Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Second Coming of Christ. Materialism and Spirituality: Death and Life

Cosmic and Human Metamorphoses. Lecture 1.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, February 6, 1917:

Let us turn our thoughts, my dear friends, as we do continually, to the guardian spirits of those who are absent from us, taking their place where the great destinies of the time are being fulfilled:

Spirits ever watchful, Guardian of their souls!
May your vibrations waft
To the Earth-men committed to your charge
Our souls' petitioning love:
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may helpfully radiate
To the souls it lovingly seeks!

And to the Spirits of those who have passed through the gate of death:

Spirits ever watchful, Guardians of their souls!
May your vibrations waft
To the men of the Spheres committed to your charge
Our souls' petitioning love:
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may helpfully radiate
To the souls it lovingly seeks!

And that Spirit Who for the healing of the Earth and for her progress, and for the freedom and salvation of mankind, passed through the Mystery of Golgotha; that Spirit Whom in our Spiritual Science we seek, to Whom we would draw near: May He be at your side in all your difficult tasks!

[These meditations were repeated at the beginning of each lecture in the series.]

* * * *

Let me first give expression to the deep satisfaction I have in being able to be once more in your midst. I would have come earlier, but for an urgent need, that kept me in Dornach until the work at the Group had reached a point whence it could be continued without me. You have often heard me speak of this Group, that is to stand in the east end of the Dornach building and that sets forth the Representative of Mankind in relation on the one hand to the Ahrimanic, and on the other to the Luciferic forces. In these days one needs to have forethought for the future, and it seemed to me absolutely necessary, in consideration of what may happen, to make that progress with the Group before leaving Dornach that has now been possible. Furthermore the times are bound to bring home to us with especial intensity the fact that meeting with one another here on the physical plane is not the only thing that keeps us upheld and strengthened in the impulse of Spiritual Science, but that we must be upborne through this difficult time of sorrow and trial through being together in our anthroposophical strivings, even if together in spirit only; and indeed this very thing is to be the test for our anthroposophical strivings.
     Since we were here together last, we have had to lament the loss from the physical plane of our dear Fräulein Motzkus, and of other dear friends who have left the physical plane in consequence of the terrible events through which we are passing. It is particularly painful no longer to see Fräulein Motzkus among the friends who have shared here for so many years in our anthroposophical strivings. She had been a member of our movement since its beginning. From the first day, from the first meeting of a very small circle, she showed throughout the deepest and most heartfelt devotion to our movement, and took an intimate and earnest part in all the phases it went through, in all its times of trial and testing. Above all, she preserved, through the events and changes through which we had to pass, an invincible loyalty to the movement, in the deepest sense of the word, a loyalty in which she set an example to all those who would wish to be worthy members of the anthroposophical movement. And so we follow with our gaze this beloved and pure soul into the spiritual worlds whither she has ascended, feeling towards her still the bond of trust and confidence that has grown stronger and deeper with the years, knowing that our own souls are linked with hers forever.. Recently Fräulein Motzkus herself suffered the loss of a dear friend, whom she has now so quickly found again in the spiritual world. She bore the sad blow in a manner that such a blow can be received and borne by one who is conscious of an actual hold on the spiritual world. It was marvelous with what keen and intense interest Fräulein Motzkus shared in the great events of our time, right up to the last days of her life. She told me repeatedly that she would like to remain here on the physical plane until the momentous events in the midst of which we are living should have come to a decisive conclusion. With still freer vision, with still firmer impulse for the evolution of mankind, will she now be able to follow these happenings to which she has been so closely and intimately linked. May it be laid on all our hearts to unite ourselves in thought and in activity of soul, whensoever we are able, with this faithful spirit, this faithful and well-loved member of our movement. Then shall we, who have been united with her here on the physical plane in such a remarkable way, be able still to know that we are one with her in the years to come, when she will be among us in another form.
* * * *
The times in which we live are such that it becomes more and more a matter of pressing interest to know what the struggle to obtain spiritual knowledge will signify to the human race of the present day and of the immediate future. The events in the midst of which we are now standing are such as to call forth in many people today, though little noticed, a sort of benumbment. Those souls who survive the catastrophe on the physical plane will awake only later to be able to recognize fully what is taking place and to realize how deeply this catastrophe has cut into human evolution. All the more should we feel obliged to call up in our souls thoughts of an illuminating nature, thoughts able to throw light on the objects and aims of the spiritual movement so necessary to humanity. And as we have now come together after a long time, it will perhaps be useful to specify the views of this spiritual science of ours in a few short thoughts — or rather the views which naturally come as the result of this spiritual science which we have now had before our souls for some years. It is noticeable that in all parts of the world there are some members of humanity who are developing a longing to draw nearer to the spiritual world, notwithstanding the fact that materialism, alas, is not decreasing and because of the various forms which this longing for the spiritual is taking. For these reasons we must specify and bring before the soul our own search for the life of the spirit. In England at the present time, the research into the spiritual world made by one of the most prominent and learned men is making a very great impression in large circles, even of cultured people. It is a very extraordinary phenomenon that a man reckoned among the first scientists of that country should have written a comprehensive book about the relationship of man on Earth with the spiritual world, and that this should have taken such a remarkable form. Sir Oliver Lodge — who for some years has certainly striven in various ways so to extend the scientific knowledge he has acquired that it may be applied to the spiritual world — describes in this book a series of episodes in which he asserts that he has come in touch with the spiritual world. The case is as follows.
     Sir Oliver Lodge had a son, Raymond, who in 1915 took part on the English side in the war in Flanders. At a time when his parents knew him to be at the front, they received some remarkable news from America, which, to people possessing what I might call materialistic-spiritualistic tendencies, must certainly have appeared very striking. This message was supposed to come from the English psychologist Frederick Myers, who before his death many years ago, had studied the relationship between the physical world and the spiritual worlds, and who himself now in the spiritual world, pronounced that world to be prepared to receive young Lodge in the near future. At first it was not very clear to what the message referred. There was some delay in its reaching Sir Oliver Lodge; it reached him after his son had fallen. I think it was a fortnight later but I am not quite sure as to this. Then came other messages given through mediums in America, advising the parents to go to an English medium; consequently, Sir Oliver went to one, but preserved a critical attitude towards her. I shall have more to say presently on the significance of this — Sir Oliver is a scientist, and is trained to the scientific testing of such cases. He went to work just as he would in his laboratory and what follows was given not through one but several mediums. The soul of Raymond wished to communicate with the Lodge family. All sorts of communications followed through automatic writing and table-turning, communications so surprising that not only Sir Oliver himself but the rest of the family, who had till then been extremely sceptical in such matters, were now quite convinced. Among other statements, the soul of Raymond stated that Myers was with him, acting as a guardian; he told them several things about his last days on Earth, and much that was of significance to the parents and family, and made a great impression upon them, especially as various things communicated by Raymond through mediums were intended for the family and particularly for Sir Oliver. The way the sittings were held afforded great surprise to the family, and strangely enough, they also caused great surprise to a wide public. They would not have surprised anyone who had experience of such things, for in reality the nature of the communications concerning the dead which comes through mediums, and the manner of the communication, is very familiar to the investigator. One thing, however, made a profound impression in England, and was well calculated to impress and convince the civilized world of England and America, and to bring conviction hitherto lacking to many of our sceptical age; this factor which converted many, and will convert many more, made a very strong impression on the Lodge family and particularly on Sir Oliver, and also impressed a large public. It was the following incident. A description was given through a medium of some photographs taken while Raymond was still alive. Raymond himself described them to the medium, by means of rappings. In this way a photographic group was described; that is to say the soul of Raymond was by means of the medium evidently trying to describe this photograph taken of him in a group shortly before he passed through the gates of death. From the other side he told them that he had sat in two groups with his companions, and that these were taken one after the other, and that his position in the groups was such and such. Further he described the differences in the two different photographs, saying that he sat on the same chair and in the same attitude in both, but that the position of the arm was a little different, and so on. All this is minutely described. Now the family knew nothing of these photographs, they did not know that any such had been taken. Thus indirectly through the medium the fact was made known that there was in existence a photographic group representing Raymond Lodge with several companions. Some few weeks later a photograph was sent over to Sir Oliver from France, corresponding exactly to the one described by the soul of Raymond through the medium. This would naturally make a strong impression on anyone who approaches such things in a dilettante way — as all those concerned clearly did. It was an experimental test. The case in point is that of a soul from the other side describing a photograph of which several copies were taken, and which reached the family some time later, and was then found to correspond in every detail to the description given. It was quite impossible that either the medium or anyone present at the sittings could have seen this photograph. Here we have a case which must be reckoned with both scientifically and historically, for not only might one say that such a case would naturally make a great impression, but it really did occur and did make an enormous impression. As far as could be seen, this photographic proof, which has nothing to do with thought-transference, was very convincing.
     It is necessary for us to bring the whole of this case before our mental vision. We must be quite clear as to the fact that when a man passes through the gate of death, the human individuality is at first, for a short time, enshrouded in the astral body and etheric body; and that the latter after a more or less brief period — varying in different cases, but never lasting more than a few days — passes out into the etheric world and there pursues its further destiny; so that the individuality enters the spiritual world with the astral body only, and continues its further wanderings in that world. The etheric body is severed from the human individuality just as the physical body was on Earth. Now we must clearly understand that in spiritualistic seances — and the whole work of Sir Oliver Lodge is based on these — only one who has real knowledge is able to distinguish whether the communications come from the actual individuality, or only from the cast-off, forsaken etheric corpse. This etheric corpse still remains in continual communication with the individuality. Only, when one gets into connection with the spiritual world in a round-about way through a medium, one comes in touch with the etheric corpse first, and so can never be sure of reaching in this way the actual individual. It is certain that there is in our age a striving to find for spiritual existence some sort of proof such as is found by experiments in the laboratory, something which can be grasped with the hands and that one can see before one in the world of matter. Our materialistic age does not care to follow the inner path the soul must take in the spiritual worlds, the purely spiritual path. It wants the spirit to descend into the material world and be discovered there. We are experiencing all kinds of materialistic spiritualism, a materialistic turning to the worlds of the spirit. Now, it is quite possible for the etheric body, which has been separated from the actual human individuality, to manifest a certain life of its own which, to the uninitiated, may easily be mistaken for the life of the individual himself. We must not think that the etheric body when given over to the etheric world only manifests reminiscences and recollections, mere echoes of what the man passes through here; it manifests a real continuous individuality. It can relate incidents and say quite new things, But we should be going quite off the track if we thought that because a connection is established with the etheric body we are necessarily in connection with the individual himself. It is very possible in the case of people sitting in a small circle — all being members of the family, as was the case with the Lodges, all thinking in one way or another about the dead man, and all filled with thoughts and memories of him — that their thoughts may be conveyed to his etheric body through the medium, and that this etheric body may occasionally give striking replies, which may really produce the impression of being spoken by the individuality of the dead. Yet perhaps they may only proceed from his etheric corpse. Those who are acquainted with such things actually find this to be the case, and when Raymond Lodge was supposed to come to his family through the medium, in reality it was the etheric corpse speaking; Raymond Lodge had not really held communion with the circle at all. Hence, as I have said, to those accustomed to the course of events in such seances, the communications do not appear very remarkable. It is probable that the whole story would not have made so much impression on a wide public, nor would it continue to do so, if it were not for the incident of the photographs. For this story of the photographs is very remarkable, indeed exceptionally so. For here it was impossible that any transference of thoughts should take place — passing through the medium to the etheric body of Raymond, as might have been the case in the other instances. Nobody in England could have known of the photographs; they had not yet come over at the time when the communications were made. But still it is very strange that such a learned scientist as Sir Oliver Lodge, who had for so long been interesting himself in these matters, should not know how such a circumstance is to be regarded. I have taken particular trouble to look more minutely into this case. Sir Oliver Lodge is a learned man, and a scientist upon whose descriptions one can rely; we are not dealing with any ordinary document produced by ordinary spiritualistic seances but with the communications of a man describing with the certainty of a scientist, who has developed the conscientiousness customary to a scientist in the laboratory and, therefore, it is possible to form a complete picture of what happened, from the descriptions he gives. It is remarkable that such a learned man as Sir Oliver Lodge, who was for so many years interested in the subject, although in this case he was specially interested because it was a question of his own son, yet should not have known what has often been referred to in our spiritual science, when giving descriptions of the atavistic forms of clairvoyance, which appear as presentiments. For this is none other than a very special case of Deuteroscopia. The case is as follows.
     We have a medium. To this medium the spiritual world is in a certain respect accessible; of course, as we know — through atavistic forces — such mediums can in their vision reach beyond space, but not only does their so-called second sight extend beyond space, it also extends beyond time. Let us take a special case; one quoted hundreds of times. You may read descriptions of it, if you have not experienced it yourself through your acquaintances.
     The case I mean is when someone who has that tendency sees as in a dream, half in vision, his own coffin or funeral. He dies a fortnight afterwards. He saw in advance what was to occur fourteen days later. Or perhaps one may see not his own funeral or coffin, but that of a complete stranger, an event to which the dreamer is quite indifferent. To instance a particular case, one may see oneself leaving the house and falling from horseback. This thing did occur — someone saw that happen, and tried to avert it — but, notwithstanding all precautions, it still came to pass. That is a case of a vision extending in time, and what Sir Oliver Lodge describes is precisely this second-sight in time. His descriptions are given so accurately that it was possible to investigate the case. The medium through her forces was able to see an event still in the future. At the time she spoke, the photograph was not there; but it arrived a fortnight later, or thereabouts. It was then shown 'round to friends and relatives. This happened some time after, but the medium saw it in advance; it was a prophetic vision, a case of Deuteroscopia. It was a pre-vision; that is the explanation. It had nothing to do with a communication between those on the physical plane and one in the spiritual world.
     You see how greatly one may be misled by striving to give a materialistic explanation of spiritual circumstances in the world, and how blind one may be to the actual facts; such a vision is, of course, nonetheless a proof of the reality of a world behind the ordinary world of sense. The case is an interesting one; only it should not be quoted as proving a connection between the dead and the living. We must seek for the dead — if indeed we should or ought to seek for them at all — by following a really spiritual path. In the near future I shall have many things to say on this subject; for it is my intention to give much consideration to the subject of the relation between the living and the dead.
     I have brought up the subject of this book of Sir Oliver Lodge to show you how, although the longing after the spiritual world does exist, it may here be said to have taken a materialistic form. Sir Oliver Lodge is a learned scientist; although he strives after the spiritual world, he tries to gain knowledge of it by methods of the chemical world or of physics. Just as he experiments in his laboratory according to the laws of chemistry, so he wants ocular proof of what relates to the spiritual world. But the way we must recognize as the right one is very far from his; our way leads the soul by an inner method to the spiritual world, as we have often described, and no less often have we described what the soul first becomes acquainted with there and which immediately concerns us at the present time and underlies the world of physical sense in which we live. We learn to recognzse the whole materialistic character of our age in the materialistic strivings that are directed to the spiritual world. If our movement is to have any meaning at all, a meaning which it should eventually have in accordance with the necessary evolutionary laws of mankind, it must sharply define and emphasize the spiritual inwardness of true spirituality, as compared with these materialistic and absurd strivings after a world of spirit.
     Why is it necessary in the present age that an entirely new method should hold the hearts of men, a purely spiritual method, one very different from the materialistic methods? This question must be considered in connection with the fact to which we have often alluded in the course of past years, and which must closely concern us at this time of sorrow and trial. We have indicated that this twentieth century must bring to humanity the vision of the etheric Christ. Just as it truly happened — as we have often said — that at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha Christ walked among men in a physical form, in one known part of the Earth, so will the etheric Christ walk among men in the twentieth century, the whole Earth over. This event must not pass unobserved by humanity, for that would be sinning against the salvation of the world. Humanity must have its attention roused, so that a sufficient number of persons may be ready really to see the Christ Who will come and Who must be seen.
     Now, such an event as this cannot come quite suddenly, even as the event of Golgotha did not come suddenly but was prepared for during thirty-three years. The point of time when the event is to occur — this time spiritually — is very near and will have a like significance for man as the event of Golgotha on the physical plane. Hence, if you consider the facts alluded to above, you will not find it difficult to believe me when I say that He is already present in the form in which He will be seen in the great moment of evolution in the twentieth century, that the great moment is being now prepared. You will not consider it incredible, when I say that moment is now being prepared. Yes, we may say that although humanity seems as regards its present actions far from being permeated with the Christ-Spirit on the physical plane, yet if men's souls will but open themselves to Him, the Christ, Who is now approaching, is very near. The occultist is able to point out that since the year 1909 or thereabouts what is to come is being distinctly and perceptibly prepared for, that since the year 1909 we are inwardly living in a very special time. It is possible today, if we do but seek Him, to be very near to Christ, to find Him in a quite different way than has been hitherto possible.
     There is one thought that occurs to me, and simple as it may seem I must give words to it, from a profound feeling for the times. People do not, alas, as a rule, think with sufficient clearness on the events of the past, especially with respect to what took place in the souls of men in bygone centuries; they no longer have any conception of the strength of the impression made by the Gospels in their existing form upon a circle which was then but small. People now have no conception of how powerfully these ideas filled the souls of men at that time. As the centuries rolled by the impression made by the inner content of the Gospels grew weaker and weaker. At the present day if we see things as they are, it may be said that although individual persons, if they possess certain powers of intuition and forces of divination, may be so permeated by the words of the Gospels as to form some idea of what took place at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, yet the immense force once possessed by the Gospel-words themselves is growing weaker and weaker, and we cannot but see that the Gospels make but little impression now on the majority of people.
     This is not willingly admitted; but it is the truth, and therefore it would be well if people would realize it. How did this state of things come about?
     Well, just as it is true that what pulsated in the Gospels is no earthly language but cosmic words, heavenly words, possessing an immeasurably greater force than anything else on Earth — so it is also true that mankind in the present age has become estranged from the form in which these words were laid down in the Gospels at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha. Just reflect how enormously difficult it is to understand the language of even four or five hundred years ago, if you come across it anywhere. It is not possible to draw out of it what it really contains. The Gospels, in the form accessible to us today, are really not the original Gospels, they do not possess their original force. It is possible to penetrate into them, as I have said, by means of a certain intuition; but they no longer have the same force. Christ spoke words which should be deeply engraved in the human soul: ‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the Earth time.’ That is a truth, a reality. He will be with us, during the time indicated, in the twentieth century, in various forms near to the human soul.
     From what I have said, you will understand that one who feels himself standing in the center of these things, one who is an occultist, should say: He is here; He makes His presence felt in such a way that we know clearly that He will now expect more of His human children than in centuries gone by. Till now the Gospels have spoken an inner language to man. They had to lay hold of the soul — men should, therefore, be satisfied with faith alone and had not to progress to knowledge. That time is now over, it lies behind us. Christ has something different in view for His human children. His present purpose is that the kingdom to which He referred when He said ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ should really draw into that part of the human being which is not of this world but which is of another world. In each one of us there is a part which is not of this world. That part of man which is not of this world must seek with intensity that kingdom of which Christ spoke, of which He said that it was not of this world.
     We are living at a time when this must be understood. Many such things in human evolution announce themselves through contrasts. In our own age something great and significant is announced by a great contrast. For with the coming Christ, with the presence of Christ, will come the time when men will learn to enquire of Him not only concerning their souls, but concerning their immortal part on Earth. Christ is not merely a Ruler of men, but their Brother, Who, particularly in the near future, wishes to be consulted on all the details of life. In anything we undertake today we act in the opposite way. Events seem to be accomplished today in which men appear to be as far removed as possible from any appeal to Christ. We must ask ourselves this question: Who is there today who stops to enquire: ‘What would Christ Jesus say to what is now taking place?’ Who puts such a question to himself? Many say they do, but it would be sacrilegious to believe that they put the question in the form in which it is put here, addressing it directly to Christ Himself. Yet the time must come, and cannot be far distant, when men's souls will, in their immortal part, ask of Christ, when they think of undertaking something: ‘Ought we to do this, or not?’ Then human souls will see Christ standing by them as the beloved Companion and they will not only obtain consolation and strength from the Christ-Being, but will also receive instruction from Him as to what is to be done. The kingdom of Christ Jesus is not of this world, but it must work in this world, and human souls must be instruments of the kingdom that is not of this world. From this point of view we must consider the fact of how few today have asked themselves the question which, as regards individual acts, as well as events, must be put to the Christ. Humanity must, however, learn to ask of Him. How is that to come about? It can become possible only if we learn His language. Anyone who comprehends the deeper purpose of our spiritual science realizes that it not only gives out a theoretical knowledge about different problems of humanity, the principles of human nature, reincarnation and karma, but that it contains a quite special language, that it has a particular way of expressing itself about spiritual things. The fact that through spiritual science we learn to hold inner converse with the spiritual world in thought is much more important than the mere acquiring of theoretical thoughts. For Christ is with us always, even to the end of the Earth-epochs. And we must learn His language. By means of the language — no matter how abstract it may seem — in which we hear of Saturn, Sun, Moon, and Earth and of the different periods and ages of the Earth, and of many other secrets of evolution — we teach ourselves a language in which we can frame out the questions we put to the spiritual world. When we really learn inwardly to speak the language of this spiritual life, the result will be that Christ will stand by us and give us the answers Himself. This is the attitude that our work in spiritual science should bring about in us, as a sentiment, a feeling. Why do we occupy ourselves with spiritual science? It is as though we were learning the vocabulary of the language through which we approach the Christ. If we take the trouble to learn to think the thoughts of spiritual science, and make the mental effort necessary for an understanding of the cosmic secrets taught by spiritual science, then, out of the dim, dark foundations of the cosmic mysteries will come forth the figure of Christ Jesus, which will draw near to us and give us the strength and force in which we shall then live. The Christ will guide us, standing beside us as a brother, so that our hearts and souls may be strong enough to grow up to the necessary level of the tasks awaiting humanity in its further development.
     Let us try, then, to acquire spiritual science not as a mere doctrine but as a language, and then wait till we can find in that language the questions which we may venture to put to the Christ. He will answer — yes, indeed, He will answer! Plentiful indeed will be the soul-forces, the soul-strengthening, the soul-impulses which the student will carry away with him from the grey spiritual depths through which humanity in its evolution is now passing, if he is able to receive instructions from Christ Himself — for, in the near future, He will give them to those who seek.

No comments:

Post a Comment