"Significant Facts Pertaining to the Spiritual Life of the Middle of the Nineteenth Century": lecture 2 of 3
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, November 1, 1915:
I spoke yesterday of the great Polish drama “The Undivine Comedy” by Krasinski and of its very special significance. One can truly say that it was consciously brought into the world as the outcome of a dialogue with the Spirits working in the evolution of humanity, who in the middle of the nineteenth century spoke to those who were willing to listen to them.
Let us for a moment hold in our minds the thoughts that came to us from the realization that what was astir in the inmost depths of the evolutionary process made its way into the external literary culture of the time. From Gutzkow's novel “The Mahaguru” as well as from “The Undivine Comedy” — I chose only two particularly striking examples from many that might be quoted — we see that as it were behind the scenes of external happenings significant impulses are at work in the cultural life of mankind. From many sources we have gained knowledge that directs our minds and hearts to the great moment of world-evolution in which we are living, the moment when it is essential to be mindful of the new element that must be received into the evolution of humanity — but with the cooperation of human souls who are able to understand it. There are different ways of characterizing the importance of the present time, but perhaps one thing only need be said and this will be sufficient to bring home the significance of the point of time at which we are standing.
In ages of antiquity men received a heritage consisting of wisdom yielded by atavistic clairvoyance and of knowledge gained atavistically. But this heritage petered away and the tide of materialism arose — particularly since the last three or four centuries, and reaching a peak in the 19th century. This tide of materialism veiled all possibilities of vision into the spiritual world — and a new path, a new method, is now appearing in spiritual science. As I have often said, this development ultimately becomes a natural process in the souls of men. The situation today still is that the vast majority of souls have yet to learn that there are many earthly lives. But when the souls now living are reincarnated, for the most part they will know, not merely as a theory, that there are many earthly lives; they will live on into an age when it will be known quite as a natural matter of course: there are many earthly lives. Just as human souls now remember back to a certain point in childhood, and thoughts from childhood constantly arise, so it will be natural one day for the living impression to well up from within: “We have been here many times.” Human souls will evolve to this stage just as they have evolved from primitive stages of life. This development will come about of itself but the following is inevitable. —
The souls who have learnt nothing from spiritual science today will die and return in new incarnations. Then, having learnt nothing from spiritual science, they will not know what to make of the impression that will rise up from within them of the truth of repeated earthly lives, and they may well be driven to despair. For this inner impression that will arise quite naturally in the soul must be grasped through thoughts, and the thoughts that are necessary before it can be understood are those yielded by spiritual science. These thoughts should make the whole history of the ego and the fact of its existence in man intelligible to us; and he alone who has within him the force of these thoughts will be able to understand the impression that will come of itself, as a kind of remembrance.
But the foundation for understanding this remembrance will from now onwards have to be laid through spiritual science; knowledge of the continued existence of the ego will have to be acquired. And those who have not acquired it will have to admit, when these remembrances well up in them: “I do not understand my own self.” This will be a terrible cry of despair in future times. It must be realized that only through knowledge and understanding of what will inevitably come in the future can human souls be kept from falling into despair. When the ego which passes from incarnation to incarnation asserts itself in the future — and this means in our future incarnations — men must be able to understand this ego. And they will do so if they have worked on their souls through the thoughts of spiritual science.
The Mystery of Golgotha was fulfilled in order that the ego might be fully understood, and this can never happen if — as in the case of the Polish count described yesterday — men preserve in their souls nothing but feelings of the past — sacred though these feelings may be and connected with the events centered in the Mystery of Golgotha. Such feelings will enable these events to be grasped as matters of history, but that cannot lead to any true understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. True understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha depends upon the fulfilment of the words “Not I but Christ in me.” It will then be possible for Christ in His living activity within Earth-evolution not to remain inaudible to men. He must be made audible through that which, under his inspiration, spiritual science has to say; no sentiments or feelings tied to remembrances can lead mankind to future well-being. But neither can the interests of the future be furthered by one who lives only in and for the present — the tyrant described in the lecture yesterday. The tyrant does indeed, assert the ego, but not Christ within the ego. A deep riddle is presented to us in this Polish drama: two personalities stand in contrast to one another, one of whom has the Christ of tradition, of history, but runs the risk of falling away from Him. And what comes to expression in the wife and in the child of the count relapses into a purely atavistic connection with the spiritual world.
A great danger for our time is indicated here. It is that those who are not willing to assimilate in a new way the knowledge of mankind's connection with the spiritual worlds, although they feel that such connection exists, will cause part of their being to lose the requisite link with the spiritual world. Mankind would fall asunder into those who — like the old count — must necessarily despair and die because they cling exclusively to the past, and those who rise into the spiritual worlds in an atavistic way — like the count's wife and child. Because they have not received the Christ into their inmost being in full reality, they pass into the spiritual world without finding in themselves a point of anchorage.
What is it that the members of the count's family have not fully developed? They have not fully developed the ego: they are remains from the age which in the regular course of the evolution of humanity has been at an end since the Mystery of Golgotha, but markedly so since the last few centuries. They are remains from an age of antiquity when the ego had not yet completely taken root in man; they are ego-less human beings who, because they cannot take the Christ into the ego which has not developed into the necessary intensity, lose the Christ. And standing in contrast to them is the tyrant, who has developed the ego and bears it in himself with all strength; without taking the Christ into the ego, he desires to bring happiness to the world but is incapable of doing so. At the point of death — out of the vision which the tyrant understands as little as he understands how to resign himself to death — there breaks from his lips the cry: “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!” — This is an indication of the fact that for those human beings who have, it is true, acquired the ego but have not taken Christ into this ego, there is one moment only when it is possible for them to come into relationship with Christ: it is the moment when they pass from this world into the other world. But because Christ came from that other world into this world in order there to find the way to human hearts, men must inevitably lose Him when, after the moment of death, they arrive in that other world. All the deeper impulses at work in our time belong to a sphere where momentous issues are at stake — I can say no more than that they “are at stake.”
But now we must go rather more deeply into things that are already known to us but must be studied in a certain setting if we are to understand them in the light of the conditions prevailing in our time. We know that, properly speaking, the evolution of the Earth must be divided into an epoch preceding the Mystery of Golgotha and an epoch following the Mystery of Golgotha. We know, too, that in the epoch before the Mystery of Golgotha, Luciferic and Ahrimanic spirits also worked into the souls of men. Particularly in considering the ages before the Mystery of Golgotha it must be realized that foolish chatter about avoiding Ahriman and Lucifer at all costs will get us nowhere. For Ahriman and Lucifer were allowed by the normal, progressive spiritual beings to work in the earthly evolution of men.
Now, we know that there are spiritual beings actually ranking higher than men but who during the Old Moon period of evolution did not reach the height that would have been possible for them; they did not reach it, but for all that they rank higher than men. So that bearing in mind the intervention of the Ahrimanic and Luciferic beings, we can now understand better what is called the ancient, primeval wisdom in Earth-evolution. For example, the ancient wisdom that was misused in the Lemurian epoch and perished with the Lemurians; the wisdom that was then misused in the Atlantean epoch and brought about the destruction of Atlantis. What was it that was then among men? What was it, in reality? To say that the great wisdom then existing was misused, applied in practices of black magic and so forth, is a very abstract way of speaking and leads to no very definite idea. Let us think, for example, of the character of this wisdom in the last periods of the Lemurian epoch. Whence had it come? Spiritual beings who had not completed their full development during the Old Moon epoch, but who were nevertheless at a higher level than men, had mingled with the earthly evolution of humanity. Man was already there — but, as you can well imagine, in his most primitive state. What was subsequently developed by human beings during the Atlantean and post-Atlantean epochs did not yet exist. In those Lemurian times, man was a being wholly devoid of intelligence, for intelligence was to develop only gradually during the course of Earth-evolution. Man was primitive in his will, in his actions, in his soul-development — altogether like a child. Now, had there existed only bodies of men with the higher members of those bodies that had been developed for them by the progressive spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies, men would not have been capable at that time of evolving any outstanding wisdom. But in that Lemurian age a very lofty, altogether extraordinary, wisdom existed. For example, among those primitive men there was widespread knowledge of how to handle a child during the period between birth and the seventh year so that, as the result of a certain transformation of his etheric body which then worked back upon the brain, he could be made extremely clever. Radical educational methods have to be applied today if this result is desired — and everyone is aware how very often these efforts are unsuccessful. But in any case the art of affecting the brain itself by exercising a certain influence on the etheric body of the brain, so that the child in question becomes extremely clever, is entirely lost today. Furthermore — and I hasten to emphasize it — this art is in no circumstances whatever legitimate in our time, for if it became at all general, even in its most elementary form, it would lead to terrible abuses.
How is the existence of such an art in Lemurian times to be explained? It is explained by the fact that beings who had not completed their development on the Old Moon, but had evolved only the first six of their seven members, incorporated in men who otherwise would have been utterly primitive. The spiritual beings who on the Old Moon were at a higher level than men but had not attained the apex of their development took on these primitive human bodies and went to work with arts which far transcended all earthly knowledge. You can imagine what such beings in human bodies were capable of accomplishing — beings who at a level higher than the human had developed the sixth member — the Life-Spirit [Buddhi] entered into these primitive, flexible, pliant bodies. And they became terrible magicians, dread magicians!
And again, what kind of arts were general in the Atlantean epoch? First and foremost there was the wisdom which must be applied in order to cause talents in ancestors to be transmitted, purely through heredity, to their descendants and actually to be enhanced in these descendants. The beings whose development had not been completed on the Moon, but who for all that were of a higher rank than earthly man, were deeply versed in this art — with most significant effect. Let me put it like this: it was as if, by methods connected with star-constellations and the like, one were to lead over the qualities of a genius to his descendants, but in such a way that these spiritual qualities were not merely inherited but intensified, enhanced. These higher beings working in human bodies were capable of mighty achievements. All this was swept out of existence. Very many things were connected with these particular arts. For example, it was possible by their means to observe the course of spiritual evolution and to guide the spiritual forces into the stream of heredity.
And so even superficial observation will show that there is a very great deal in world-evolution which in an earlier age had its justification but which in the form it now bears is no more than a relic that has been preserved. Both in unimportant and important domains it is so. In his novel “The Mahaguru” Gutzkow wanted to indicate something of the kind in an important domain. He wanted to give emphasis to the question: In what form does something that had great significance in ancient times — in the Atlantean epoch, when it was still possible for men to regulate the stream of heredity — in what form does it appear when it is carried over into an age and into a community where the traditions of it had indeed been preserved but where nothing more was known of the earlier art than an inferior form of it called in occultism “Occult Chemistry”? Gutzkow showed that something of the kind existed in Tibet. Naturally, the priesthood in Tibet had no knowledge of how through forces of heredity they could produce a body for the individuality whom they believed should pass from one body into another — but they preserved the old customs. So there we have an example of the external reality presenting an aspect utterly different from what it had been in conditions once prevailing in the evolution of humanity. Reading “The Mahaguru” makes one want to cry out: Oh, how reality itself can become a maya in face of the prevailing conditions!
And now think of something else. — You can well imagine that the men of Lemurian and Atlantean times did not resemble the men of today, for what developed inwardly in the soul at that time also gave configuration to the outer form; the whole outer form of man was different — it was pliant and flexible. The human form in the times of Lemuria and Atlantis was not ape-like; the bodies of the actual ancestors of men were not ape-like. — It would seem, therefore, that world-evolution must have made an exception in the case of certain people who have written of themselves that they can remember having descended from apes! [Statements to this effect are made in the book “Man: How, Whence and Whither” by Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater. (Theosophical Publishing Company)] — But we will not go into that now. — Men did not resemble apes, but if you picture our children presenting a much, much more infantile appearance, with an elemental quality of being extending over the whole body, you may be able to get an idea of the character of the human body in those times. As you can read in the book “From the Akasha Chronicle,” because beings surviving from the Old Moon evolution had incarnated in these pliant, flexible bodies, these bodies became animal-like rather than human. Distorted forms arose, with strangely contorted limbs. — And there you have the origin of the figures of gods to be found among certain peoples. These curious figures with non-human faces and huge limbs originate from the knowledge that the incarnating Moon-beings were united with human bodies.
If in the Atlantean epoch there had been painters and sculptors, they would have been able to portray or model these figures of Moon-beings incarnated in human bodies. But in Tibet this was no longer possible. Hence the canon must be strictly obeyed, for the artists would otherwise have made figures with whatever terms they liked. If a man did not obey the canon but created something out of his own play of fancy, he incurred the death-penalty. Naturally one may ask: Is there any justification for condemning to death someone who makes only one tiny change in the figure of a god? Is there really any justification for it? In Tibet, of course, there is no longer any justification, but once upon a time there was, for as you have heard, these beings were actually present in bodies, and if they were not faithfully portrayed, any deviation amounted to a lie. In those ancient times a lie had infinitely greater power than it has nowadays. If at the present time everyone who tells a lie were to suffocate as the result — well, I prefer to leave it at that, for I think that the fear of suffocation would be too great to allow people to risk telling lies! I assume that nowadays people will not suffocate — but at that time a lie would have caused actual suffocation. For the thought expressed in the word contained a power to give form to the air in the larynx, and then suffocated the man — and anyone who had incorrectly portrayed on Earth a being who had not fully completed his development on the Old Moon would have suffocated — in other words, a process of nature would have caused his death.
The evolution of humanity is an exceedingly complicated matter, and to understand it one must go deeply into spiritual science. To find the right approach to world-evolution it is essential to study what it is the mission of spiritual science to make known from spiritual worlds. For spiritual science is, as it were, a first impulse to which other impulses must increasingly be added, in order that humanity in the future may advance along the right path. You will have realized from what I have been saying recently [See “The Occult Movement In the 19th Century” — notably Lectures IX and X.] that a course must be steered between a Scylla and a Charybdis, that a very definite path must be laid down in spiritual science. — This must be taken with the deepest earnestness. Our modern natural science is developed by materialistic methods. During these last weeks I have tried to describe its characteristics to you. I have said that a materialistic method in natural science is fully justified. It can be characterized by saying that it is adapted to cloak the spiritual reality lying behind. Why, then, must this materialistic method be there in our present time?
In our present time an earlier knowledge of nature must be superseded by a new knowledge of nature. I have told you something about this earlier knowledge of nature. Just think what kind of knowledge it was! To be able to mold a human head into an instrument editable for genius, through specific measures applied scientifically in the old sense of the word — this signified colossal knowledge! — or again, so to regulate heredity that qualities of genius were transmitted to descendants — the knowledge required for this was even more penetrating and comprehensive, far, far surpassing all the theories of evolution, the physics, chemistry, and so on, of today. But that ancient knowledge was to be veiled and obscured by the materialistic method employed in natural science today — which is fully justified in the purely physical domain. It must be remembered that at the time when that lofty knowledge of nature existed, man was not a free being; he was only at the beginning of the gradual evolution of freedom. He was led and guided and what came to pass in the process of his guidance was for the most part brought about by the higher hierarchies. And it was single individuals who deviated from the regular course, who advanced too far along the path to freedom, who were responsible for the fall into the abyss and the inevitable destruction of Atlantis. But with the constantly increasing freedom of will, man would have been unfit for knowledge of this kind. To possess knowledge such as once existed on the Earth is unthinkable today because man's will has attained freedom to an extent that would enable him still to misuse this knowledge. How, then, is this free will guided into the right channel?
From indications I have given recently you will have gathered that by adopting the method employed in natural science, with all its scrupulous exactitude, the free will is directed into the right channel; moreover, this method is a wonderfully effective pedagogical means for the development of the free will. We have therefore no cause whatever to quarrel with the method employed in natural science, the justification of which for our present time we fully acknowledge. You will find that what is contained in our lecture-courses and books completely refutes the allegations of individual opponents — to the effect, for example, that we repudiate natural science. It is sometimes necessary to take exception to the pretensions of certain investigators and so-called scientific authorities; but nothing derogatory to the achievements of natural science will ever be found in our literature. To say that anything in our literature is a repudiation of natural science would be sheer calumny, for among us there can be no question of such repudiation. But at the same time it must be realized that attacks upon us may well be made from the side of so-called natural science — and if necessary, we must then repel the attack. But true adherents of spiritual science must become more and more conscious of the necessity to understand the natural-scientific method and to protect this method from being tainted by all kinds of non-scientific concepts — for example, concepts of the atom and movement of the atom, of which I have recently spoken. These are fantasies of natural science, and the difference must be clearly seen.
Efforts must be made to distinguish between genuine natural science and scientific fantasy. How often do we not hear it said today that one thing or another is scientifically established — whereas it is nothing of the kind, because words are simply accepted as facts. Never was blind belief in authority greater than it is at the present time in the domain of science, for everyone allows things to be determined entirely by those in whom they happen to believe. The purpose of the Mystery of Golgotha was that what came into the world through Lucifer might gradually be corrected in a certain way — it is indicated symbolically in the Bible: “Your eyes shall be opened and ye shall know good and evil” — that is to say, ye shall know good and evil from outside. But when in the sphere of perceptions one perceives from outside, it is impossible to receive from that world anything other than perceptions. As soon as one begins to reflect about the perceptions, to speculate about them and derive all kinds of ideas from them, one is on the way to finding what has been imbued into them by Ahriman and Lucifer. The ideas must come out of the spiritual world and be united with the perceptions: then these ideas are in the real sense divine! In human life there must be a marriage between the ideas which are given to men from out of the spiritual and what he perceives in the outer world through his senses. But this union must first be achieved. How this principle applies in the scientific domain you can gather from my essay “Truth and Science.” The belief that in the scientific sense, ideas, thoughts, could also be found from outside, from the perceptions, is based on illusion, on illusion caused by Ahriman and Lucifer. But as long as the powers associated with the words “Your eyes shall be opened and ye shall know good and evil” (which means to search for the ideas in the outer world) were sanctioned — that is to say, until the Mystery of Golgotha — as long as Lucifer and Ahriman were allowed to work in this sphere, there was no objection to be made. But that state of things is now over. Now, in the matter of the permeation of perceptions from outside, they are all the more unjustified.
This too was brought into evidence in the middle of the 19th century through a crisis of a particular kind. This crisis announced itself in great and outstanding achievements: spectral-analysis, for example, came on the scene, swept away the conception that when one looks upwards to the stars one has to do with spiritual beings — and showed that substances to be found everywhere in the universe also exist on the Earth. The old union between ideas and perceptions is no longer possible, for such discoveries make it essential that the ideas shall again find the spiritual path into our souls. The same applies to Darwinism. To reason entirely on the basis of what is found by outer perception — that is to say, to seek for the ideas in the outer world — can only lead to a purely materialistic conception and interpretation of the world. In short, the crisis is in evidence everywhere and there is also widespread rebellion against the fact that the ideas must flow out of the spirit-realm into the souls of men if humanity is to make progress. In other words: we must understand the nature of Ahriman and Lucifer and be on the alert when they try to make us continue the principle indicated in the words “Your eyes shall be opened and ye shall know good and evil.” We must learn to observe both Ahriman and Lucifer. And we shall be able to do this if we permeate the ego, as it has now unfolded, with Christ.
But something else too resounded through the world in primeval times, resounded from a different side, after man had acquired the power to distinguish good and evil, to direct his gaze outwards, that is to say, to use his senses and through them to acquire ideas based on sense perceptions. The decree went forth: Man must be driven out of the spirit-realm in which he has hitherto been living, in order that he may not also eat “of the Tree of Life.” But Christ will forever give men to eat of the Tree of Life, and the ideas which stream directly out of the spirit-realm into human souls must be inwardly experienced. But they can be experienced in the real sense only when the human soul takes Christ into itself. Then we have something quite different from the concept of Knowledge; then we have the concept of Life. Just as a strict eye must be kept on Lucifer and Ahriman in order that when they allow knowledge derived from the outer world to penetrate into us we may perceive that this knowledge is coming from them, so we must realize that through the impulse given by the Mystery of Golgotha, ideas were to flow into men to be the substance of life — the substance not of knowledge alone, but of life. And when from this standpoint of life we study the different religions of the world, it will be far, far from our minds to investigate these religions with the object of discovering whether they are or are not in keeping with our own view of the world. To apply only the concept of knowledge to these religions is not our task; we must apply the concept of life.
There are definite forms of religion in the world. We should not set out to discover whether we can consider these forms to be true, but whether through their ritual and ceremonies they are able to give nourishment and life to the souls of men, and — as the souls of men differ — it follows that their life can be sustained by different forms of nourishment. If we grasp this truth we shall realize that we can never lend ourselves to quarreling with any form of religion but that we must endeavor to understand it in so far as it is life-nourishment for human souls to whom it is given as life — not as knowledge only, but as very life. Then we shall see that the standpoint from which a religion begins to quarrel with some branch of science is entirely misplaced. We shall also realize that religion will inevitably adopt a hostile attitude towards progress in natural science and spiritual science alike. For the religions are still unwilling to get away from the old Tempter, they still want to invoke only that God Who said to man that He will give them life, that they themselves are not to eat of the Tree of Life. The representatives of religions do not want to invoke God alone but also the Luciferic Spirit and the Ahrimanic Spirit; they want the eyes for distinguishing good and evil to be opened through religion. Religion wants to be “knowledge.” But it cannot be “knowledge,” because it is life-substance. And under the sway of this temptation which still whispers in their ears, the representatives of the different religions believe they possess facts of knowledge in their religions, whereas the question of knowledge cannot, in reality, come into consideration between religion and science. We have no cause whatever to combat religious bodies, because we ask them about the sustenance they provide for life, not about what knowledge they possess. Religious communities will always be tempted to ask whether science as it advances is in keeping with what they regard as knowledge. But because life is in process of constant evolution, advancing science can never be in keeping with religions, which invariably tend towards conservatism.
And now you can picture the whole conflict which in the nature of things will ever and again be urged. I should like you to think rightly about this conflict and to realize that as a matter of course the representatives of religious bodies, because they are under the sway of temptation, will always, from their standpoint, combat spiritual science, just as they combat natural science. But you must also realize that these opponents fight because they lack understanding. This does not excuse them at all, but it must none the less be realized that they fight because of lack of understanding; they cannot take the right standpoint.
As a sign and symptom, let me bring to your notice words written by a man who perceived the inevitable approach of the natural-scientific age and the natural-scientific way of thinking, and who was told by a friend that one should not be concerned with knowledge that is not contained in the Bible or preserved in the traditions of the Church. Since the 14th century, of course, things have changed in this connection. — Dante's “Divine Comedy” is a great, world-embracing poem. But Dante lived at the time when the epoch during which men confined themselves to purely historical Christianity was passing away. For Dante, Virgil was simply the exile banished to hell. Dante did not know much about anything that differed from the Christianity confronting him as a great system and régime. But in the case of Petrarch it was different: one century later, in the 14th century, Petrarch read Virgil with far greater credence. He turned not only to Greek but also to Roman spiritual culture. When one of his friends wrote to Petrarch saying that there had appeared to him in a dream a spiritual being who exhorted him to avoid all non-Christian literature, he (Petrarch) gave a very significant answer. I stress the importance of this incident because it shows how the friend — and through him, Petrarch — was enjoined from the spiritual world to concern himself only with what the Christianity of that time regarded as truly Christian. Petrarch wrote the following beautiful words which held good at that time for the approaching epoch and still hold good today. Petrarch replied to his friend Boccaccio in momentous words, affirming his standpoint, why he read this non-Christian literature, and what it meant to him (Petrarch: Letter to Boccaccio (“Epistolae seniles” I. 5):
“Why then should we shun the pagan poets and writers who do not use the name of Christ simply because they have never heard it? Surely there is greater danger in the books of sceptics who speak of Christ and at the same time dispute Him — but those who claim to be the defenders of the true faith read these writings with the greatest eagerness. Believe me: much that is simply the product of sloth and timidity is attributed to thoughtful deliberation. Men often cast scorn on what is out of their reach; it is characteristic of ignorance to condemn what it cannot comprehend and nobody will concede to it strivings of which it is incapable.
“Here lies the root of the misguided judgments of what is unknown; it is not so much the blindness of those who pass judgment as their laziness that is in evidence. We, however, should not allow ourselves to be frightened away from the sciences by any pious admonitions, or by indications of the near approach to death. If the sciences are imbibed with inner sincerity they quicken the love of morality and take from us, or at least diminish, the fear of death; if we abandon them, this will excite the suspicion that disbelief lays claim to be knowledge. The sciences are not a hindrance to one who has the right mastery of them, but they are a help to him; they level his path of life and do not thwart him.
“For a diseased or weak stomach, many a food may be unwholesome which a healthy, hungry man digests at once; so too, that which would ruin a feebler nature may be rich in blessing for a sound and vigorous mind. ...
“I know well that many have achieved great sanctity without culture, but I know too that nobody has been kept from sanctity by culture. ... If I am to tell you my own opinion, it is this: The path to holiness via ignorance may possibly be smooth, but it is faint-hearted. All good things have a single goal, but many paths lead thither and fellow-travelers along these paths differ greatly; the one moves more slowly, the other more quickly, the one in obscurity, the other visibly, the one bowed with humility, the other buoyant with exultation. All journeying is blessed; but the noblest is that which proceeds freely and openly before the world. The knowledge that has wrestled through to belief is far superior to naive simplicity, be it never so pious; and not one of the fools who have ever entered the kingdom of heaven has as high a place as a man of knowledge who has won the crown of blessedness.”
The same could be said about our spiritual science! And not only to X [A newspaper article had been written by a priest living in the vicinity of the Goetheanum] but to all the others who fight against us, one could rejoin with the words written by Petrarch to his friend; “For a diseased or weak stomach, many a food may be unwholesome which a healthy, hungry man digests at once; so too, that which would ruin a feebler nature may be rich in blessing for a sound and vigorous mind.”
And when people harp on the “contradiction in the first and third Gospels” and refuse to admit that the contradiction disappears as soon as the existence of two Jesus boys is taken into account; when they insist upon “simplicity” and say that the fantastic statements of “the one up there” (on the Goetheanum hill) can well be ignored; when they will not admit that all the forms of life are incorporated in our building, but talk about “distorted, fantastic forms,” one must quote the words of Petrarch: “The knowledge that has wrestled through to belief is far superior to naive simplicity, be it never so pious, and not one of the fools who have ever entered the kingdom of heaven has as high a place as a man of knowledge who has won the crown of blessedness.”
Such thoughts make us realize that it can never be our principle to combat any religious body and that it is sheer calumny when anyone accuses us of being an enemy of religious movements. The very fact of such an accusation proves that there is no willingness even to try to understand us. This at least we must know; and we must resist every tendency to adopt an aggressive attitude to any religious community, just as we must keep ourselves free from the same kind of attitude to natural science because that will soon disclose its attitude to spiritual science! There is no reason whatever for us to combat any religious body. Combat cannot be begun by us because it does not lie in our nature to attack. And it must be taken as an axiom that if peace is denied us, it is because the hostile neighbor is not inclined for peace. Let the principle of leaving us in peace be put to the test and then see whether peace is maintained! Let it be put to the test!
But naturally, we ourselves must be permeated with the right feeling and attitude. For example, much wrong is also done when from our side, too, dogmas or rites of one kind or another are attacked, often without having been understood; but if we rightly understand them, the principle referred to holds good. I would therefore enjoin you to understand the principle of peace. Just as I was obliged to enjoin you to have forbearance with conditions prevailing at the present time, so must I enjoin you to be alert and watchful, in order that we may do what is necessary to guard the holy treasure entrusted to us. For more and more we shall have to wend our way through the world with an unwavering inner strength if we are to stand firmly on the ground where spiritual science would have us stand.
The Mystery of Golgotha and the Christ Principle are intimately connected with the need to see spiritual reality in the world. Mere looking will never suffice even to understand the Mystery of Golgotha purely as an historical event. The Mystery of Golgotha must be comprehended spiritually; and those who devote themselves to knowledge where everything is derived from outside and will not open their eyes to the new revelations of the Mystery of Golgotha, which can ever and again flow to us, will not grasp the import of a poem sung by yet another voice in the middle of the 19th century concerning that which — ever changing yet ever present — holds good in earthly humanity since the Mystery of Golgotha. Let me read you a section of this poem which describes how one who cannot grasp the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha confronts this Mystery:
Translator's note: Dr. Steiner now read part of the epic poem on Ahasver, or Ahasueris, the Wandering Jew, by Julius Mosen. The Wandering Jew is the legendary figure of a Jerusalem shoemaker who, taunting Christ on the way to the Crucifixion, was told by Him to “go on forever till I return.” The poem itself is very long and does not lend itself to translation.
Here is another example of how a human soul feels impelled to give expression to what has come to pass. And now that we have let these pictures pass through our souls, let me remind you of something that I have already said here: that we must change our mode of perception if we are to look with true vision into the spiritual world. We must not believe that the spiritual world can be seen as we see the material world of sense. We must even accustom ourselves to different modes of expression, — In the physical world we see trees, rivers, mountains. But of spiritual being we must say: they see us, they perceive us. To understand the Mystery of Golgotha truly, it is necessary to know this, because the Mystery of Golgotha can be understood only in the spiritual. But that is how we aspire to understand it.
The time must come when through a true understanding of the words “Not I, but Christ in me” it will be possible to rise into the spiritual worlds with the right knowledge. This epic poem “Ahasver” by Julius Mosen was published in the year 1838, and the fact that he was able to put the legend into such a form also indicates that the tragic destiny by which Mosen was overtaken profoundly affected him. He was bedridden nearly all his life, for his physical body was almost totally paralyzed; this was precisely what enabled him to grasp such lofty ideas. We are reminded of the sinner in the novel “The Mahaguru” who, when he was already out of his mind, discovered the true nature of his art; and we are reminded, too, of the count's wife in the Polish drama, who had to fall into a pathological state in order to find the connection with the spiritual world. It is the task of spiritual science today to help human beings to rise into the spiritual world in the healthy, normal state of consciousness. — All these things are signs of the task and of the value to be attached to the task of the spiritual-scientific movement. Compressed into a few brief words, this is the truth that can inspire us as a source of strength: “The Mystery of Golgotha itself reveals that it must be understood spiritually, that we must seek for Christ as Spirit.” And then we must also say: “Christ is seeing us, Christ is perceiving us.”
We will inscribe this deeply in our hearts, keep it constantly in our minds, and our conscience must be satisfied when, in presenting our spiritual-scientific knowledge, we are saying with inner sincerity: May Christ be a witness of what we promulgate as spiritual science. We believe that this may indeed be so — and it can inspire us as men were once inspired by the cry of Bernard of Clairvaux: “It is God's Will!” These words became deeds. May it be the same among us — for we may believe that we understand Christ truly when we live under the inspiration of the words: Christ knows us. — And if you understand it aright, to a soul that sees our spiritual science in the true light, to a heart that feels it in its true light, I can impart no more esoteric saying than this: Christ is seeing us.
May these words live in our souls: “Christ is seeing us” — for so we may believe if we rightly understand spiritual science. Christ is seeing us.