Background to the Gospel of Mark. Lecture 3.
Rudolf Steiner, November 7, 1910:
We have often spoken of that period of human evolution that has passed since the Atlantean catastrophe. We have dealt with the various epochs of this evolution — the original Indian, original Persian, Egypto-Chaldean and Greco-Latin — and then with our own, the fifth epoch of post-Atlantean civilization. We have also shown that two further epochs will pass before the coming of another great catastrophe, so that we have to reckon in all seven such epochs of earthly humanity.
It is comprehensible that these epochs should be described differently. For as men of the present day we desire to find how we stand as regards our own mission, we can only gain some idea of what lies before us in the future when we know how far we have participated in these different epochs in the past.
I have often explained how we can distinguish between the separate human being, the little world, or microcosm, and the great world, or macrocosm; I have shown how man, the little cosmos, is a copy of the great world or macrocosm. Though this is a truth, yet it is a very abstract truth, and as generally stated does not mean very much. You will therefore find it helpful if we go into particulars regarding this, and show how certain things met with in mankind have really to be accepted as a little world, and can be compared with another, a greater world.
The man of the present day really belongs to all seven ages of the post-Atlantean epoch. We have passed through all the earlier ages in former incarnations, and will pass through all the later ages in later ones. In each incarnation we receive what the age in question has to give. Because we receive this we bear within us, in a certain sense, the fruits of former evolutions, and the most intimate things within us are really those we have acquired during the ages mentioned. What each of us has acquired in the course of these ages is more or less within human consciousness today; while what we acquired generally in our Atlantean incarnations, when the state of consciousness was very different, has sunk more or less into our subconsciousness, and no longer reverberates within us as that does which we have acquired in post-Atlantean times. In Atlantean times man was more shielded from having his evolution injured in one way or another, because his consciousness was not then so awake as it was in post-Atlantean times. For this reason all we bear within us as the fruits of our Atlantean evolution is more in accordance with the ordering of the world than is that which had its origin in an age when we were already capable of bringing certain things in us into disorder. Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings certainly influenced man in Atlantean times, but they then worked quite differently, for man was not then capable of shielding himself from them.
That men grew ever more and more conscious is the most important fact of post-Atlantean culture. In this respect human evolution from the Atlantean catastrophe until the next great catastrophe is macrocosmic. Humanity evolves like one great man throughout the seven post-Atlantean periods; and the most important things that were to arise in human consciousness during these seven periods resemble what a single individual experiences in the seven periods of his individual life.
The different ages in the life of a man have been described as follows: The first seven years, from birth to the change of teeth, is described as the first age. In it man's physical body receives its form, is endowed with it as a gift. With the coming of the second teeth this form, in all its essentials, is fixed. The man then continues to grow within this form, which has received its essential direction. What is accomplished during the first seven years is the construction of the form. This period has to be understood from all sides. We must, for instance, distinguish the first teeth, which the child develops early and which fall out, from the second teeth which replace them. These two kinds of teeth, with respect to the laws of the body, are quite different — the first are inherited, they appear as the fruits of the organisms of the man's ancestors, but the second teeth appear as the outcome of the laws of the man's own physical being! This has to be realized. It is only when we go into such particulars that we observe this difference. We receive our first teeth because our ancestors pass them on to us with our organism; we acquire our second teeth because our own physical organism is so constituted that we acquire them through it. In the first period the teeth are directly bequeathed, in the second the physical organism is bequeathed, and it produces the second teeth.
After this we distinguish a second period of life, that from the change of teeth until puberty, to about the 14th or 15th year. What is significant in it is the development of the etheric body. The third period, to about the 21st year, represents the development of the astral body. Then follows the development of the ego, and this progresses from the development of the sentient soul to that of the rational soul and on to the consciousness soul. It is thus we distinguish the different ages in the life of a man. In this life, as you know well, only that period is really ordered and regulated which falls within the first seven years. This is, and must be so, as regards the man of the present day. Such regular differentiations as we find in the first three periods of a man's life do not occur later; neither is the time they last so clearly defined. If we enquire into the causes of this we have to understand that in the evolution of the world a middle period always comes after the first three of any seven periods.
We are living at present in the post-Atlantean age; we have already within us the fruits of the first three periods, and of the fourth, for we are now in the fifth post-Atlantean age, and are living on toward the sixth.
We are entirely justified in finding a resemblance between the evolution of the various post-Atlantean periods and that of the ages in the life of separate individuals, so that here also it is possible to distinguish between what is macrocosmic and what is microcosmic.
Let us take that which is most characteristic of the first post-Atlantean period, the one we call the Old-Indian; for in this the character of the post-Atlantean evolution was most strongly expressed. In this first period an exalted and most clearly differentiated wisdom existed, a primeval wisdom. What was taught in India by the Seven Holy Rishis was in principle the same as was actually beheld in the spiritual world by natural seers, and also by a large part of the people at that time. This ancient wisdom was present in the first Indian period as an inheritance. It was experienced clairvoyantly in Atlantean times, but now it had become more of an inherited primeval wisdom, preserved and given out again by those who, like the Rishis, had risen to spiritual worlds by initiation. What had entered thus into human consciousness was essentially and absolutely an inheritance. It was therefore entirely different in character from present-day wisdom. People make a great mistake when they try to express the important matters given out by the Holy Rishis in the first post-Atlantean period in forms similar to those employed by the science of today. This is hardly possible. The scientific forms in use today appeared first in the course of post-Atlantean culture. The knowledge of the Ancient Rishis was of a very different kind. Those who communicated it felt how it worked in them, how it rose within them on the instant. If we are to understand what knowledge was at that time, we must realize that its most marked characteristic was that it did not spring in any way from memory. Memory played no part as yet in knowledge. I pray you to keep this in mind. Today memory plays a main part in the passing on of knowledge. When a university professor mounts the platform, or a public speaker addresses an audience, he must be careful to consider beforehand what he is to speak about, and retain it in his memory. Certainly, there are people who say they do not require to do this, they follow their genius; but this does not take them very far. At the present day the passing on of knowledge depends really very largely on memory.
We gain a correct perception of how knowledge was communicated in the ancient Indian epoch if we grant that knowledge first rose in the head of him who communicated it at the moment he passed it on to others. In former times knowledge was not prepared before-hand as it is today. The Rishis did not prepare what they had to say, so that their memory might retain it. They prepared themselves by attuning themselves to what they were about to communicate. They said: “This knowledge [Wissen] is not built on memory in any way. Memory has no part in it, my soul must first enter into a holy atmosphere, it must be attuned to piety!” They prepared this atmosphere, this feeling, but not what they were to say. At the moment of communication it resembled rather a reading aloud from an invisible script. Listeners who took down in writing what was said would have been unthinkable at that time. This would have been an impossibility; anything preserved by such means would have been regarded at that time as worthless. Only those things were considered of value which a man preserved within his soul, and which his soul then moved him to reproduce and impart to others in the same way as he had received them. It would have been regarded as desecration to write down these communications. Why? Because in the opinion of that day it was thought that what was written on paper could not be the same as what was communicated by word of mouth.
This tradition endured for a long time, for such things are retained far longer in the feelings than in the understanding of men, and when in the Middle Ages the art of printing was added to that of writing many people regarded it for long as a black art. The old feeling survived that what passed in a living way from one soul to another should not be preserved in such a grotesquely profane way as was the case when black printer's ink traced spoken words on a white page, thus changing them into something lifeless, in order that later they might be revived in a way perhaps that was far from edifying. We must therefore regard the direct outpouring [Strömung] from soul to soul as a characteristic feature of the time we are considering. This was an outstanding tendency of the first post-Atlantean epoch, and must be realized if we are to understand, for instance, the old Grecian and Germanic rhapsodists, who moved from place to place reciting their very long poems. If they had employed memory they could never have recited these poems again and again in the same way. It was a soul-force, a soul-attribute, far more living than memory that lay behind these long recitations. Today if anyone recites a poem he must have learnt it beforehand, but these people experienced what they recited, it was as if newly created at the moment. This was strengthened by the fact that in quite other ways than is the case today the soul-element was then more in evidence. In our day, with some justification, everything of a soul nature is more suppressed. When recitations or lectures are given today what matters is the meaning; care is taken as to the meaning of the words. This was not the case when in the Middle Ages a minstrel recited the Nibelungenlied, for example. He had still a certain feeling for the inner rhythm, he even stamped with his foot as he marked its rise and fall. These things were but the echoes of what existed in more ancient times. But you would form no true picture of the Rishis of India and their pupils if you thought they did not communicate the ancient knowledge of Atlantis faithfully. The high-school pupil of today, even if he wrote out the whole lecture, would not have reproduced what had been said as faithfully as the Indian Rishis reproduced the ancient knowledge in their day.
The characteristic feature of the ages that followed is that Atlantean knowledge had ceased to affect them. Up to the decline of the first period, that of the ancient Indian culture, the legacy of knowledge man had received continued. Knowledge continued to increase. This came to an end, however, with the first post-Atlantean period, and afterwards hardly anything new came forth from human nature. Increase in knowledge was therefore only possible in the first period, the early Indian, after that it ceased. In the Persian period among those who were influenced by the teaching of Zarathustra what we can compare with the second age of development in the life of a man began, and it is best understood when so compared. The first period of Indian culture can well be likened to the first part of the life of a man — that from birth to the seventh year — when everything of the nature of form receives its shape; later there is only growth within the established form. Thus it was with the spirit in the first post-Atlantean epoch. What follows later, how man develops the teaching that comes to him in the second part of his life, can be likened to the first period of ancient Persian development and with the instruction then received, only we must be clear as to who the scholars were and who the teachers. I would like to point out something here. Does it not strike you as strange how very differently Zarathustra, the leader of the second post-Atlantean epoch, comes before us to the way, for instance, the Indian Rishis do? While the Rishis appear like holy initiated persons of a far distant age, into whom all the knowledge of ancient Atlantis had poured, Zarathustra comes before us as the first initiate of post-Atlantean times. Something new enters with him. Zarathustra is actually the first historical personality of post-Atlantean times to be initiated into that form of Mystery-knowledge (truly post-Atlantean) in which knowledge was presented in such a way that it was actually comprehensible to the rational understanding of man. What pupils received in those early days in the schools of Zarathustra was pre-eminently a supersensible knowledge, but it dawned in them so that for the first time it took the form of human conceptions. While it is not possible to reproduce the knowledge of the ancient Rishis in the forms of modern science, this is possible with the knowledge of Zarathustra. Certainly this is a purely supersensible knowledge, dealing as it does with the supersensible worlds, but it is clothed in conceptions similar to the conceptions and ideas of post-Atlantean times. Among the followers of Zarathustra a teaching arose of which we can say: “It was constructed systematically in accordance with the rational conceptions of man.” This means it sprang from the ancient holy treasures of wisdom which evolved up to the end of the Indian period, and continued from generation to generation; no new thing was later added to this, but the old was elaborated further. The mission of the Mysteries of the second post-Atlantean period can be realized through a comparison: we can compare it with the publishing of some occult book. Any book that is the result of investigations into higher world can be clothed in a logical arrangement, thus bringing it down to the physical plane. It is possible to do this. But if my “Outline of Occult Science” had been treated in this way a book of fifty volumes would have resulted, each as large as the book itself. If this had been done, each section would have been presented in strictly logical form; this is in the book, and it might have been treated in this way. But it is also possible to proceed otherwise. One can, for instance, leave something to the reader; leave him to think matters out for himself. People must try to do this today; otherwise the work of occultism could not progress.
Now, in the fifth post-Atlantean period, with his acquired powers of forming conceptions, it is possible for man to approach occult knowledge and to increase it, but at the time of Zarathustra, thoughts had first to be discovered capable of dealing with these facts. At that time knowledge such as we have today did not exist. Something there was that had remained over like an echo from the time of the Rishis, and to this was added what was capable of being clothed in human thoughts. But human conceptions had first to be found, and into them supersensible facts had to be poured. Different degrees in power to grasp what was supersensible then first made its appearance. We may say: The Rishis still spoke absolutely in the way men had always spoken, in a pictorial language, an imaginative language. They passed on the knowledge they possessed from soul to soul when speaking in this vital picture-language which came whenever they had any kind of supersensible knowledge to transmit. With “cause and effect” and the other ideas we have today with logic in any form — men did not concern themselves in the least. All that arose later. Then in the second post-Atlantean period they began to be interested in supersensible knowledge. They then felt for the first time the opposition, as it were, of the physical plane; they felt the necessity of giving expression to what was supersensible so that it might assume forms that thought could grasp on the physical plane. This was the essential mission of the first period of Persian civilization.
Then followed the third period, the period of Egyptian culture. People now had supersensible ideas. This is difficult for the men of today. Try and picture conditions as they were at that time; there was as yet no physical science, but people had ideas that had been gained concerning supersensible worlds, and they could speak of them in the thought-forms of the physical plane.
In the third epoch people began to direct what they had learnt from supersensible worlds to the physical world. This can again be compared with the third life-period of a man. While in the second life-period he learns, he then goes on to employ what he has learnt. In the third period of their lives most people feel constrained to direct their learning to the physical plane.
The pupils of the heavenly knowledge were those who, in the second epoch, had been pupils of Zarathustra, but they now began to direct what they had learnt to the physical plane. Put into modern language we can say: men now learnt that all they beheld through supersensible vision could only be understood if expressed by a triangle; if they used the triangle as an image to express the supersensible, they learnt that the supersensible part of human nature which permeates the physical part can be grasped as a triad. Other conceptions had come to man so that he now applied physical things to what was non-physical. Geometry, for example, was first learnt so that it was accepted as symbolic of ideas. Men had this and made use of it — the Egyptians in the art of surveying and agriculture, the Chaldeans in the study of the stars and the founding of astrology and astronomy. What formerly was held to be only supersensible was now applied to things seen physically. People began to use what had been born in them as supersensible wisdom on the physical plane. This was first done in the third cultural period.
In the fourth period, the Greco-Latin, this became a fact of outstanding importance. Up to that time men possessed supersensible knowledge, but did not use it as described. It was not necessary for the Holy Rishis to use it in this way, for knowledge flowed into them directly from the spiritual world. In the time of Zarathustra people had only to ponder over spiritual knowledge, and they knew exactly the form this knowledge would take.
In the Egypto-Chaldean age they clothed conceptions from spiritual worlds in what they had gained in physical existence, and in the fourth period they said: Is it right that what is acquired from the spiritual world should be applied to physical things? Are the things gained in this way really suited to physical conditions?
These questions were only put by man to himself in the fourth period after he had used this knowledge innocently, and applied it to his physical requirements for a long time. He then became more self-conscious and asked: “What right have I to apply spiritual knowledge to physical uses?”
Now it always happens that in an age when any important task has to be carried out, some person appears who can fulfill this task. It was such a person to whom it first occurred to ask the question: “Have I the right to apply my supersensible ideas to physical facts?” You can see how what I am trying to indicate developed. You can see, for example, how vital Plato's link still was with the ancient world, how he still used ideas in the ancient form, applying them to physical conditions. It was his pupil, Aristotle, who asked the question “Ought one to do this?” For this reason he is regarded as the founder of logic.
Those who do not concern themselves in any way with spiritual science might ask: Why did logic arise first in the fourth epoch? Was there not some reason, seeing that evolution had gone on indefinitely, for man to ask himself this question at a specified time?
When conditions are really studied, important turning points in evolution are seen to occur at certain times. One such important turning point in evolution occurred between the time of Plato and Aristotle. In this age there was still, in a certain sense, something of the old connection with the spiritual world, as this existed in Atlantean times. Living knowledge certainly died in the Indian epoch; but it was replaced by something new that came from above. Man now became critical and asked: How can I apply what is supersensible to physical things? This means: he was then first aware that he could himself accomplish something; observing the world around him he realiaed that he could bring something down into this world. This was a most important age.
We divine [spüren] that conceptions and ideas are supersensible things when from their nature we begin to perceive in them a guarantee for the supersensible world. But very few people do perceive this. For most people the fabric of conceptions and ideas is worn very thin and threadbare. Although they may divine that something lives in these which can give them proof of human immortality, conviction is not reached, because the conceptions and ideas concerning the solid reality for which man craves are of such a thin-spun consistency. For most people the fabric they have spun from conceptions and ideas is very thin and worn; though something lives in it which can give them consciousness of immortality, they are incapable of full conviction. But at a time when humanity had sunk to the final — hardly any longer believed in — shreds of that fabric of ideas which it had spun from higher worlds, a mighty new impulse came from the spiritual world and entered into it — this was the Christ-Impulse. The greatest spiritual Reality entered humanity in our post-Atlantean age at a time when man was least spiritually gifted, when all that remained to him was the spiritual gift of ideas.
For anyone who studies human development in a wide sense, it is a most interesting consideration — apart from the fact that it affects the soul so overwhelmingly — it is most interesting (even scientifically) to compare the infinite spirituality of that essence which entered human evolution with the Christ Principle with that which, like a last thin-spun thread from spiritual realms, caused man to ask shortly before: in what way this thread connected him with spirituality. In other words: when we place Aristotelean logic, this weaving of abstract conceptions to which mankind had at last attained, alongside that great Spiritual Outpouring. We can think of no greater disparity than between the spirituality that came down to the physical plane in the Being of Christ and that which man had preserved for himself. You can therefore understand that in the early Christian centuries it was quite impossible for men to grasp the spiritual nature of Christ with the thin thread of ideas spun from Aristotelean philosophy. Gradually the endeavor arose to grasp the facts of human and world events in a way conformable to Aristotelean logic. This was the task that faced the philosophy of the Middle Ages.
It is important for us now to compare the fourth post-Atlantean epoch with the fourth period in the life of a man — that period in which the ego develops — to see how the “I am” of all humanity entered human evolution at a time when humanity as a whole was really furthest withdrawn from the spiritual world. This is why man was at first quite incapable of comprehending Christ except through faith; why Christianity had at first to be a matter of faith; only later, and by degrees, was it to become a matter of knowledge. It will become a matter of knowledge; but we have only now begun to enter with understanding into the study of the Gospels. For hundreds and hundreds of years Christianity was only a matter of faith, and had to be so, because man had descended furthest from the spiritual world.
As this was man's position in the fourth post-Atlantean period, it was necessary after so deep a descent that he should begin to rise once more. The fourth period brought him furthest on the downward path, but also gave him the first great impulse upward. Naturally this spiritual impulse could not be understood at first; only in the periods that follow will it be possible for him to understand it. But now we can at least recognize the task before us: We have to refill our ideas with spirit from within.
The evolution of the world is not simple. When, for instance, a ball starts rolling in one direction, its momentum tends to make it continue rolling in the same direction. If this is to be changed another impulse must come to give the thrust necessary to a change of direction.
Pre-Christian culture had the tendency to continue the downward plunge into the physical world, and has continued to do so to our day. The upward tendency is only beginning, hence the need of a constant incentive to this upward direction. We can see this downward tendency more especially in men's thoughts. The greater part of what is called philosophy today is nothing more than the continued downward roll of the ball. Aristotle divined something of this; he grasped the fact that there was a spiritual reality in the fabric of human thoughts. But a couple of centuries after his day, men were no longer capable of realizing that the content of the human head was connected with reality. The driest, most desiccated ideas of the old philosophy are those of Kant and everything associated with Kantism. Kant's philosophy puts the main question in such a way that he cuts every link between what man evolves as ideas, between perceptions as an inner life, and that which ideas really are. All this is old and dead, and is therefore not fitted to give any vital uplift for the future. You will now no longer wonder that the conclusion of my lectures on psychology had a theosophical background. I explained that in all we strive for, more especially as regards knowledge of the soul, our task must be to allow ourselves to be so stimulated by this knowledge, given to us formerly by the Gods and brought down by us to Earth, that we can offer it up again on the altars of the Gods.: We have only to make the ideas that come to us from the spiritual world once more our own.
It is not from any want of modesty that I say: Teaching regarding the soul must of necessity be a scientific teaching, that it must rise again from the frozen state into which it has fallen. There have been many psychologists in the past and there are many still today, but the ideas they use are void of spiritual life. It is a significant sign that a man like Franz Brentano allowed the first volume of his book on psychology to appear in 1874. Though much it contains is distorted, it is on the whole correct. The second volume was ready, and was to have been published that year, but he was unable to complete it, he stuck in it. He still could give an outline of his teaching, but the spiritual impulse necessary if the work was to be brought to a conclusion was wanting.
Such psychologists as we have today — Von Wundt and Lipps, for example — are not really psychologists, for they work only with preconceived ideas; from the first they were incapable of producing anything. Brentano's psychology was fitted to do this, but it remained incomplete. This is the fate of all knowledge that is dying. Death does not enter the domain of natural science so quickly. Here people can work with ideas, for the facts they have accumulated speak for themselves. In the Science of Spirit this does not happen so easily. The whole substratum is immediately lost if people employ ordinary ideas. The muscles of the heart do not immediately cease to beat even if analyzed like a mineral product without any recognition of their true nature; but the soul cannot be analyzed in this way.
Thus science dies from above downwards, and men will gradually reach a point where they will certainly be able to appreciate natural laws, but in a way entirely independent of science. The construction of machines, instruments, telephones and the like, is something very different from understanding science in the right way or carrying it a step further. Anyone can make use of an electric apparatus without necessarily understanding it. True science is gradually dying. We have now reached a point where external science must receive new life from spiritual science. Our fifth period of culture is that in which the ball of science rolls slowly downhill.
When it can roll no further its activity will cease, as in the case of Brentano. At the same time the upward progress of humanity must receive ever more life. And it will receive it. This can only happen when efforts are made by which knowledge, even if this has been gained outwardly, becomes fruitful through what occult investigation has to give. Our age, the fifth period, will increasingly assume a character which will show that the ancient Egypto-Chaldean epoch is repeated in it; as yet we have not gone very far with this repetition, it is only beginning. That this is the case can be gathered from what occurred at our annual general meeting. On that occasion Herr Seiler spoke about “Astrology,” showing that as spiritual scientists you were in a position to connect certain conceptions with astrological ideas, whereas this was not possible with the ideas of modern astronomy. Modern astronomy would consider these ideas to be nonsense. This is not because of what astronomical science is in itself — for this science has a better opportunity than any other of being led back to what is spiritual — but because men's thoughts are far removed from any return to spirituality. There is a means, through what astronomy has to offer, by which such a return might easily be made to the fundamental truths of astrology, so undervalued today. But some time must elapse before a bridge can be formed between these two. During this time all kinds of theories will be devised, theories by which the movements of the planets, for instance, will be explained in a purely materialistic way. Things will be still more difficult in the domain of chemistry, and in everything connected with life. Here it will he still more difficult to build the bridge. It will he done most easily in the domain of soul-knowledge. To do so it is necessary that people should understand what was stated at the conclusion of my lecture on psychology. There I showed that the stream of soul-life does not only flow from the past toward the future, but also from the future into the past; that we have two time-streams — the etheric part of the life of the soul goes toward the future, the astral part of us on the other hand flows back toward the past. (There is probably no one on the Earth today who is conscious of this unless he has an impulse toward what is spiritual.) We are first able to form a conception of the life of the soul when we realize that something comes continually to meet us out of the future. Otherwise this is quite impossible. We must be able to form such a conception, and for this, when speaking of cause and effect, we must break with those ordinary methods of thought which deal mainly with the past. We must not only reckon with the past in such connections, but must speak of the future as something real; something that comes toward us in just as real a way as the past slips from us. But it will be a long time yet before such ideas become prevalent, and till they do there will be no psychology.
The nineteenth century produced a smart idea: “Psychology without souls.” People were very proud of this idea, and with it they declared: “We simply study the revelations of the human soul, but do not concern ourselves with the soul that is the cause of these!”
A Soul-teaching without Souls! This can he carried further; but what results (to use a common comparison) is nothing else than a mealtime without food. Such is psychology! Now people are of course not satisfied when dinnertime comes and the plates are empty; but the science of the nineteenth century was strangely satisfied with the psychology put before it, which was in no way concerned with the soul. This began comparatively early — but into every part of it spiritual life must flow.
Therefore we have to record the beginning among us of an entirely new life. The old in a certain sense is finished and a new life must begin. We must feel this. We must feel that a primeval wisdom came to us from ancient Atlantean times, that this gradually declined, and we are now faced with the task of beginning in our present incarnation to gather more and more new wisdom, which will be the wisdom of the men of a later day. The coming of the Christ-Impulse made this possible. It will continually develop a living activity, and from it men will perhaps be able best to evolve toward the real, historic Christ, when all tradition concerning Him and all that is outwardly connected with these traditions has died away.
From what has been said you can see how the post-Atlantean evolution can actually he compared with the life of a single man; how it is indeed a kind of macrocosm facing man, the microcosm. But the individual man is in a very strange position. What is left to him for the second half of his life of all he acquired in the first half, which when used up is followed by death?
The spirit alone can conquer death and carry on to a new incarnation that which gradually begins to decay when we have passed the first half of our life. Our evolution advances until our thirty-fifth year, then it begins to decline. But the spirit then first begins truly to rise! What it is unable to develop further in the second half of life within the body, it brings to completion in a succeeding incarnation. Thus we see the body gradually decline, but the spirit blossom more and more.
The macrocosm reveals a picture similar to that of man: Up to the fourth post-Atlantean epoch we have a youthful upward striving cultural development; from then onwards a real decline; death everywhere as regards the development of human consciousness; but at the same time the dawn of a new spiritual life. The spiritual life of man will be born again in the age following our present one. But he will have to work with full consciousness on what is to be reincarnated. When this happens the other must die, truly die. We gaze prophetically into the future; many sciences have arisen and will arise for the benefit of post-Atlantean civilization — they, however, belong to what is dying. The life that streamed directly into human life along with the Impulse of Christ will in future rise in man in the same way as Atlantean knowledge rose within the holy Rishis.
What ordinary science knows of Copernicus today is but the external part of his knowledge, the part belonging to decline. That which will live on, that will be fruitful, not only the part through which he has already worked for four centuries, this part man must win for himself. The teaching of Copernicus as given today is not so very true; its truth will first be revealed by spiritual science.
So it is as regards much that is held to be most true in astronomy, and so it will be with everything else which men value as knowledge today. Certainly, what science discovers today is profitable. Therein lies its usefulness. In so far as the science of today is technical it is justified; but in so far as it has something to contribute to human knowledge, it is a dead product. It is useful for trade, but for that no spiritual content is required. In so far as it seeks to discover anything concerning the mysteries of the universe, it belongs to declining civilization. In order to enrich our knowledge of the secrets of the universe, external science must superimpose on all it has to offer the wisdom derived from spiritual science.
What I have said today can form an introduction to our studies on the Gospel of Mark, which are about to begin. But first I had to speak of the necessity for the entrance into humanity of the greatest Spiritual Impulse of all time at a moment when only the last faint shreds of spirituality remained to it.