A Sound Outlook for Today and a Genuine Hope for the Future. Lecture 6 of 7.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, July 30, 1918
Today we will go rather further in outlining the connections we have tried to understand in the course of our recent studies.
The present time, with its many diverse currents, spiritual and material, is extremely difficult to understand; and the effort ends only in perplexity unless we make up our minds to recognize the causes as lying far, far back in the womb of history. Let us look back, as students of Spiritual Science, at the so-called fourth post-Atlantean period.
This begins, as we know, somewhere about the year 747 before the Mystery of Golotha, and closes with the beginning of the fifteenth century, about 1413 A.D. (The figures are of course to be taken approximately, as always in matters of this kind.) Within this period, as we observe it, we can perceive certain forces, connected with and related to each other, but differing fundamentally from all others working in previous and subsequent epochs. This period, in which the development of the Intellectual or Mind-Soul in man's being took place, can be divided into three smaller ones: the first, between the year 747 B.C. (which is the real date of the founding of Rome), ends about 27 B.C.; the second runs from 27 B.C. until about the end of the 7th century; (693 A.D.); the third and last from 693 to 1413 A.D. Since this date, since about 1413, we have the time which brings forth, in its own characteristic way, soul-forces already known to you to some extent. Just as this fourth Post-Atlantean epoch can be clearly distinguished from the three preceding ones (the ancient Indian, Persian, and Egypto-Chaldean) and must also be sharply distinguished from what followed it and what is still to come, so within it the growth is marked by noticeable moments, if we consider its progress through these three shorter periods.
From 747 to 27 B.C. the peoples inhabiting the countries around the Mediterranean come chiefly into prominence. We see a distinct form of soul-life developing among them. History hardly mentions it, because history has no means of creating the ideas and conceptions which would fit it to deal with the really characteristic features. This epoch, which I have marked off, can be characterized by saying that it is the time when, for inner reasons of human evolution as a whole, the souls of men emancipate themselves from their connection with the universal spiritual world. If we look back into Egyptian and Chaldean times, during the epoch of the Sentient-Soul, we find in human consciousness a decided sense of kinship of the soul with the cosmos. The Sentient-Soul in man's nature was then able to perceive that man is a member of the whole cosmos. We cannot rightly estimate what is characteristic of the Egyptian, Chaldean, or Babylonian stages unless we take into account the fact that man at that time actually experienced a feeling of kinship with the spiritual cosmos. Just as the fingers on our hand feel themselves part of us, as it were, so the Egyptian or Chaldean felt himself to be a member of the spiritual cosmos. This feeling for the cosmos underwent a crisis in the 8th century before Christ, was shaken to its roots. In the past, human souls owed their sense of belonging with the cosmos to their ancient, atavistic, dream-like clairvoyance. They did not perceive as we do today. In the act of sense-perception they also perceived what profane science ignorantly calls “Animism” — the spiritual, the divine; and through this they felt themselves as belonging to the Spirit of the universe.
This relationship disappeared. The consequences were, on the one hand, numerous phenomena of decadence, but on the other, the whole marvelous culture of Greece, whose civilization was founded on what man experiences when, as man, he begins to stand alone in the universe. We owe this civilization to the fact that man no longer felt himself a member of the cosmos, but a totality as man, a being complete in himself. He had in a sense taken his own place in the cosmos, had begun to live a life of his own. If Greek civilization had retained the soul-constitution for instance, of the Ancient Indian period, with its feeling of connection with the cosmos, it is impossible to imagine that this beautiful Greek civilization could ever have arisen. All the splendor and glory displayed by Greek civilization, unequaled elsewhere, developed in the time between the eighth and the first centuries before Christ. Humanity had withdrawn into the citadel of the soul, of the human soul in the true sense. This was the time when humanity began to move toward the Mystery of Golgotha. We must not forget that there is always something in the Mystery of Golgotha which cannot entirely dawn on human understanding, even supersensible understanding. There will always be something uncomprehended. It is beyond the power of human conceptions, human feelings, human experiences, fully to grasp what was achieved by the entrance of the Christ into earthly evolution. Therefore the Mystery had, in a sense, so to take place that while it was in progress, human civilization was not ready fully to share in it; it had to take its course separately, side by side with ordinary human experience. That is fairly evident, even from history. How much did human civilization around the Mediterranean notice of what happened in the far-off Jewish province of Palestine, with regard to Christ Jesus? How little did it enter into the consciousness of civilized humanity, even that of Tacitus, who was writing only a century after the Mystery of Golgotha!
On the one hand we have the current of human civilization, and on the other the stream which brought with it the Mystery of Golgotha: the two run their course side by side. This could happen only because man, civilized man, at the time of the Divine Event was severed from the Divine, was living a life which had no direct connection with the spiritual. Thus on the Earth itself there took place a spiritual event, which went its way side by side with human civilization. Such a juxtaposition of outer civilization with a Mystery Event is unthinkable in any earlier period. It never had happened before, because in earlier times human civilization knew and recognized itself as being in connection with happenings in the realm of the Divine-Spiritual. It is very distinctive, very remarkable, that the secular culture which ran parallel with the Mystery of Golgotha was remote from it; man had severed himself from it.
In the second period, which lasted from about 27 B.C. to 693 A.D., mid-European civilization was not of a kind to enable secular culture to come to an understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. This may sound very strange, considering that Christianity had made itself at home in this secular culture and had spread over the civilization of mid-Europe; but its expansion took place in the way I have described. The Mystery of Golgotha was isolated, was alone. Certainly, it was accepted as outer dogma to this extent: Christ had come, had called apostles, had accomplished this or that for humanity, had said this or that about man's relation to the Divine. All this was readily accepted in its outer application by secular culture; but this outer recognition does not alter the fact that in reality all those who accepted Christianity in these early centuries were far removed from an inner understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. With the help of the Gnosis, or of all that had been carried over as treasures of wisdom from the ancient pagan world, they might have come near to facing the question: “What really happened in the Mystery of Golgotha?” They did not do so. They declared everything heresy which might have led to an understanding of it, and tried to accomplish the impossible: to put into trivial forms what never could be confined within such forms, what could be the object only of wisdom's highest aspiration — the Mystery of Golgotha.
Hence the organizations fostered during the early centuries of Christianity were not such as to help people to unite themselves with the Mystery; their effect was to encourage in the human soul something very remote from a genuine inner feeling of understanding and partaking in it. The “Church” was an organization rather for the non-understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. Anyone who follows up what the various councils, and more especially the intrigues of the Church, strove to accomplish will find that all these efforts went toward getting certain dogmatic ideas accepted, and toward inducing people to think of everything connected with the Mystery of Golgotha as having no real relationship to the life of the human soul. All this led up to a certain point, which can be described, somewhat radically, in the following way. Men tried to accommodate themselves, here on Earth, to certain ideas concerning the Mystery of Golgotha and its effects; but the most important thing was not the extent to which they could come to know about it and to absorb it into their souls. It was that they should be able to adopt this belief: “We grasp the fact that the Mystery of Golgotha was accomplished on its own account, independently of us, and Christ will take care that we are saved!” This tendency gained ground until the reality of spiritual events was relegated to a region quite outside the soul; sacred, spiritual events were not to be thought of as connected with what took place in any human breast; the two were to be as widely separated as possible. Within this tendency lay the germ of a purpose — unexpressed of course, but active subconsciously — which emerged clearly for the first time at the Council of Constantinople in 869. The aim was to keep the human spirit away from any individual, personal concern with the spiritual (which was restricted to the Mystery of Golgotha), and therefore from any inclination to understand the Mystery in terms of personal experience. It was to remain incomprehensible. So the Church was able to include more and more people of a purely secular frame of mind, who came to believe that the supersensible was beyond the range of the human soul, and that human thinking should confine itself to the objects and activities of the physical world. No forces were to be developed out of the human soul which could lead to an independent understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. In certain decrees of this eighth Council of Constantinople it is clearly stated that European humanity might not — because the forces of the human soul were not equal to it — reflect on the realm wherein the life appertaining to the Mystery of Golgotha had taken its course.
In this middle period of the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, lasting from 27 B.C. until 693 A.D., something was accomplished which may be described as the confirming of humanity in the belief that all human knowledge and experience is adapted only for the palpable “this life”; the impalpable, supersensible realm — the “beyond” as it is called — must be always withdrawn from their ken, inaccessible to direct perception. The entire history of those centuries can be understood only by keeping this cardinal fact in mind: The whole policy of the Catholic Church was directed to bringing men to the belief: “The soul can know only the things of this life; as regards the supersensible, thou must approach this in a way which has nothing to do with thy intelligence or personal knowledge.” The effect of this was that after the close of this epoch, in the eighth and ninth centuries, a sort of obscurity descended on European humanity as regards the connection of the human soul with the supersensible. And certain later phenomena, among which that of Bernard of Claivraux is typical, can be explained only by the fact that such men remained in a sense beyond the physical, in “the other world,” their souls absorbed in what is inaccessible to rational human understanding. This enthusiasm for something which undoubtedly lies beyond all human comprehension must be seen in the entire disposition of soul in a Bernard of Clairvaux, if he is to be understood. In his personality we find many traits which are great and powerful in their effects, for what is capable of a more or less distorted activity is equally capable of a beautiful, great, and glorious one. Bernard had characteristics which clearly show him to be a product of that disposition of soul which developed in Western civilization in the way I have described, during these particular centuries. Many other men resembled him; he is just a typical figure — as, for instance, when he spoke to his followers (who were very numerous) of all that would be bestowed on humanity by the “Crusade” he contemplated. Then came the failure of the whole attempt. How did this devout man speak of the failure? Somewhat this way: If everything, everything goes wrong, may the blame be on me alone, not on the Divine, which must be always right. Even when such a man was convinced of his connection with what he conceived of as the Divine-Spiritual power behind events, he separated the one from the other and said: “Lay the sin at my door: Providence is something that takes its own course in a realm beyond and apart from that of the human soul."
So, at the beginning of the third period of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch of civilization, something akin to a darkening descended on humanity — best expressed by saying that man's horizon no longer extended to the idea of a connection with spiritual currents and impulses. In philosophy of the centuries between the 8th and 15th one finds always the same aim: to prove that human ideas and concepts should in no case attempt to grasp the course of spiritual reality, that spiritual reality can only be, and must be, a matter of revelation, left to the teaching office of the Church. This was reduced to a convenient formula!
Thus had the power of the Church been built up. This power of the Church did not derive purely from theological impulse, but from the fact that man was banished to the physical life of the senses as regards the use of his own forces of knowledge and mental powers, and was not allowed to think of a knowledge of the supersensible. Hence arose a conception of belief which was not in existence in the early centuries (although it is sometimes antedated), but developed later. It took this form: “Concerning the Divine-Spiritual, only faith is possible — not knowledge.” This division between the “truth of faith” and the “truth of knowledge” was actually made against certain significant historical backgrounds, which should be studied in connection with the things I have indicated.
We have been living since the 15th century, approximately since 1413 A.D., during a period (this will become evident in the third millennium) in which we are concerned in part with the heritage of all that has happened under such influence as I have described. On the one hand stand of the legacies from those days; on the other we have to deal with something coming to view in this, the fifth post-Atlantean period — something entirely new. In the fourth period, when we look back at it, we see that there was then a kind of severance of the human soul from the Divine-Spiritual, a banishment to purely external physical sense-transactions. That was the new thing in the fourth period. It did not exist in the Egypto-Chaldean epoch, as I have already pointed out. We now have to deal with an analogous novelty in our own epoch, and humanity's task — having entered on an age in which self-consciousness must play an ever greater and greater part — is to distinguish between what is a legacy from time past, and what is newly added to it from our own time. Let us first look at the inheritance, the legacy.
We have seen that it consists in man having been constrained to develop his soul-life apart from the supersensible. Moreover there is another result of this, the more clearly to be seen the closer the events of history are surveyed; indeed, a searching review shows the facts to be unquestionable, admitting of no doubt whatsoever. This fact is that man, confining his soul-force to the sense-perceptible, was willing to be severed from the supersensible, and finally — since the 15th century — arrived at rejecting the supersensible altogether. The eighth Council of Constantinople in 869 is characterized by the wish to keep man and the supersensible apart; and from this separation, sponsored deliberately by the Church, the belief arose that the supersensible might be only a matter of imagination and have no reality. If one investigates the genesis of modern materialism from a historical, psychological point of view, the Church must be held responsible for it. Of course the Church is only the outer expression of deeper forces working in man's evolution, but to notice how one thing arises from another enables one to understand the course of events. In the fourth post-Atlantean age, the orthodox man would say: “The human faculty of knowledge is adapted only for understanding what is connected with the realm of the senses. The supersensible must be left to revelation, which may not be contested; to speak against revelation is heresy and can lead only to delusion.”
The modern Marxist, a modern Social Democrat, true scion of this view — which is nothing but the consequence of the Catholicism of earlier centuries — says: “All knowledge worthy of the name is concerned only with sense-perceptible, physical events; there is no ‘Spiritual Science’ because there is no such thing as spirit. ‘Spiritual’ Science is, at best, Social Science, the science of human communities.” Of course this tendency has come to fruition differently in various parts of the civilized world, but the differences are no more than nuances.
Hence, from the ninth century onward, in the central and western countries of Europe, it becomes necessary to ensure that human soul-life should occupy itself with the supersensible by “believing” in it, but should know of it only through revelation. The races and peoples of Central Europe were such that they had to be handled carefully; they could not be treated in the same simple way. To say to people: “Your human capacities are limited to eating and drinking and things of the outer world; the supersensible is beyond you” — that could not be done in Western Europe; but it was done in Eastern Europe, and that is the reason for the cleavage between the Eastern and Western Churches. In Eastern Europe, people really were confined to the sense-world; that was where their capacities had to unfold. That which finally led to the Orthodox religion was to be developed in the heights of Mystery-experience, quite untouched by anything to do with the senses. What man brought forth out of his human nature was set sharply apart from the true spiritual world, which lived only in the ritual that hovered loftily above mankind.
What was it that had to develop there? In varying shades, the point of view, the perception, that reality belonged only to the physical world of the senses. One might say that forces toward which man adopts an attitude of repression do not develop, but atrophy. If, then, humanity was restrained for centuries from spiritually grasping the supersensible, the power of doing so was bound in the end to disappear completely. This is what we find in the modern socialistic views of life, whose misfortune consists not in their socialism but in the fact that they entirely reject the spiritual-supersensible, and are therefore obliged to confine themselves to a social structure which takes account only of the animal side of man's nature. This was prepared for by the paralyzing of man's supersensible forces; hence it follows that men are driven into saying: “Care for our salvation shall not in any way make us unite our soul's knowledge experience with the stream that lives a life on its own — the stream which includes the Mystery of Golgotha.”
With what is this connected? With the fact that in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch the Luciferic forces were especially active. They severed man from the cosmos, because their aim is invariably to isolate man in selfishness, to cut him off from the whole spiritual universe, as well as from the knowledge of his connection to the physical one. Hence, when this severance was at its height, there were no natural sciences. This was Lucifer's doing. The activity which separated sense-knowledge from dogma regarding the supersensible was therefore a Luciferic one. Over against it stands the Ahrimanic influence; and these two are the great adversaries of the human soul. The fact that the supersensible forces of humanity have been allowed to atrophy — leading to a purely animal form of socialism, now due to break over humanity in a devastating and destructive way — is to be traced to Luciferic forces. The new influence, developing in our age, is of a different nature, more Ahrimanic. The Luciferic element would isolate man, cut him off from the spiritual-supersensible, and lead him to experience the illusion of being a totality in himself. On the other hand, the Ahrimanic element inspires man with fear of the spiritual, keeps him away from it, fosters in him the illusion that the spiritual cannot be attained by mankind. The Luciferic keeping away of man from the supersensible might be described as of a more educational, cultured kind, whereas the Ahrimanic, founded on fear of the spiritual, is more ‘natural,’ arising in the age which began with the 15th century. And as the Luciferic severance from the spiritual came especially to expression under the cover of Orthodox Christianity of the East, so the Ahrimanic fear, the holding back from the spiritual, makes itself felt especially in the culture of the West, and particularly in the element of American civilization.
Such truths may be unpalatable today, but they are truths nevertheless, and we get very little farther by generalizing — however mystically or theosophically — about the connection of the human with the Divine, or whatever it may be called. We can progress only by recognizing the reality as it is. We can reduce our chaos to order only if we recognize the true characteristics of the different currents running side by side. These various currents, springing from their several assumptions, spread out locally, and so everything is confused in the hodgepodge called “modern civilization.” What I am now speaking of as “Americanism” (as collective concept, not applying to individual Americans) is fear of the spiritual, the longing to live only on the physical plane, or at most in what rises into that plane as coarse spiritualism and such-like, which is not, in the real sense, spiritual at all. The mark of Americanism is fear of the spiritual; it is by no means confined to America, but there it lives as a social characteristic, not simply a human one. Above all it is predominant in all science. Science has increasingly been founded on fear of the spiritual. Nothing in science is called “objective” unless it excludes as far as possible living conceptions engendered in the inwardness of the soul. No idea, no conception, engendered in the inwardness of the soul is permitted to intrude into the observation of nature. This is allowed to embrace only what is dead, not the living that is spirit-inwoven. If, in the manner of Hegel, Shelling, or Goethe — those genuine representatives of mid-European thought — anyone introduces the “concept” into observation of nature, he is at once thought to be on the road to uncertainty, for no objective reality is ever expected to be attained through spiritual comprehension or experience. It is assumed that this means bringing in personal bias; that an experiment ceases to be objective directly any time anything subjective enters into it. That is Ahrimanic. Science is universally “American” in so far as it clings to the fundamental axiom “Everything subjective must be banished from an observation of Nature.” This is the fundamental result of the earlier severance from the spiritual in the fourth post-Atlantean period.
Thus a new element is added to this legacy — a new element which will make itself felt more and more as a destructive force alongside all that has to develop fruitfully — and consciously — in the future. It is essentially of an Ahrimanic nature; it is fear of the spiritual, and it brings havoc and disintegration into human civilization.
At the transition from the fourth to fifth post-Atlantean epoch, and during the fifth epoch, these impulses became more and more noticeable. With the discovery of America, and the transplantation into America of European ways, fear of this spiritual life appeared there, too; but on the other hand there arose what might be called a tension in human souls, for the native forces of the people in Europe were such that they could not fail to some extent to trace their own connection with the spirituality of the universe. A tension arose at the passing of the forth into the fifth post-Atlantean epoch of civilization, during the centuries in which what is known as “modern history” takes shape. Then came this tension caused by the suppressed spiritual element in the breast of man. Certain people decided that a barrier had to be put up against it, partly because they understood very well what was left of the old inheritance, and partly because they had a very pertinent grasp of the newly approaching Ahrimanic element. This was the genesis of that spiritual current — a much more influential one than most people think, as I mentioned from a different point of view in my last lecture — which tries to perpetuate this keeping of the human soul at a distance from the supersensible: in other words, Jesuitism. Its inner principle is to do everything possible in human evolution to keep man at a distance from any real, conscious connection with the supersensible. Naturally, this was facilitated by presenting the supersensible dogmatically as a realm into which human knowledge could not penetrate. But the Jesuit movement knows very well how to reckon with the other side; it wants no such inner relation between modern science and Americanism. In that respect Jesuitism is great: it recognizes the importance of physical science and makes a deep study of it. Jesuits are great spirits in the round of physical, material science, for Jesuitism reckons with the elemental tendency of mankind to fear the spiritual, a fear which must be overcome by leading human nature toward the spiritual world; and it counts on being able to impose this fear on society by saying to people, in so many words: “You cannot and shall not approach the spiritual; we are trustees of the spiritual and we will purvey it to you in the proper way.”
These two currents of thought, Americanism and Jesuitism, play into one another, as it were. This is not something to take casually; in all such matters we must look for the deeper impulses which are active in human evolution. If we try to identify the forces which have brought about the present catastrophe we shall find a remarkable cooperation between Americanism — in the sense here given — and Jesuitism. And from a wider point of view we see, on the one hand, how the inheritance from earlier times still influences our mental life, and on the other, the advent of something new. If we specify these two impulses as the Luciferic and Ahrimanic, we describe precisely the opposition toward that which must be introduced into the development of mankind for its salvation as true spiritual life. Anyone who approaches with inner sympathy such a figure as Bernard of Clairvaux, who in a certain sense inclines towards the Luciferic, will take account of the following attitude: “Human knowledge is after all directed only toward the physical-material; therefore we direct the soul to seek the divine-spiritual in the fervor of elemental experience.” This is what kindles enthusiasm in a temperament of that kind. We might say that what lives in human souls as a tendency toward this elemental side lives on in our own time, but there is also the other tendency — toward the dark and somber side. The 12th century had its Bernard of Clairvaux: ours has such figures as Lenin and Trotsky. As in former centuries there was an active inclination toward the supersensible, so now we find hatred for it, although expressed in different words and substance. That is the dark reverse side of those times: there the pouring of the human soul into the divine mould, here the pouring of man's being into an animal mould, on which alone the social structure is to be built.
These matters can be understood only if one has a clear grasp of one fact, which is far away from present-day comprehension. Our time is credulous in respect of theories, taking the content of ideas and programs as gospel, as I have often remarked. It is reality that counts, not theories and programs. The modern follower of Marx, at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, before the world war, would of course have said: “This is what Marx teaches, Engles teaches, Lassalle teaches, and that is all one needs for salvation.” He was concerned only with the “content” of ideas and programs. In reality it is never a question of that, for ideas are never carried into life in accordance with their content, but by means of forces which are quite distinct from it. No one knows the truth unless he knows that ideas often have little to do with reality, which may arise independently of their content. A splendid program can be devised, established, on a sound scientific basis, fervently longed for as the Marxists longed for theirs, but all to no purpose. For an age as unspiritual as ours, this is playing with fire. Men believe that they are working to realize the content of their ideas, but anyone who knows how things happen in life knows that the reality is quite different. If ideas are not derived from spiritual knowledge they may enter into cultural life as sheer monstrosities — and this applies to the ideas of Marx, which are intended to banish the spirit. However fine they may be, they become abortions. It is no use asking in the morning: “Why has it grown light through what has happened on the Earth?” One has to turn away from abstract ideas and say: “Daylight has come because the Sun is shining”. In going out beyond the Earth one sees the reason for the daylight. Similarly, if we want to understand “today” we must look away from what is happening in the immediate present to what took place in a time long past. Bolshevism cannot be understood except by recognizing it as an after-the fact of the Eighth Ecumenical Council of 869 A.D. You cannot understand it except as a result of the atrophy of the forces which man once had for apprehending the supersensible world. In order really to understand the happenings of the outer world, in order to confront them, we must perceive this inner connection. For anyone observing the relations of events in history it is the most fearful thing to see how movements which set out to reform the world are concerned only with the “subject-matter” of ideas, and refuse to reckon with their reality, which exists quite independently of whether their content is beautiful or not. Suppose a child is born, a beautiful child; his mother may be charmed. Mothers are sometimes charmed even when their children are not beautiful! He becomes a good for nothing, a ne'er-do-well, perhaps even a criminal. Is it therefore untrue to say that he was a beautiful child? Have people no right to say that he was? Does his childish beauty contradict the unforeseen things in his life? Just so there have been in many circles men with admirable ideas through which they wanted to reform the world, and these men were admired; yet the ideas became abortions! For ideas of themselves are but dead things; they must be animated by being received into the vigorous life of the spirit.
In reading modern socialistic publications one finds — if certain differences are left out of account — a great similarity between them and writings which express the standpoint of the Catholic Church, although the latter are differently expressed and deal with different realms. For instance, I recently read to you out of a certain brochure. Notice its thought-forms; compare what is said there with the rabid tendencies, whether cultured or not, which led gradually to Bolshevism; compared with the beginning of a publication by Kautsky or Lenin; you'll find the same thoughts. One is the development of the other. Nowhere does one get a stronger feeling of Catholicism than in reading certain dogmatic socialist utterances. But something which Catholicism forbids — philosophizing about certain things — has become a passion, a principle: the principle of declaring that all learning comes from the bourgeoisie, and all spiritual development from class warfare. This principle is the effect of the Catholic principle. Bolshevism may perhaps, in the form of its inception, have only a short existence: but all mankind will have to reckon long enough with what stands behind it. Anyone who knows how it all hangs together would not be surprised that Bolshevism should have dawned in the place where this way of thinking, in the bestial course it is followed, proceeded under cover of the Orthodox religion.
We must fathom all these things if we want to be conscious of the necessity for approaching the spiritual life in the right way. Mystical talk about it is out of place today. What is needed today is to apply spiritual knowledge so as to look into reality and to discover the connections belonging to it; because from such knowledge alone does the correct grasp of the world's events arise; never from a past inheritance, or from fear, or from this elementary new thing I have described, which can but lead deeply into chaos. In this animalized socialism we see displayed one result of what developed in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. It has a Luciferic element in it; the Luciferic “Original Sin” is within it. But what is now developing is the penalty for that general incapacity of human faculties for turning to the supersensible. These faculties have become truly impotent, and hatred and rejection of the supersensible arise in their place. There is not merely hatred and original sin, but punishment for the forsaking of the supersensible. This applies to much that is happening today.
The impulses active in human evolution take on various nuances, and events can be understood only in this light. The peoples of the Italian and Spanish peninsulas have come under the sway of Christianity in the course of its expansion, as well as the peoples of modern France and the British Isles. We know something of what has been unfolded among them. We know that on the Spanish and Italian peninsulas the sentient soul has blossomed forth, on French soil the intellectual or mind soul; here in mid-Europe the ego; and in eastern Europe in the same way a civilization of the spirit self is to be looked for, to be active only in the future and at present existing in germs which are now entirely hidden.
If only people would look at western Europe and understand its riddles through spiritual science! For instance, the characteristics of Italian regions (not those of single individuals, which of course grow out everywhere beyond the common norm) develop differently from those of French or British humanity. This last is so constituted that the nature of the people has a special connection with the consciousness soul. Through living in the consciousness soul man is banished to the physical plane, although not so strongly in the British Isles as in America. The result is that man, cut off first from the supersensible by ecclesiastical developments, will be led back to union with the cosmos — but it is only to the outer cosmos that he is led by the consciousness soul. Therefore the British people, as Britons, find their union with the cosmos only through economic principles. British thought is essentially economic, framed on economic lines. Anyone who grasps the connection of the consciousness soul with the physical world will see this necessity; also that the French national character (not that of individuals), having an affinity with the intellectual or mind soul, develops chiefly political thinking and feeling; while the Italian and Spanish in the same way have the sensuous side of the mind developed, because the sentient soul is directly connected with the nature of these people. I can only outline this, but it gives an idea of what lies in the characters of the peoples themselves.
If we look on the German essence, developing as it has in the midst of such a tragedy, we see that the ego dwells within it. The whole of German history becomes clear if we consider this fact, which is disclosed from the supersensible world. The ego of man is the principle that is least externally developed; it has remained man's most spiritual member. Thereby the German, inasmuch as he is connected through the ego with the spiritual world, is linked with it in the most spiritual way. He cannot achieve any connection with the cosmos economically, politically, or sensuously; he can achieve it only in so far as it manifests in the soul-life of single individuals — as the ego invariably does — and is then poured out over the people. It comes to expression most characteristically in what may be discerned as the essence of Goethe's genius, of Herder's and Lessing's, as something detached, a state higher than the physical-sensible. Hence comes a certain estrangement from the latter realm, a feeling of not really belonging to matter when the physical-sensible alone is in question; hence the great amount of “Americanism,” and of the elements which I prefer not to particularize, poured out over Germany during the last decades, have alienated it from the original activity destined for its national soul.
In a yet higher way eastern Europe will be connected with the spiritual through its national characteristics — and will develop a still higher civilization and a spiritual sense, as a reaction from what is now taking shape there. But that is a matter of the future; it is not yet in evidence and must first evolve out of the animal character in which it is still confined.
The countries of western Europe are directly connected by a lawful inheritance, so to speak, with the fourth post-Atlantean epoch. Something more recent, but opposed to “Americanism,” lies hidden in the German nature; a certain relation to the spiritual world, sought inwardly in the spiritual itself. The German soul, following its own peculiar nature, has no fear of the spiritual; rather an inclination toward it, such as is to be found, albeit in a higher form, in Goetheanism. This is plain speaking, of course; but you know that these things are brought forward from knowledge — not from chauvinism, nor said to please anyone here. You saw in the last lecture that I understand how not to speak flatteringly. One thing, however, must be said: within the German soul — though this is often forgotten in middle Europe — there is a dormant relation of the human spirit to the supersensible world which must be cultivated, and which is the exact opposite of everything else now manifesting on the Earth. Could we have recognized this — if only, alas, the last decades had not brought Americanism and Russian thoughts into this realm — how differently the impulse of science in middle Europe would have developed! You know from my other lectures that a science of soul and spirit might have flowed from Goetheanism — but it remained a disregarded impulse! Has it really been grasped at all? Not yet — although within its depths lies the true being of Germany, which is, as you will have gathered, a stranger to the others, for they are still to a great extent animated by the legacy of the old, as well as by the new. In middle Europe alone has something developed which has more or less emerged from the old and the new.
By many indications we see that Goetheanism is untouched by materialistic science. (Goethe is praised, of course, but an ex-finance Minister — Kreuzwendedich — is made President of the Goethe Society!) What exists in the true, inner element of the German nature will be experienced in other realms as a continual reproach. The easiest way to protect oneself against what by nature one cannot acknowledge is to slander it. We must look frankly at this. Such a living reproach can be evasively described as “delinquency.” This is a subjective way of escaping from the reproach. Here we touch upon an important psychological fact. The slander will spread further and further, rooted in the uncomfortable feeling that the special relationship of this ego to the spiritual does exist. It is necessary, however, to see clearly in these domains, not to shun a clear view of them, as is done today. Had we not so much conventionalism and Americanism among us, we should discern that German Goetheanism and Americanism are two opposite poles, and we should know that to regard these two currents of the present day with an unprejudiced mind is the only correct attitude to maintain. We should reject all exaggerated patriotism and look facts fully in the face.
If we did so, we would no longer laud Americanism to the skies as we have been wont to do and, since the characteristic trait of this Americanism is fear of the spirit, would come to see that the American element will increasingly act as a radically evil driving force in current catastrophic events. Those who say otherwise are short-sighted, not judging things in their real setting. Everything arising from the political attitude of the French, from the economic rigidity natural to the British, or from the elemental sensationalism — the so-called “sacred egoism” of the Italian people — all this, in view of the great events now playing their part, is but trivial compared to the especially evil element arising from Americanism.
There are three currents whose inner affinity and confluence produces a destructive effect upon human evolution. In diverse ways each has assimilated old legacies and a new element, as I tried to outline briefly today. The destructiveness lies in these three currents: firstly in everything we can call Americanism, which increasingly tends to invoke fear of the spirit and make the world into a place where only physical life can unfold. This is actually quite different from the British tendency to try to make the world into a trading company. Americanism seeks to make the world into a physical habitation, furnished as comfortably as possible, where one can live in comfort and prosperity. That is the political element of Americanism. Whoever does not detect it is blind to the facts and merely shuts his eyes and ears. Man's connection with the spiritual is bound to die out under such an influence. In these forces of Americanism lies what must actually bring the Earth to its end, destruction dooming it at last to death, because the spirit will be shut out from it.
The second destructive element is not only that of Catholicism, but all Jesuitism, which in essence is virtually allied to Americanism. If the latter is the cultivation of the impulse to build up fear of the spirit, so the former seeks to awaken the belief that one should not seek contact with the spirit, which it deems impossible; it wishes spiritual blessings to be dispensed by those who are called into the teaching office of the Catholic Church. This influence seeks to atrophy forces in human nature which incline to the supersensible.
The particular indications of the third stream can be seen arising in a terrible form in the East: a social state based on a purely animal, physical socialism. Without plastering it with dogmas, we call it “Bolshevism,” and it will not easily be overcome by mankind.
These are the three distinctive elements in the modern development of humanity. To bring knowledge to bear upon them, so that the events of the present day may be met in the right way, is possible only through spiritual science.
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