Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, July 4, 1916:
Today's talk is connected with the broader theme we have talked about here so often recently. As we have seen, we need to look at the activities, thinking, and beliefs of our times that resist and oppose spiritual science as we understand it. We believe this spiritual science must become a necessary part of human cultural development in the present and the near future. Thus, what I have presented here is connected to the outlook of spiritual science as well as to the whole impulse or force on which our movement is based. And in this context I want to add a few remarks today.
Again and again we have to caution people against letting certain ideas and concepts that are meaningful in our spiritual science become merely empty words. We have to warn particularly against approaching the ideas of spiritual science — in many respects a new acquisition of humanity — with old ways of thinking and old habits of soul. For instance, we must not approach such conceptions as “ahrimanic” and “luciferic” with all the usual feelings and ideas these words evoke. We need only picture how the name Lucifer in southern regions brings up the concept of demons prevailing there. However, when we arrive at the spiritual scientific view of Lucifer, we should not have the same negative ideas and feelings connected with the old idea of demons. Nor should the ideas that arose in human souls when the medieval views of the devil were alive be applied unhesitatingly to our concept of the ahrimanic.
We must be aware that the world as it presents itself to us is in a state of equilibrium or balance. The beam of a scale does not come to rest in a straight horizontal position just because it is a beam, but only because equal weights hang down from it on both sides and balance each other out. It is the same with everything in our world. The world exists neither because of a state of rest nor because of nothingness, but because of the balance created by the possibility of deviating radically from what is right and good either toward Lucifer or toward Ahriman.
Anyone who says that we simply have to guard against everything ahrimanic and luciferic is in the same position as people who say they want a scale, but don't want to put weights on either side. For instance, we know there would be no art if the luciferic element did not play a role in the world. On the other hand, we also know there would be no observation and understanding of nature if the ahrimanic element did not play a part, too. It is only a matter of establishing a balance in the human heart and soul. And that is why we can fall prey to the ahrimanic and luciferic elements just when we think we are rejecting everything ahrimanic and luciferic. We can sin against reality, but we cannot suppress it!
Thus, those who want to avoid everything ahrimanic will easily fall prey to the luciferic, and those who are trying to avoid the luciferic will be easy prey for Ahriman. The point is to find the balance, to fear neither the one nor the other, and to have enough courage to face both ahrimanic fear as well as luciferic hope or desire. But our culture does not like this; on the contrary, our contemporary culture, unknowingly and without wanting to, loves the ahrimanic and the luciferic. Believing it is avoiding them, it becomes all the more completely their prey.
Talking in general terms and abstractions usually leads absolutely nowhere. We can only get somewhere if we approach these important problems in life in a concrete way. That is why I chose so many specific examples that show how one can find a balance in life, the balance between rest and movement, between unity and diversity.
Now there are philosophers, or people dealing with world views, who say they are striving for unity. That sounds very fine but is purely luciferic. Others are striving for diversity and don't want to have anything to do with unity. Though this can be fruitful today, it is ahrimanic. Only those really strive for balance who seek unity in diversity and look for diversity in such a way that it reveals unity. It is simply a matter of finding a way to really do this. I can only mention a few sins against this balance.
In our times, one such sin is perpetrated primarily in the way people view history. How do they view history? They study how events follow each other and how they are connected in time through the law of cause and effect — at least that's what people think. What happens immediately after one event is taken as its consequence, and people try to explain the latter on the basis of what preceded it. However, as a rule people's memory these days is very short, as we can see from the fact that for nearly two years now people have been talking about historical events, the events leading to this terribly tragic war, as if the world had only begun in July of 1914! They forget so easily what happened before that. From our reading we know people have forgotten what happened prior to that date. But aside from that, when people look at history at all, they link events to the ones that preceded them, and those in turn they connect with other preceding events. Thus, the individual events are strung up like beads on a necklace, and the result is then called history.
This way we will never find the truth, at least not the kind of historical truth that will help us in life. Although events do indeed follow upon one another, one of them may be far more important than another. Sometimes a particular event taking place at a particular time may mean much more for the understanding of what follows than other events happening at the same time. The point is to find the right events, the right facts. I have often called this way of looking at history a symptomatic view of history, in contrast to the merely pragmatic view so popular nowadays. The symptomatic approach to history tries to understand our inner, spiritual evolution on the basis of symptoms, and it finds at certain times particular events that are of far greater significance than other, concurrent happenings.
This approach to history is basically a Goethean one. Goethe made it part of his whole outlook not to see events simply lined up side by side. Instead, he saw events as significant for the course of human history depending on whether the spiritual revealed itself in them to a greater or lesser extent. Someday people will write the history of the current tragic conflicts by describing certain specific events of recent decades, and from these they will understand why the current situation has come about. Today is not the time to explain these facts; they would only be misunderstood. But in the future historians will report events that people now ignore when they read about them. However, if I may say so, truth shines forth from these events.
Over the last few years I have told you about all kinds of facts with the intention to speak about the true spiritual course of events by means of them. Now, I have spoken more abstractly about the issue of history because if I had discussed certain facts in more detail — which would have clarified contemporary events — I would have had to talk about things that people don't want to hear about nowadays.
Those who do not look at history in this symptomatic way do not find the balance between the ahrimanic and the luciferic and fall prey to an ahrimanic view of history. The modem view of history is largely ahrimanic. Facts are not weighed properly. People believe they are evaluating facts and events but are not really doing it. Generally, they do not even know what the most important facts are because those are just the ones they consider the least important. But the opposite also happens, and we can talk about that in more detail. The opposite happens when people don't take facts into account at all, but develop general truths out of their hearts and souls; they carry these with them throughout life, trying to apply them everywhere. No matter how different the situations they may be in, they always try to apply the same tmth. That is really a kind of luciferic exaggeration, but it is what people prefer these days. They want to have a kind of essence of tmth that will never change and will carry them through each and every situation — that is what they would like. But that won't do at all. We have to find the balance.
Now I would like to explain what I mean. You see, people may go through the world, they may stand on a mountain and take in the wide expanses of nature. Well, they look at everything but don't connect it with the spiritual. Or people may go into homes where misery reigns; they look at everything, are touched by it, and feel sympathy. But what they think about the deepest mysteries of human existence is always the same; they carry the same thoughts into every situation. In the old folk wisdom, which is now on the decline, we can find a clear striving for balance in the soul. Thus it could happen that someone walked through a village at the time when there were still sundials — of course, nowadays sundials could not very easily be used for they cannot be set an hour back or ahead; that is impossible! But in the days when sundials were still of importance, someone might have passed through a village, seen a sundial, and found words written under it that were quite impressive. For example, people could find the following words under a sundial:
I am a shadow.
So too art thou!
I reckon with time;
Just think, such profound words under a sundial, “I am a shadow. So too art thou!” A shadow cast by the sun. “I reckon with time. And thou?” Here, out of direct perception of a concrete reality, speaks the profound truth that human life is but a shadow of what works and weaves in the spiritual world. How vividly this comes to meet the weary wanderer, imprinting itself in his heart, when he steps before the sundial and sees the shadow! The sundial then points out to him: “A shadow so too art thou! I reckon with time. And thou?” Just imagine, these are profound and powerful questions for us, for our conscience: “Do you reckon with time? Are you finding your place in your time?” That is what I mean by saying balance must be sought.
It is important that people stop letting facts work side by side, each as important as the others and instead realize that there are important facts that can speak to us of great and eternal truths. Then what lives in the human soul and what is spread out in the universe can unite. We find ourselves truly united with the truth of the world only if we continuously come upon the truth in our interaction with the world, only if we don't insist on carrying a priori truths in us and don't walk by a sundial as we would by a plow or something like that. Instead, in looking at things, we must be instructed about the most noble and greatest striving that can light up in human souls.
This living together with outer reality, with all that is spread out throughout the universe, this feeling oneself at the right moment face to face with the eternal, is something quite different from learning out of books that this or that is an everlasting truth. No matter how often we abstractly impress upon ourselves that human life is a shadow of what happens to us in eternity, no matter how many beautiful ethical truths about the use of time we impress upon our memory, none of them will ever reach as deep as the finding of a right relationship between ourselves and outer reality. Then we will see a significance in the individual concrete fact, and only then will we find the balance in life we can never find by losing ourselves in the external world or by merely immersing ourselves deeply into our inner being. Mysticism is one-sided and luciferic; natural science is onesided and ahrimanic. But mysticism developed through observation of external nature or observation of nature deepened to mysticism, that is balance!
Let us take another example. Suppose someone were hiking one morning in a beautiful area in the Alps, noticing the song of the birds, the beauty of the woods, perhaps even the marvelous virginal purity of the water as it babbles its way downhill in brooks, and so on. Imagine the hiker wandered for an hour, maybe, or an hour and a half, and then came upon a simple wooden crucifix. The hiker may be inwardly glad, having all the forces of gladness in his soul shaken awake because he or she has seen beautiful, great, noble, and sublime views. But the hiker is also weary and approaches this place where a simple wooden crucifix stands in the midst of beautiful and wonderfully sublime nature. On the crucifix there are the following words:
Stay your steps, wanderer,
Look on my wounds.
Take heed, and guard thy way,
Beware what on the judgment day
O'er thee as verdict I shall say.
The experience we can have on reading these words can be greater and can touch our hearts more profoundly than what we may experience on seeing the figure of Christ in Michelangelo's famous painting in the Sistine Chapel. The author of the words I have just spoken is unknown. Yet, all those who understand anything about poetry know that the person who wrote the words: “Wounds abide, hours glide,” is one of the greatest poets of all time. But first one has to have a feeling for this and know that true poetry is the poetry that pours out of the human soul in the right place. Not all words that rhyme, not all that passes for poetry is true poetry. But it is true poetry when out of Christianity's eternal truths there pours forth:
Stay your steps, wanderer,
Look on my wounds.
Take heed, and guard thy way,
Beware what in the judgment day
O'er thee as verdict I shall say.
These are simple words, sublime words — grandest poetry! To be made aware of the greatest event in the evolution of the earth while surrounded by sublime nature and its graceful beauty means to experience with the soul the reality in the universe. This is only an example and a more profoundly touching one than the previous one of the sundial. The important thing is to develop in life so that when we meet with such things, we do not pass by reality but experience the human soul growing together with reality and maintain the balance even in our relation to what was not made by human beings, but was given by the eternal powers. We can perceive the spiritual world only when our striving is neither only one-sided mysticism, nor only one-sided observation of nature, but instead is directed toward the union of both.
I have to say this because it is part of what present-day humanity has the least real feeling for and what it can least experience. That is why spiritual science is so difficult for people to understand nowadays. What it offers is obliterated as much by a one-sided search for an all-purpose insight as by accepting the external world pretty much without seeking the symptomatic traits and the revelation of the spiritual in various events. That is what our contemporaries have the least understanding for. If they had it, there would be much less versifying and, if I may say so, much less defining. For definitions only lead people to overestimate words, and versifying leads them to misuse words. A poem such as the one under the simple crucifix — well, nobody knows who wrote it — surely originated in a time when a profound poetical sensibility lived in the hearts and souls of the people and true balance reigned in their souls.
Alas, people in our age have become inured to true poetry because there is much too much verse around, and poetry begets more poetry just as unhealthy living produces cancer. Encouraging everybody to write poems based on what already exists in poetry is the same on the cultural and spiritual level as stimulating the life process to produce cancerous growth. In this respect we have seen the most precious fruits of the art of versifying at the end of the nineteenth century. As you may know, one of the most biting critics in Berlin had to call himself Alfred Kerr, because his real name was Kempner, a name that could not be used at the end of the nineteenth century since it brought to mind Friederike Kempner. [Note 1] Yes, she, too, was a poet. We need only remember one of her pretty poems — I won't recite many such verses, but just this one:
America, thou land of dreams,
Thou world of wonder, broad and long!
Thy trees of coconut how fair,
Thy busy solitude how strong!
This is a very striking example, but many contemporary poems, though less striking are just like this one, and many concepts formed are just like Friederike Kempner's “busy solitude.” For people nowadays often have no feeling for how strongly the adjective contradicts the noun when they speak or write. These things simply must be realized,- there is no other way. After all, quite a few people nowadays speak as though they did not take language to be just gesture, which is all words really are. I have pointed out to you how clumsy a theory like Fritz Mauthner's is. [Note 2] He wants to reduce all philosophy and all world views to mere semantics and wrote three hefty volumes as well as a whole dictionary in two volumes, which lists alphabetically all philosophical terms but not a single philosophical concept. [Note 3] He completely disregards the fact that a word relates to its concept like a gesture. People always forget this in their world view. In everyday reality it cannot be forgotten; there we cannot easily confuse a table with the word “Table,” and we won't expect to learn about tables from the word “table.” But in philosophy and in matters of world view that is what happens all the time.
Well, Fritz Mauthner should just meet what we call in Austria a “Bohemian Privy Counselor” (“böhmischer Hofrat”). He would enter “Bohemian” in his dictionary and explain all sorts of things and then do the same with “Privy Counselor.” However, a “Bohemian Privy Counselor” is neither a Bohemian nor a Privy Counselor, in fact, he can be a Styrian office messenger. In Austria, we call all people “Bohemian Privy Counselor” who advance in their careers on shoes that make no more noise than slippers and who push aside their rivals without the latter noticing anything. In other words, they don't have to be Bohemians or Privy Counselors. Clearly, the meaning of this expression cannot be gotten from the words alone; they are merely a gesture.
That is what we have to realize: words are gestures. The larynx makes gestures, which become audible by means of the air, just as our hands or arms make gestures, which we cannot hear only because they are too slow. The larynx makes its gestures so quickly they become audible. The only difference lies in the quickness of the larynx. And just as it is wrong to describe somebody's gesture pointing to the table rather than describing the table, so it is wrong, in the cultural and spiritual realm, to use words to get to any truths about their concepts or the things they name.
Errors of this kind occur very frequently these days. People rely completely on words. When I was a young man — well, actually not yet a young man; I was only a boy and went to school in Wiener-Neustadt in lower Austria — I learned a little verse that has kept me from setting great store by definitions and explanations of words in general. This little verse was written on a building as the motto of the house, so to speak; it reads as follows:
I, Hans Carouser,
Prefer wine to water.
If I preferred water to wine,
Carouser would be no name of mine!
That is roughly what the modem definitions of words are often like. That is, one first makes up a definition and then formulates the explanation so that it fits, for if it didn't fit, then things would not be as they are. If you remember this little verse, you will be shielded from so much that emerges these days and is clearly visible in our so-called cultural life. Much, very much appears in our age. All these things are likely to divert our attention more and more from looking at the spiritual, from realizing that spirit reigns and weaves in what is real, in everything around us.
To an ever greater extent, we, and indeed the world, are losing all connection with the spiritual. For just talking about the spiritual does not bring it to us. A gesture pointing to a reality does not have the same meaning in regard to the reality concerned as the imitation of that gesture by another person in another room does. But what will become of our world if it loses all contact with the spiritual, if it casts off all that is spiritual? It is strange that people hardly seem to notice that they are losing the connection to the spiritual world. Humanity needs world views; people do not want to live without a world view. Yet, our modem time is largely without spirituality, without faith, or even an inclination to spirituality. However, not all those who are not inclined to spirituality can make do without a world view. And then strange justifications for a world view appear!
For example, in these last few weeks, I have been thinking about a man I spent much time with around the turn of the century, between 1898 and 1901 or so. Back then he was striving for a world view but unable to construct one. He was searching for it in Haeckelism, but apparently did not find that satisfactory. Then I completely lost touch with him. Now I see that this same man, thoroughly educated in the natural sciences, is indeed still striving for a world view, but he has the most peculiar ideas about the reasons why people arrive at world views. And incidentally, he also includes religion under the category “world view.” Someone who lives totally in the merely external, material understanding of facts, in the ahrimanic reality, cannot really feel justified integrating these facts into a world view. Now if he is nevertheless looking for a world view, how is he supposed to justify this search? We can see especially from this example how misguided people can be these days. Still, they are all honestly striving people.
Now this man I mentioned admits that on the basis of what the conventional sciences give us, on the basis of what is simply “the truth,” one cannot build a world view. How then do we arrive at a world view? We do not get it through our senses; our intellect, which is necessarily bound to the senses, also does not lead us to a world view — so what is left?
Well, this man hit upon the idea to look for the source of a world view in a place typical for our times, namely in psycho-sexuality! How do people build their world views? Through the fact that they are sexual beings! If we were not sexual beings, we would not integrate events and facts into a world view but would merely perceive them. I would like to read you a passage typical of this man's thinking:
If we follow Schopenhauer's thoughts to their logical conclusion, we can say that in psycho-sexuality there are supra-individual tendencies and strivings that ultimately have to be seen in connection with the metaphysical needs of human beings. These are expressed in the creation of religious feelings and ideas as well as in the formation and elaboration of integrated world views. At the same time, we find in psycho-sexuality an opposite pole, namely, a force that pulls human beings down into the depths of their darker side. Criminal instincts also spring from psycho-sexuality.
In other words, there are two poles in human nature, and both originate in psycho-sexuality. The one pole is religious feeling and thinking about a world view, the other, criminal instincts. Isn't it — I do not say sad, I say tragic — isn't it tragic to see where our time is heading?
These ideas are not to be taken lightly. Those who observe matters closely can see with what enormous speed these ideas are spreading. In my youth psychoanalysis, the Freudian theory, did not yet exist, and back then anyone who would have wanted to found it would have been considered a lunatic. Nowadays we have not only the Freudian theory, with its publications and with its representatives in all countries, but also psychoanalytical institutions all over the world where this psychoanalysis nonsense is practiced. These days, the most important and, as you have seen, even the most sacred experiences of the human soul are traced back to psycho-sexuality.
Humanity has indeed strayed very far from the paths it used to travel and to which spiritual science must lead it again. For what we are dealing with here cannot be refuted easily, because what is at stake when we speak about these things is the overall tendency of the soul, the whole form and understanding of the soul. When a pamphlet on psychosexuality appeared in our own Society — and a very superficially and badly written one at that — we had a big fight on our hands, which is not yet over. People could not understand why we thought such a booklet unsuitable. I told the author that the occultist is cautious in these matters because here only a very fine line, a thin spiderweb, so to speak, separates misunderstanding from the truth, and what is important is the whole attitude of the soul, and it is dangerous to speak of these things.
We will have to speak about these things for they are investigated by external science, where they will come to play a certain role. But first we must return to the direction the soul has to take so humanity can find its way to the spiritual.
In connection with the grotesque idea to look for the source of world views in psycho-sexuality, let me tell you about another fact, one sacred to all of us. I mean the fact that in the section on Paradise in the Bible, the Hebrew has been translated appropriately into our language, and we read: “And Adam knew his wife.” There you have knowledge, the concept of knowledge brought into connection with sexuality. But how? It is done exactly in the opposite way! This conceals a deep mystery. Only when people will come to things that are true on this opposite path, only then will light be shed upon these things. These truths must be looked at from the point of view of the spiritual if they are not to lead us astray. In the present age we must guard against the lack of respect for spiritual research, a lack that definitely exists. In the truest sense of the word, there is a general disrespect for the spiritual world. People believe that based on their experience of what is immediately in front of them, or on yesterday's experiences, they can intervene in the course of the world to reform and improve it.
A pathetic example of this has recently caught my attention. A man allowed himself to be so affected by the present tragic events of this terrible war that he concluded it would be a disaster if peace were ever to return to the world. He concluded that the war must continue because warfare is the natural condition of humanity. He wrote:
War is not leamt in a day. It is really fortunate that the threats of our enemies are speeding up the process of adaptation, above all this last threat of the complete destruction of our export trade. [You see, this must have been published very recently for it takes into account the Economic Conference in Paris.] Now nobody can evade the logical conclusion that peace would be a catastrophe, that war remains the only possibility. Up to now, war has been a reaction against provocation and a means to an end; from now on it will become an end in itself. From now on all those unredeemed German souls, and possibly even the most stalwart pacifists, will realize the error of their ways and see that their ideals are not relics but fossils. The whole nation as one man will demand eternal war ...
Educate people to hate, to revere hatred, to love hatred, to organize hatred! Away with immature timidity, away with a false sense of shame in the face of brutality and fanaticism! Even in terms of politics Marinelli's words hold good: “More slapping, less kissing.” We must not hesitate to announce blasphemously: “Ours are faith, hope, and hatred.” But hatred is the greatest of these.
Yes, my dear friends, such things exist. It can never be a matter of sticking one's head in the sand like an ostrich, but only of knowing where materialism leads, especially in its latest phase, when it is denied even by its adherents. In fact, things were better in the nineteenth century, in the days of Büchner, David Friedrich Strauss, and chubby Voit, the one who analyzed the metabolism, and all the others who at least declared themselves materialists. [Note 4] Nowadays materialism wears a hypocritical air, and people say it has long since been overcome. However, what they have put in its place, hypocritically denying it is materialism, is nothing else but materialism, an increasingly fierce materialism.
What we need, my dear friends, is Goetheanism; we need a world view that allows the soul to grow together with reality in its particular, characteristic phenomena. This Goetheanism is nothing else but the renewal of the true Christian life of feeling and experience.
Why do Orientals not understand the Mystery of Golgotha? They do not understand it because they cannot understand that one event is more significant than another. We understand the Mystery of Golgotha only when we know the difference between events, for only then can we realize that one event can give the earth its meaning. Only when we can see differences between events can we see one event as more important than another. In the Orient, we find at most a continual play of cycles, where everything is said to repeat itself. That the earth is based entirely on the fact that we have a time of preparation for the Mystery of Golgotha followed by the Mystery of Golgotha itself as the zenith of earth evolution, and then the living into it, this truth is what humanity will gradually have to understand, based on the symptomatic view of history, of course.
Everything spiritual science can give us will ultimately culminate in the Christian view of the world, which will prevail. As I have often said, spiritual science does not want to be a new kind of religion. Rather it wants to provide the tools for humanity, which would otherwise completely fall prey to materialism, to fully understand again the spiritual that is contained in Christianity. It is absolutely necessary to look with open eyes at our age, and that is much more important than any sentimental looking into it.
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