings contained in the Vedas or in the epitome of the Vedas — the Vedanta. The Brahmins alone were allowed to explain any passage from the Vedas or have an opinion as to their meaning and it was strictly forbidden for all other people to have any opinion on the treasure of wisdom which was contained in the sacred books. The second caste consisted of those who had to cultivate the profession of war and the administration of the country. Then there was a third caste which had to foster trades, and a fourth, a laboring caste. And last of all, an utterly despised part of the population, the Pariahs, who were looked down upon so much that a Brahmin felt he was contaminated if he so much as stepped upon the shadow thrown by such a one. He even had to perform certain rites of purification if he had touched the shadow of such an outcast as a Pariah was considered to be. Thus we see how the whole nation was divided into four recognized castes and one that was absolutely unrecognized. Though these regulations may now be considered severe they were most strictly observed in ancient India. Even at the time of the Graeco-Latin civilization in Europe, no one belonging to the Warrior caste in India would have ventured to have his own independent opinion about what was in the sacred books, the Vedas. Now, how could such divisions as these have arisen among mankind? It is certainly remarkable that we should find these castes exactly in the most outstanding people of human antiquity and in the very people who had wandered over to Asia from Atlantis at a comparatively early date and also precisely those among whom were preserved the greatest wisdom and treasures of knowledge from the old Atlantean epoch. This seems very remarkable, and how can we understand it? It almost seems as if it contradicted all the wisdom and goodness in the order of the universe, in the guidance of the world, that one caste, one group of people, should be separated off, who alone were to preserve what was looked upon as the highest possessions and that the others should be destined from the very beginning, by the mere fact of their birth, to occupy subordinate positions.
This can only be understood by an examination into the secrets of existence. Development is only possible through differentiation, through organization; and if all men had wished to arrive at the degree of wisdom reached in the Brahmin caste not a single one would have been able to achieve it. If all human beings do not attain to the highest wisdom, one may not say that it is a contradiction of the divine regulation of the world, for this would have no more sense than if someone were to demand of the infinitely wise and infinitely mighty Deity that He should make a triangle with four angles. No god could make a triangle other than with three angles. That which is ordered and determined inwardly in spirit must also be observed by the divine regulation of the world, and just as the laws concerning the limits of space are strict — for example, that a triangle can only have three angles — so also it is a strict law that development must come about through differentiation, that certain groups of people must be separated in order that a particular quality of human nature can be developed. To this end the others must be excluded for a time. This is not only a law for development of mankind, it is a law for the whole of evolution.
Consider the human form. You will at once admit that the most valuable parts in the human form are the bones of the head. But by what means could these particular bones become bones of the head and envelop the higher organ, the brain? As far as the rudiments are concerned, each bone that man possesses could become skull bone, but in order that a few of the bones of the whole skeleton could reach this height of development and become bones of the forehead or of the back part of the head, the hip bones or the joints had to stop at a lower stage of development — for the hip bones or the joints have within them the possibility of becoming skull bones, just as much as those which actually have done so. It is the same everywhere throughout the world. Progress is only possible in evolution through one remaining behind and another pushing forward, even beyond a certain point of development. In India the Brahmins passed beyond a certain average of development, but on the other hand the lower castes remained behind it.
When the Atlantean catastrophe took place, great bodies of people gradually wandered from Atlantis, that ancient continent which lay where the Atlantic Ocean is today, toward the East, and peopled the continents now known as Europe, Asia, and Africa. We shall not at present consider the few who went westward, whose descendants were found in America by its discoverers. When the Atlantean catastrophe took place, the body of people which then migrated toward the East did not consist merely of the four castes which settled down in India and there gradually differentiated themselves, but there were seven castes, and the four which appeared in India were the four higher castes. Besides the fifth, which was completely despised and which in India formed, as it were, an intermediate body of the population, besides these Pariahs there were other castes which did not accompany them as far as India, but remained behind in various parts of Europe, Asia Minor, and especially Africa. Only the more highly developed castes reached India, and those who remained in Europe had entirely different qualities.
Indeed, one can only understand what took place later in Europe when one knows that the more advanced sections of humanity in those days reached Asia, and that in Europe, forming the main body of the population left behind, were those who furnished the possibility for very special incarnations. If we wish to understand the special incarnations of souls in the most ancient European times in the general mass of the population, we must take into account a remarkable event which took place in the Atlantean epoch. At a certain stage in Atlantean development great secrets of existence were betrayed; these were great truths concerning life, which are of infinitely greater importance than all those to which post-Atlantean humanity has since attained. It was essential that this knowledge should have been limited to small circles, but owing to the violation of the Mysteries, great bodies of the Atlantean population became possessed of occult knowledge for which they were not yet ripe. In consequence of this, their souls were at that time driven, as one might say, into a condition which was a moral descent, so that there remained on the path of goodness and virtue only those who later went over to Asia.
You must not, however, imagine that the whole population of Europe consisted only of people in whose souls were individuals who through being misled in the Atlantean epoch had suffered a moral downfall. Here and there in this European population were others who during the great emigration to Asia had remained behind to act as leaders. Thus all over Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa there were people who simply belonged to castes or races providing the requisite conditions for misguided souls to live in their bodies and there were also other better and more highly developed souls who remained behind to guide those who did not go on to Asia.
The best places for these souls who had to assume the leadership at that time — in the age in which the Indian and Persian civilizations developed — were the more northerly parts of Europe, the regions where the oldest Mysteries of Europe have flourished. Now they had a kind of protective arrangement as regards what had previously taken place in old Atlantis. In Atlantis temptation came to the souls described through wisdom, Mysteries, and occult truths being given them for which they were not ready. Therefore in the European Mysteries the treasures of wisdom had to be guarded and protected all the more. For this reason the true leaders in Europe in post-Atlantean times withdrew themselves entirely, and they preserved what they had received as a strict secret.
We may say that in Europe also there were persons who might be compared with the Brahmins of Asia, but these European Brahmins were not outwardly known as such by anyone. In the strictest sense of the word they kept the sacred secrets absolutely secluded in the Mysteries, that there might be no repetition of what had once taken place in the Atlantean epoch among the souls whom they were now leading onwards. Only through wisdom being protected and most carefully guarded did it come about that these souls were able to uplift themselves; for differentiation does not take place in such a way that a certain portion of humanity is destined from the beginning to take a lower rank than another, but that which is made lower at a certain time is to develop higher again at another period. But the conditions must be formed for this end to be attainable. Hence it came about that in Europe there were souls who had fallen into temptation and had become immoral, but they were now guided according to wisdom which proceeded from deeply hidden sources.
Now, the other castes who had gone to India had also left members behind in Europe. The members of the second Indian caste — the Warrior caste — were those who then chiefly attained to power in Europe. Where the wise teachers — that is, those who corresponded to the Indian Brahmins — entirely withdrew, and gave their counsels from hidden sanctuaries, the Warriors came out among the people, in order to improve and uplift them according to the counsels of those ancient European priests. It was this second caste that wielded the greatest power in Europe in primeval times, but in their way of life they were guided by the wise teachers who remained hidden. Thus it came about that the leading personalities in Europe were those who shone by virtue of the qualities of which we spoke yesterday — valor and bravery. Whereas in India wisdom was held in the highest esteem and the Brahmins were revered because they explained the sacred writing, in Europe bravery and valor were the most valued, and the people only knew of the divine Mysteries through those who were filled with valor and bravery. The civilization of Europe continued under these influences for thousands of years, and gradually souls were improved and uplifted. In Europe, where souls existed who were the successors of the people who had undergone temptation, no real appreciation of the caste system of India could develop. The souls were mingled and interwoven. A division, a differentiation into castes such as existed in India did not arise. The division was rather between those who guided in an upper class, who acted as leaders in various directions, and the class that was led. The latter consisted principally of souls who had to struggle upward.
When we look for the souls which gradually struggled upward out of this lower class, and which from being tempted developed higher, we find them chiefly in a part of the European population of which modern history tells but little. Century after century this people developed in order to rise to a higher stage, to recover again, as it were, from the heavy setback the souls had received in the Atlantean epoch. In Asia there was a continuation in the progress of civilization; in Europe, on the other hand, there was a change from the former moral collapse into a gradual moral improvement.
The people in Europe remained in this condition for a long time, and improvement only came about through the existence of a strong impulse in these souls to imitate that which they saw before them. Those who lived and worked among the people as the braver among them were looked up to as ideals and patterns, as leaders or chiefs; they were those who were called Fürsten (princes) and were imitated by the people at large. Thus the morality of the whole of Europe was raised through those souls mingling as leaders among the people.
Thereby something else became necessary in European development. If we wish to understand this, we must distinguish between the development of a single soul and that of a whole race. The two must not be confused. A human soul can develop in such a way that in one incarnation it embodies itself in a particular race. If in this race it gains certain qualities, it may re-embody itself in a later incarnation in an entirely different one; so that we may find incarnated in Europe at the present day souls which in a previous incarnation were embodied in India, Japan, or China. The souls do not by any means remain in the same race, for soul development is quite different from race development, which goes its peaceful way forward.
In ancient times souls who were unable to go over into the Asiatic races were transposed into European ones, and were obliged to incarnate again and again in them. But as they became better and better, this led to their gradually passing on into the higher races; and souls which were previously embodied in quite subordinate races developed to a higher stage, and were able later to reincarnate in the bodily successors of the leading population of Europe. These bodily successors of the leading population multiplied, and as these souls increased in number in this direction, they became more numerous than they originally were. After having progressed and improved, they incarnated in the leading population of Europe, and the development then took place in such a way that, on the whole, as a physical race, the bodily forms in which the most ancient European population had originally incarnated died out; the souls forsook the bodies which were formed in a certain way, and which then died out. The offspring of the lower races decreased in number while the higher increased, until gradually the lowest classes of the European population completely died out. This is a definite process, which we must grasp. The souls develop further, the bodies die out. For this reason we must be careful to distinguish between soul development and race development. The souls reappear in the bodies belonging to higher races; the lower race bodies die out. A process such as this does not take place without effect. When over large areas something disappears, as it were, it does not disappear into nothing, but it dissolves and then exists in a different form. When in ancient times the worst part of the population of which I have just now spoken died out, the whole region became gradually inhabited by demons, representing the products of dissolution, the products of the putrefaction of that which had died out.
Thus the whole of Europe and Asia Minor were filled with the spiritualized products of putrefaction from the worst part of the population which had died out. These demons of putrefaction endured for a long time, and later they acted upon mankind. It came about that these demons of putrefaction which were incorporated in the spiritual atmosphere, as it were, gained influence upon human beings and affected them in such a way that their feelings were permeated by them. The effect may be seen from the following example: —When at a later date, at the time of the Migration of the Peoples, great bodies of people came over from Asia to Europe, among them came Attila with his hordes. His invasion was the cause of great terror to many of those who lived in Europe, and through this state of terror people laid themselves open to the demoniacal influences still persisting. Gradually through these demoniacal beings there developed — as a consequence of the terror produced by the hordes coming over from Asia — that which appeared as leprosy, the epidemic disease of the Middle Ages. This disease was nothing else than the consequence of the state of terror and fear experienced by the people at that time. But the terror and fear could only lead to this result in the souls which had been exposed to the demoniacal forces of former times.
I have now described to you why it was possible for people to be laid hold of by a disease — which was later practically exterminated in Europe — and why it was so widespread at the time we mentioned in our last lecture. In Europe the peoples which had to die out because they had not developed upwards became extinct, but the after-effect was seen in the form of diseases which attacked mankind. The disease we have mentioned, leprosy, is thus seen to be the result of spiritual and psychic causes.
This whole condition was now to be counteracted. Further development could only come about if that which has just been described was entirely removed from Europe. An example of how it was taken away was described in the last lecture, where we showed that while, on the one hand, the after-effects of what was unmoral existed as demons of disease, on the other hand, strong moral impulses appeared, as in Francis of Assisi. Through his possession of strong moral impulses he gathered others around him who acted also in the same way as he, although in a lesser degree. Really there were very many who at that time worked as he did, but this activity did not last very long.
Now how had such a soul-power come into Francis of Assisi? As we are not gathered together to study external science but to understand human morality from its spiritual and occult foundations, we must examine a few occult or spiritual truths. Let us inquire: Whence really came such a soul as that of Francis of Assisi? We can only understand such a soul as this if we investigate it a little, if we take the trouble to find what was hidden in its depths.
I must remind you that the old division into castes in India really received its first blow, its first shock, through Buddhism, for among many other things which Buddhism introduced into Asiatic life was the idea that it did not recognize the division into castes as something justifiable; that as far as it was possible in Asia it recognized the power of each human being to attain to the highest possible to man. We know too that this was only possible through the pre-eminently great and mighty individuality of Buddha. We also know that Buddha became a Buddha in the incarnation of which we are usually told, and that in the earlier part of his life he was a Bodhisattva, which represents the stage next below Buddhahood. Through the fact that this son of King Suddodana, in the twenty-ninth year of his life, experienced and felt deeply in himself the great truth of life and sorrow, he had attained the greatness to announce in Asia the teaching known as Buddhism.
Connected with this development of the Bodhisattva up to Buddha, there was something else of which we must not lose sight, namely, the fact that the individuality which had passed through many incarnations as a Bodhisattva and then risen to the rank of Buddha, when it became Buddha had to dwell for the last time in a physical body on Earth. Thus he who is raised from Bodhisattva to Buddha enters into an incarnation which for him is the last. From this time onwards, such an individuality only works down from spiritual heights; he still works, but only spiritually. Thus we now have the fact that the individuality of Buddha has only worked down from spiritual heights since the fifth century before Christ.
But Buddhism continued. It was able to influence in a certain way not only Asiatic life, but the spiritual life of the whole of the then known world. You know how Buddhism spread in Asia. You know how great is the number of its followers there. But in a more hidden and veiled form it also spread into the mental life of Europe; and we have particularly to point out that the portion of the great teaching of Buddha relating to the equality of man was especially acceptable to the population of Europe, because this population was not arranged on the plan of caste divisions but rather upon the idea of the equality of all human beings. On the shores of the Black Sea there existed an occult school which lasted far into the Christian era. This school was guided by certain human beings who set themselves as their highest ideal that part of the teaching of Buddha which we have just described, and through their having taken into themselves the Christian impulse along with it, were able in the early centuries of Christianity to throw new light upon what Buddha had given to humanity. If I were to describe to you this occult school on the Black Seas as the occultist or spiritual investigator sees it — and you will understand me best if I do this — I must do it in the following manner:
People who, to begin with, had external teachers in the physical world came together there. They were instructed in the doctrines and principles which had proceeded from Buddhism, but these were permeated by the impulses which came into the world through Christianity. Then, after the pupils had been sufficiently prepared, they were brought to where the deeper forces lying within them, the deeper forces of wisdom, could be brought forth, so that they were led to clairvoyant vision of the spiritual world and were able to see into the spiritual worlds. The first thing attained by the pupils of this occult school was, for example, the recognition of those who no longer descended to the physical plane. But this they could only do after they had been accustomed to it by the teachers incarnated in the physical body. In this way they came to know Buddha. Thus, these occult pupils learned to know Buddha face to face, if one may so speak of his spiritual being. In this way he continued to work spiritually in the occult pupils, and thus his power worked down to the physical plane, although he himself no longer descended to physical embodiment in the physical world.
Now, the pupils in this occult school were grouped according to their maturity into two unequal divisions, and only the more advanced were chosen for the smaller division. Most of these pupils were able to become so clairvoyant that they came in touch with a being who strove with all his might to bring his impulses through to the physical world, and although he himself did not descend into this world they learned all the secrets of Buddha and all that he wished to have accomplished. Most of these pupils remained as such, clairvoyants, but there were some who, in addition to the qualities of knowledge and of psychic clairvoyance, had developed the spiritual element to a remarkable degree, which cannot be separated from a certain humility, a certain highly evolved capacity for devotion. These, then, attained to where they could receive the Christ impulse in an advanced degree precisely in this occult school. They could also become clairvoyant in such a way that they became the specially chosen followers of Saint Paul and received the Christ impulse directly in life.
Thus from this school proceeded two groups, as it were: one group which possessed the impulse to carry the teaching of Buddha everywhere, although his name was not mentioned in connection with it, and a second group which, in addition, received the Christ impulse. Now, the difference between these two kinds did not appear very strongly in that particular incarnation, it only appeared in the next. The pupils who had not received the Christ impulse but who had only gained the Buddha impulse, became the teachers of the equality and brotherhood of man; on the other hand the pupils who had also received the Christ impulse, in the next incarnation were such that this Christ impulse worked up further so that not only could they teach (and they did not consider this their chief task) but they worked more especially through their moral power.
One such pupil of the occult school on the Black Sea was born in his next incarnation as Francis of Assisi. No wonder, then, that in him there was the wisdom which he had received, the knowledge of the brotherhood of mankind, of the equality of all men, of the necessity to love all men equally — no wonder that this teaching pulsated through his soul, and also that his soul was permeated and strengthened by the Christ impulse.
Now, how did this Christ impulse work further in his next incarnation? It acted in such a way that when in his next incarnation Francis of Assisi was transposed into a community in which the old demons of diseases were especially active — this Christ-impulse approached the evil substance of the disease-demons through him, and absorbed it into itself, thus removing it from mankind. Before this, however, the Christ impulse incorporated itself in this substance in such a way that it first became visible to Francis of Assisi in the vision in which he saw the palace when he was called upon to take upon himself the burden of poverty. The Christ impulse had here revived in him and streamed forth from him, and laid hold of these disease-demons. His moral forces thereby became so strong that they could take away the harmful spiritual substances which had produced the disease. It was through this alone that the power was produced to bring to a higher development what I have described to you as the after-effect of the old Atlantean element, to purify Europe from these substances and sweep them away from the Earth.
Consider the life of Francis of Assisi; notice what a remarkable course it took. He was born in the year 1182. We know that the first years of the life of a human being are devoted principally to the development of the physical body. In the physical body is developed chiefly that which comes to light through external heredity. Hence there appeared in him first of all that which originated through external heredity from the European population. These qualities gradually came out, as his etheric body developed from the seventh to the fourteenth year, like any other human being. In this etheric body appeared primarily that quality which as the Christ impulse had worked directly in him in the mysteries on the Black Sea. From his fourteenth year, at the dawn of his astral life, the Christ power became particularly active within him, in such a way that there entered into his astral body that which had been in connection with the atmosphere of the Earth since the Mystery of Golgotha. For Francis of Assisi was a personality who was permeated by the external power of Christ, owing to his having sought for the Christ power, in his previous incarnation, in that particular place of initiation where it was to be found.
Thus we see how differentiations act in humanity, for differentiation must come about. For that which by earlier events has been thrust down to a lower condition is raised up once more through special events in the course of human development. On another occasion a particularly important uplifting took place in the evolution of humanity, one which exoterically will always be incomprehensible; for this reason people have really ceased to reflect upon, it, but esoterically it can be fully explained. There were some who had developed very quickly from the strata of the Western population, who had gradually wrestled their way up from the lowest rungs of the ladder, but who had not risen very high in intellectual development, but had remained comparatively humble and simple men, chosen ones as it were, who could only be uplifted at a certain time by a mighty impulse which reflected itself in them; these were those who are described as the twelve Apostles of Jesus. They were the cast-off extract of the lower castes which did not reach India. From them had to be taken the substance for the disciples of Christ Jesus.*
[We are not here referring to previous or succeeding incarnations of the individualities of the Apostles, but solely to the physical ancestry of the bodies in which the personalities of the Apostles were incarnated. The succession of incarnations and the physical line of heredity must always be distinguished.]
Thus we have discovered the source of the moral power in that chosen personality, Francis of Assisi. Do not say that taking ordinary human rules into consideration it would be too much to expect a person to realize the ideals manifested in Francis of Assisi. Certainly what I have said was not with the intention of recommending anyone to become a Francis of Assisi. One only wished to point out by means of a striking example how moral power enters man, whence it can spring and how it must be understood as something quite special, something that was originally present in man. But from the whole spirit of what I have said up to now you may gather one thing with regard to other forces in human evolution, namely, that humanity has first gone through a descent and has now undertaken an ascent again.
If we go back in human evolution we pass through the post-Atlantean epoch to the Atlantean catastrophe, then into the Atlantean epoch, and then further back to the Lemurian epoch. When we then arrive at the starting point of earthly humanity we come to a time when man, not only as regards his spiritual qualities, was much closer to the Deity, when he first developed not only out of the spiritual life, but also out of morality. So that at the beginning of earthly evolution we do not find unmorality but morality. Morality is a divine gift which was given to man in the beginning; it was part of the original content in human nature, just as spiritual power was in human nature before man's deepest descent. Fundamentally, a great part of what is unmoral came into humanity in the manner we have described, namely, by the betrayal of the higher Mysteries in the ancient Atlantean epoch.
Thus morality is something about which we cannot say that it has only developed gradually in humanity: it is something which lies at the bottom of the human soul, something which has only been submerged by the later civilizations. When we look at the matter in the right light we cannot even say that unmorality came into the world through folly; it came into the world through the secrets of wisdom being disclosed to persons who were not sufficiently mature to receive them. It was through this that people were tempted; they succumbed, and then degenerated. Therefore in order that they might rise it was above all necessary that something should occur which would sweep away from the human soul all that is contrary to moral impulses. Let us put this in a somewhat different form.
Let us suppose we have before us a criminal, a man whom we call especially unmoral: on no account must we think that this unmoral man is devoid of moral impulses. They are in him and we shall find them if we delve down to the bottom of his soul. There is no human soul — with the exception of black magicians, with whom we are not now concerned — in which there is not the foundation of what is morally good. If a person is wicked it is because that which has originated in the course of time as spiritual error overlies moral goodness. Human nature is not bad; originally it was really good. The concrete observation of human nature shows us that in its deepest being it is good, and that it was through spiritual errors that man deviated from the moral path. Therefore moral errors must in course of time once more be made good in man. Not only must the mistakes be made good but their results as well, for where evil has such mighty after-effects that demons of disease have been produced, super-moral forces such as were in Francis of Assisi must be also active.
The foundation for the improvement of a human being always consists in taking away his spiritual error. And what is necessary to this end? Gather together what I have told you into a fundamental feeling; let the facts speak to you, let them speak to your feelings and perceptions, and try to gather them together into one fundamental feeling, and then you will say: What is the attitude which a man needs to hold regarding his fellow man? It is that he needs the belief in the original goodness of humanity as a whole, and of each single human being in particular. That is the first thing we must say if we wish to speak at all in words concerning morality: that something immeasurably good lies at the bottom of human nature. That is what Francis of Assisi realized; and when he was approached by some of those stricken with the horrible disease we have described, as a good Christian of that day he said somewhat as follows: “A disease such as this is in a certain way the consequence of sin; but as sin is in the first instance spiritual error and disease the result, it must therefore be removed by a mighty opposing power.” Hence Francis of Assisi saw by the sinner how, in a certain way, the punishment of sin manifests itself externally; but he also saw the good in human nature, he saw what lies at the bottom of each human being as divine spiritual forces. That which distinguished Francis of Assisi most was his sublime faith in the goodness lying in each human being, even in one who was being punished.
This made it possible for the contrary power to appear in his soul, and this is the power of love which gives and helps morally, and indeed even heals. And no one, if he really develops the belief in the original goodness of human nature into an active impulse, can arrive at anything else than to love human nature as such.
It is primarily these two fundamental impulses which are able to found a truly moral life. First, the belief in the divine at the bottom of every human soul, and secondly, the boundless love of man which springs from this belief. For it was only this measureless love which could bring Francis of Assisi to the sick, the crippled, and those stricken with leprosy. A third thing which may be added, and is necessarily built upon these two foundations, is that a person who has a firm belief in the goodness of the human soul, and who loves human nature, cannot do otherwise than admit that what we see proceeding from the cooperation of the originally good foundation of the human soul with practical love, justifies a perspective for the future which may be expressed in the fact that every single soul, even though it may have descended far from the height of spiritual life, can be led back again to this spiritual life. This third impulse implies the hope for each human soul that it can find the way back again to the Divine-Spiritual.
We may say that Francis of Assisi heard these three things expressed very very often; they were continually in his mind during his initiation in the Mysteries of Colchis, on the Black Sea. And we may also say that in the life he had to lead as Francis of Assisi he preached very little about faith or love, but was himself their embodiment. Faith did not work, hope did not work; one must indeed have them, but only love is effective. It stands in the center, and it is that which, in that single incarnation of Francis of Assisi, really carried the actual development of humanity forward in the moral sense toward the divine.
How did this love — which we know was the result of his initiation in the Colchis Mysteries — develop in St. Francis? We have seen that in him appeared the knightly virtues of the ancient European spirit. He was a valiant boy. Valor, bravery, was transformed in his individuality, which was permeated by the Christ impulse, into active practical love. We see the old valor, the old bravery, resurrected once more in the love manifested in Francis of Assisi. The ancient valor transposed into the spiritual, bravery transposed into the spiritual, is love.
It is interesting to see how very much of what has just been said corresponds also to the external historical course of human evolution. Let us go back a few centuries into the pre-Christian era. Among the people who have given the principal name to the fourth post-Atlantean age, the Greeks, we find the philosopher Plato. Among other things, Plato wrote about morals, about the virtues of man. By the way in which he wrote, we can recognize that he was reticent concerning the highest things, the actual secrets, but what he felt able to say he put into the mouth of Socrates. Now, in a period of European culture in which the Christ impulse had not yet worked, Plato described the highest virtues he recognized, namely, the virtues which the Greeks looked upon as those which a moral man ought to have above all things. He described first of all three virtues, and a fourth with which we shall later become acquainted. The first was “Wisdom.” Wisdom, as such, Plato looked upon as virtue. This is justified, for in the most varied directions we have found that wisdom lies at the foundation of moral life. In India the wisdom of the Brahmins lay at the foundation of human life. In Europe this was indeed withdrawn into the background, but it existed in the Norse Mysteries, where the European Brahmins had to make good again that which had been spoiled through the betrayal in the old Atlantean epoch. Wisdom stands behind all morality, as we shall see in our next lecture. Plato also described, in the manner corresponding to the Mysteries, as the second virtue: “Valor” — that which we meet with in the population of Europe. As the third virtue he described Temperance or “Moderation” — that is, the opposite of the passionate cultivation of the lower human impulses. These are the three chief Platonic virtues: Wisdom, Valor or Bravery, and Moderation or Temperance, the curbing of the sensual impulses active in man. Finally, the harmonious balancing of these three virtues Plato describes as a fourth virtue, which he calls “Justice.”
Here is described, by one of the most eminent European minds of pre-Christian times, what were looked upon at that time as the most important qualities in human nature. Valor, bravery, is in the European population permeated by the Christ impulse and by what we call “ I ” or the ego. Bravery, which in Plato appears as virtue, is here spiritualized and thereby becomes love. The most important thing is that we should see how moral impulses come into the human race, how that which formerly existed in the form we have described becomes something entirely different. Now, without disparagement to Christian morality we cannot describe as the only virtues wisdom, temperance, valor, and justice, for we might receive the reply: “If you had all these and yet you had not love you would never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Let us bear in mind the time when, as we have seen, there was poured out into humanity an impulse, a current, of such a nature that wisdom and bravery were spiritualized and reappeared as love. But we shall go still further into the question as to how wisdom, moderation or temperance, and justice have been developed, and thereby will appear what is the particular moral mission of the Anthroposophical Movement in the present day.
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Saint Francis and Buddha (and Saint Paul); the spiritual foundation of morality; the Platonic Virtues
Rudolf Steiner, May 29, 1912: