Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 23, 1916:
As our friends who are present for the meeting of the Building Association have not heard the recent lectures held here, I will not continue today with the subject that has now occupied us for some time. Instead, I will digress and speak during these days of things that can contribute to a wider understanding of what has already been presented but that can also be understood to some extent by itself. I want to touch quite briefly upon a leading thought that has been brought forward. It is, indeed, somewhat comprehensible from the whole character of spiritual science, but it is deepened when one adds to one's understanding the facts that have been presented in our recent studies. This thought can be expressed as follows. Human history can only be considered in its true reality when one learns to know the individual forms of the actuating spiritual powers that stand behind it, just as one can only get to know nature when one knows in its true form what works and lives behind sense perceptions.
We have frequently emphasized that the science of the spirit is related to what is commonly called science today much in the following way. Modern science, which has been pursued by mankind — rightly and for good reasons — for three or four centuries, resembles a description of single letters that are printed or written on a sheet of paper. At best, it resembles the phonetic or grammatical rules by which these letters are grouped into words or united to form sentences. What we call the laws of nature can be compared with phonetic or grammatical rules. Thus, if we were to examine a printed or written page and say that we can see first a stroke upwards to the right, a stroke going down to the left and so on, and then describe the other letters and perhaps even the rules pertaining to phonetics or grammar, this way of relating ourselves to a printed or written page would resemble what is correctly called science today. But if we were to do no more than observe in this way, our relation to the printed or written page would be completely inadequate because we can also read. Here, we pass on from mere observation and description of what is on the page to the meaning of the words. We can only learn to know this meaning when we advance from describing what meets the eye to what our faculties — our mind and its power — can make of it. By these means, we unite ourselves with the spirit that is ruling and working within these little beings that we call letters.
In contrast to ordinary science, spiritual science seeks to read the facts of the world, not merely to describe what is seen. When we have learned to do so, both the facts of nature and history, inasmuch as they first show themselves to us in forms that we can describe in movements or inner laws, are, figuratively speaking, like letters that can be read. In this domain the meaning of existence is revealed, that is, the meaning of life and all human activity insofar as the revelation is necessary to man. We also seek in this way the meaning of historical evolution and the concrete forces that stand behind it, conjuring it out of itself, as it were, just as a writer conjures forth from his thoughts what we afterward read from the dead characters set down on the written or printed page.
Now, we have tried to study the fundamental meaning of this modern age, which we describe as the fifth post-Atlantean cultural epoch. We know that it begins approximately in the period that is also described by external history as the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times. With the exception perhaps of its very last centuries, but including the fourteenth and perhaps part of the fifteenth, we look upon this period of the Middle Ages as belonging to the fourth post-Atlantean cultural epoch, calling it the Greco-Latin in accordance with the fundamental character of its spiritual and material life. It begins in the eighth century before the event of the Mystery of Golgotha.
If we consider the evolution of humanity only in the way that ordinary history does — this, too, has often been spoken of here and elsewhere — we then easily arrive at the idea that human evolution, to the extent that it can be spoken of at all, has always consisted of man as we know him today and has always progressed more or less in the same way. When one looks back, one imagines that one sees historical evolution in such a way that the human being remains unchanged and just about the same. Such a view does not hold good for a real spiritual observation of history, as we know. The truth is that humanity changes considerably as time passes. The man of the tenth or twelfth centuries of the Christian era differed more radically from the man of the present time than is believed today when people are so little inclined to look into mankind's evolution. If one considers the whole configuration of the social life of the soul, the way of thinking and the very manner of life, then this difference becomes manifest not only among the educated in whom problems of world conception, science and knowledge play a part, but is also seen in the simplest, most primitive men. Although the world knows little of it, the simplest farmer today is, in his whole configuration of soul, an essentially different being inwardly from the man of the eighth, ninth and tenth Christian centuries.
Again, we can say of the modern age also, which, as it has evolved from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, bears essentially the character of the present, that it completed the first small segment of its course approximately in the middle of the nineteenth century. As we have often mentioned, this is an important point in time. I have frequently drawn attention to a saying that is used incessantly, yet is completely false when understood in the way it is usually meant. Nature, it is said, knows no leaps. In reality, however, we see how life makes leaps everywhere. It really only progresses through leaps. Speaking in the Goethean sense, it is a leap when, through metamorphosis, the leaf of a plant develops from the root, the flower petal again from the leaf and the organs of the fruit from the petal. It is, however, conveniently prejudicial to believe that human history proceeds without leaps. Such is not the case. Human history advances in great undulating waves that do not simply follow the one upon the other. Rather, at certain times what comes later places itself abruptly beside the earlier. Men, however, are not accustomed to observe things accurately or it would strike them that in the sphere of evolution powerful forces are to be observed that by means of breaks and periods, with wave-like depressions and elevations, bring evolution forward.
One could say that the conclusion of a particular evolutionary process was reached in the year 1840, that is, in the middle of the nineteenth century. In the period from the fifteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth, humanity was evolving quite distinct faculties that were not present in the same way in an earlier period. One is entirely mistaken if one believes, for instance, that the Copernican world conception or the art of printing could just as well have appeared in human evolution in an earlier century than the one in which they did. The progress of human evolution is just as organic as individual human development. Just as the child of twelve or thirteen lacks the capacity to do things in the world that might be done by a man or woman of thirty five, just as faculties must evolve in the life of an individual in accord with his age, it is also the same with humanity. The special faculties that came to the fore in Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler and later in the scientists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, did not formerly exist. In fact, they correspond to a particular period of human evolution that falls within those centuries. The Greeks or Romans could not have looked at the world similarly because the faculties for doing so were simply not in existence in their time. The individual human would not be perfected if he did not gradually evolve faculties suited to each period of life; neither would humanity become complete in its way if faculties, whose foundations already exist in man's general nature, did not gradually emerge. That these faculties develop, that mankind gradually puts forth what lies within its being is the fundamental fact of human evolution.
Now, what is the nature of these special faculties that evolved in man from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries? They are mainly the forces making possible an intellectual grasp of the world through reason. Nowadays, people on the whole believe that the Ptolemaic world conception belonged to the Middle Ages. Then came the Copernican. We believe we have made wonderful progress. Those in the Middle Ages were really quite foolish to accept anything so imperfect as the Ptolemaic world conception and now we, at last, have the true view.
As a matter of fact, those people think but little in accord with reality who are not willing to admit that when we are as far removed in time from Copernicus as Copernicus was from Ptolemy, men will again have a different concept of the heavens. The development of humanity is in constant flux and by that time, the Copernican system will be regarded just as the Ptolemaic system was regarded by the Copernicans. Even though it gives the impression today of being pure nonsense when one says another world conception, which will differ as much from the Copernican as the Copernican from the Ptolemaic, will replace the Copernican world conception in future, this truth is nevertheless quite evident to those who have an inner comprehension of what lives and weaves in the growth of humanity. The special method of applying merely the intellect to natural phenomena in an external way, which has created the natural science of the last three or four centuries, represents the faculty that belongs to those centuries. It is clear to those who know how humanity advances that mankind was actually ripe from the middle of the nineteenth century on for the gradual development of other faculties. But man must increasingly take his own affairs in hand. More than in any previous age he is given the task today of doing something toward adding fresh faculties to those gained in the last three or four centuries. Why have these faculties arisen that can keenly, penetratingly and logically master the outer surface of phenomena so that they can then be expressed in natural laws? For what purpose have these faculties appeared that penetrate so little below the surface of things, yet observe so meticulously and scientifically all that lies on the surface? They have appeared because only by their means can man go through a certain stage of his development.
In earlier ages man had other faculties. When we go back in historical evolution, we find that the further we go the more possible it was for man to look into the spiritual world. But the faculties he then had were not such that he could use them in freedom. They were more or less involuntary. The force enabling him to reach a certain knowledge came over man in earlier ages somewhat in the way in which the desire for sleep overtakes a man. It was, however, a force that entered the spiritual world. In order for man to take a step forward toward achieving the faculty of making free decisions and developing freedom, he had to be separated from the forces that, in earlier times, brought him nearer the spiritual world but also allowed him less freedom. Man had to pass through a period of development in which he was shut off as by a veil or sheath from the spiritual world so that he might become freer. To be sure, this development is still far from complete but a first stage reached its conclusion in the middle of the nineteenth century. Those who know something of the spiritual life behind the sensory life recognize that since that time it is a growing necessity for other forces to be added to those of observation and knowledge based on mere intellect. These other forces slumber in the human soul and must be developed, even as the forces have evolved that have brought humanity to achieve the great advances of the last three or four centuries.
Thus, it is for the sake of freedom that humanity has gone through the intellectual development of the last three or four centuries. This intellectual development has led to a conception of the world that is materialistic in a far-reaching sense. It is a materialistic conception that is still in full force wherever a conception of the world penetrates extensively or intensively into world affairs. However much it may be said in scientific circles that materialism has already receded, those who imagine it to have withdrawn often do not have the least idea how deeply and firmly they themselves are still held in materialistic concepts. The materialistic outlook, which is in its way admirable, has emerged in the last three or four centuries. It is not to be criticized because man has need of it, but it can, however, never advance beyond a grasp of the dead and lifeless. Were the intellectual conception of the world alone to hold sway in human earthly evolution, man would only understand the dead and lifeless. All understanding of life and the living, to say nothing of the spiritual, would be lost. The lifeless alone can be the object of the kind of scientific study that has made such magnificent progress in the last three or four centuries. Those individuals, however, who know what is necessary for humanity have gradually become fewer during this time. They understand why it is that since the middle of the nineteenth century a certain longing has arisen, as if through some inner process in man, to know something about the spiritual worlds. The peculiar thing is that this longing took a form that was in harmony with the materialistic feeling of the age. Man wanted to learn to know the spirit in a materialistic way, since habits are lost far less rapidly than longings. It was along materialistic lines that man wished to find the spirit, and this materialistic knowledge of the spirit was often fostered and generously bestowed even by those who really know what is necessary for humanity. Hence there arose the various materialistic branches of science that set out to prove that spiritual activity lies behind the sense world. All that has been set going in order to arrive at knowledge of the spiritual through the hypnotic element, the element of suggestion, and even through spiritism or spiritualism, as it is called, is nothing but an attempt to research the spirit by materialistic means.
Humanity had become accustomed to recognize as true only what had been verified by means of investigation in a laboratory or clinic. Now, in the same way, through external operations following precisely the pattern of the natural scientific method, a method was elaborated that should give manifest proof of the spirit. Important results have undoubtedly been attained on this path. In addition, of course, there has been a good deal of charlatanism and swindling. Indeed, we know that certain learned men and scientists who must be taken seriously have devoted themselves to these matters because they have felt it necessary to show man, who must otherwise fall prey to materialism, that a spiritual world exists, surrounding us just as does what we see with our eyes and grasp with our hands. So, in the course of human evolution after the middle of the nineteenth century, we have these efforts to make men understand that there is a spiritual world around us just as there is a world that we perceive with our senses.
We have spoken many times of the value of knowledge that is obtained by dulling the forces of mind and soul that are right for our age, so that man is made into an instrument in a mediumistic way for letting all sorts of spiritual realities and facts enter the sense world. As I say, we have repeatedly spoken of the worth — or lack of it — of these methods. Today I want to make clear what meaning it had for historical evolution for men to wish to kill off and cripple just what it is right for them to possess in this present time; that is, full conscious insight into the spiritual world, and, turning from this, to become an instrument through which what is really around us spiritually emerges in the physical world. It corresponds to a deep necessity in historical evolution because conscious thinking, through what it had to become in the last three or four hundred years, had been one sided in its development. Thought had become attenuated and consequently also powerless because it had to stop short at the surface of things in order to create human freedom. But for this reason thought was quite unable to penetrate below the surface.
It was the intention to drive out thought and to guide the human soul back to its primitive constitution, in this way meeting the difficulty of the thinking that had become powerless in the new age and could no longer find strength to penetrate into the spiritual world. As a result, something arose that is far more widespread than the ordinary person imagines, that is, the search for the spirit along materialistic paths. With the expulsion of conscious knowledge in which, regarding the spiritual world, they had lost confidence, men wished to dip down into the spiritual world through a subconscious knowledge and a lowering of consciousness. There were always, however, other persons who did not enter into this phenomenon of the time merely instinctively as did the ordinary scientists and most spiritists or spiritualists, but who knew, nevertheless, what was going on. Such persons have always existed. They had great expectations of the movement just described. In general, one can say that those persons who have preserved an exact knowledge of the spiritual world during the last three or four centuries, and even up to today, fall into different groups. There are those who expected nothing from such a materialistic way of research into the spiritual world; but there are also those who hoped that from it men would come to the conviction that a spiritual world does exist in our environment. Nevertheless, none of this group was sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to see why this approach must be in vain.
Those students of spiritual science who expected nothing from this materialistic approach had good reasons for this, which have been justified by the consequences that have arisen from this entrance — rather, this hoped for entrance — into the spiritual world. Take all that has come about on this path, go through all that has come to light from the most primitive beginnings of amateur mediums and mediumistic seances to the subtlest things that certain scholars have brought about in this sphere — go through all this and you will find that by far the greatest part of what has happened consists in the fact that experiences have been gathered of which those through whom the experiences were gained said they had received them from the spirits of the dead. Far and away the greater number of the experiences were described as emanating from the spirits of men who had died. Little is to be found that has not been described as originating in this way. This was certainly a great surprise to those acquainted with spiritual knowledge who had looked on this development with good will. That the mediums should say that what they brought to light was obtained from the spirits of the dead was something that must have caused the greatest surprise because it was the last thing one would expect when one really considered the evolution of humanity. Something quite different would have been expected.
What was to be expected was that by these means a knowledge would come about of the spiritual world that, at the present time, surrounds us while we are alive. That is what one might have expected to find by making experiments, for example, as to how one man affects another, how the men of the present are linked together by secret threads invisible to ordinary science, how in one soul things arise that originate from quite another soul. In reality, a network of spiritual connections is drawn from soul to soul. Inasmuch as we stand within the world — if, for instance, we are standing here, then we do not merely see the light, the surroundings, people as they are externally and physically, but inasmuch as we are in the world, spiritual threads or currents pass every moment from soul to soul in the most varied manner. One gets nowhere if one speaks in general terms of some sort of connection between souls that is distinguishable by the senses. The solution is to be found by thinking of individual threads or streams between all the different souls. We are actually surrounded by a spiritual world just as we are by a physical one. That this should emerge is what might have been expected, but little indeed has come out concerning this. Throughout the sixty or seventy years during which attempts have been made to enter the spiritual world by materialistic paths, least of all has been learned about the living connections linking men with one another. The mediumistic manifestations and revelations have always referred to the spirits of the departed. Nor, in truth, could anything else happen by this method. Why? What, then, had actually been happening through this attempt to enter the spiritual world?
As a matter of fact, nothing had been achieved other than the knowledge of what comes to light if one expels the best qualities of the new age from human consciousness and leads man back to earlier times, to subconscious conditions of soul. The remains of this subconscious condition that had carried over into the new age were now laid bare. It was this that was revealed. Just consider, then, that a quite definite consciousness had been prepared and developed in the last three centuries. This consciousness had veiled the spiritual world and by so doing had taken away the power of direct connection with it. But nothing had been done toward developing new forces for new connections with the spiritual world. Nothing had come out but the old connections, which went in the direction of that to which they had been linked earlier. They did not unite with what was living in the contemporary environment but with death, with the lifeless. This was so because the direction of man's evolution in the last three or four centuries and more has so determined the character of his soul that it is really particularly adapted for the knowledge of the dead and lifeless. Here in the material world, through the kind of knowledge that belongs to modern times, one learns about the lifeless. Through the forces that one draws up from the deep underground of the soul, one does not know about the living but the dead. Thus, all these experiments did not open up a path to the living men of the spiritual, but to what is dead, to what one finds as dead in the spiritual world.
What is the nature of this dead element? It is not human beings, that is to say, the souls who, speaking spiritually, are our contemporaries. So, if we take such an experiment as has been described, undertaken in 1870, let us say, it would not, through laying bare the subconscious soul forces, have given a connection with the living present. In fact, it would not have made a connection with the living souls of 1870, but only with what had remained behind from these living, progressing souls — in other words, with the loosened remnants that were gradually disintegrating in earthly existence but that were still active. To be sure, the mediums always interpreted things in such a way that they claimed relationship to the dead who were spiritually still living. That was, however, a misinterpretation. In reality, it was not a matter of the souls as they then were, but of what they had been in ages past, or, respectively, what they had become after these remnants had been long ago loosened from the souls. Recollect how I have explained what Goethe represents in the Lemurs scene and you will know that much of what is released from the soul at death continues to exist. It was only with what is really dead and does not live on with the living soul that one could connect oneself with the spiritual world through that materials [materialistic] pathway.
If, through contemporary science, one reached a knowledge of the material, the lifeless, the dead, so also through this spiritual longing that had to be satisfied along materialistic paths one reached nothing but a knowledge of the dead though, to be sure, it was a knowledge of the super-sensible. Contemporary materialistic science found only the external dead. This apparently spiritual but, from their methods, actually materialistic science found the super-sensible dead. From this one could learn something immensely significant, that in the middle of the nineteenth century an age had closed; that humanity needed new forces of development if it would enter the truly living; that for a period of time only those forces had been brought to their zenith that lead to the dead, lead in all fields to the lifeless and to knowledge and worship of the lifeless.
One only gives such things their rightful place if one does not merely let them work on the soul abstractly and intellectually, but when one receives them in their deep moral significance and lets them make a sort of moral impression on the soul. Indeed, we are shown that although these intellectual powers with which man has made such splendid progress have brought him to a certain summit of attainment. Yet, they are only fitted for approaching the lifeless. The content of human soul life could gradually only be directed to what is dead. To him who can perceive the course of man's evolution, it is unquestionably clear how the foremost currents of modern thought lead more or less directly to a cult and worship of the lifeless; the working that is felt in respect of the outer material natural order where such wonderful progress has been made is but a cult and worship of the dead. Why are people so gripped by the last cantos of Hamerling's Homunculus? Because, after Hamerling has shown how modern mankind is really hastening into a sort of homunculus era, he shows what it signifies for man, in respect of the great cosmic mysteries, to try to lift himself above gravitation through purely mechanical forces. His last canto shows us the dirigible, the Zeppelin before it existed, and all that was still in the future. At the same time, he makes us aware of what is linked with this extreme mechanizing, which is to say, the killing, the homunculizing, of life in the development of human civilization.
Spiritual knowledge, however, has never died out; it is always safeguarded somewhere, and there are individuals in every age who are able to obtain it. It was saved even through the period in which it counted for least, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, being preserved like a fine thread. Those of whom I spoke as holding no expectations from the materialistic path into the spiritual world perceived something else as well. They were of the opinion that our modern way of feeling and thinking, as it has developed in the last centuries, can be further trained and developed so that out of clear-headed materialistic methods a knowledge then can develop gradually that which can even work in a sufficiently penetrating way to get under the surface of things and into the spirit. That is what the real method of spiritual science ought to be — to enter into the spiritual world along the same path that man has entered into nature during the last three or four centuries. All that is necessary is a further development of the scientific habits that mankind has evolved in this period. The point is that in a corresponding way, through a real exertion and effort, avoiding indolence, man has to develop further the thinking habits already evolved.
But now it may be asked why there are so many who, in spite of knowing something of the spiritual world, have remained silent concerning it. It must be repeatedly emphasized that spiritual knowledge was always there. Although it had to be developed in different ways in different ages, it has always existed. Why, then, have so many people been afraid to impart this spiritual knowledge? It has been disseminated in our circle because the recognition of the need to do so outweighs everything. In fact, however, only certain portions of spiritual knowledge can be imparted, as you know, and that only on quite definite grounds. You see, spiritual knowledge was also in existence in another and more unconscious or subconscious form before the Mystery of Golgotha. Then, man was connected with the spiritual world in a more instinctive way than is possible for him without injury today. Moreover, a great portion of mankind was omitted because the way to the spiritual world was only open to those who received fitting preparation. These individuals were prepared in a way that would not occur to those who speak of a preparation for science consisting of intellectual knowledge.
Today men are of the opinion that the moral qualities of one who is to receive instruction are of secondary importance and that knowledge does not depend on moral qualities. In ancient times, this was absolutely different. Then, when knowledge was communicated through the mysteries, it was imparted only to those who had undergone a special and strict moral discipline. Nothing beyond at most mathematical knowledge, with which one can do but little harm, or literary knowledge could be reached without undergoing strict moral discipline. Things were only imparted to those deemed to be fitted for them after they had undergone a certain severe moral test. First came the training toward virtue and then the communication of wisdom. Training in virtue and, in particular, the training of moral courage was an absolute necessity and it was held to be of paramount importance. Owing to lack of time, I cannot enlarge upon this today, but there was a conviction that knowledge can only benefit the world when what can be done by a man who knows, is done only by one who is good. However improbable it seems to people who look on earlier ages as barbaric and think that nowadays we have made such wonderful progress — so wonderful, in fact, that thousands are bathed in blood every week — in those earlier ages there was a conviction that no one should be allowed to make use of knowledge in what they did until he had undergone the strictest moral discipline. Those who had not were to live merely instinctively, led by those who had undergone the moral training and discipline.
The modern age is not adapted for directly applying such a principle. Just imagine how such a principle might be realized today when everyone says what he knows as soon as possible — or even has it published — and no one can prevent it. It would be illusory to think that anything, social institution or whatever, could stop it. Today is the day of publicity. What, then, must replace this older principle of only allowing men who had undergone moral discipline to attain Knowledge? It must be replaced with the assurance that the imparted knowledge itself must contain a certain force that brings forth good through itself, actually and really to bring forth of itself what is good.
The entire spiritual scientific movement must aim at achieving this. All knowledge entering the world through the science of the spirit must be so ordered that it engenders the good through itself and its own force. You will say that the efforts that have been made in modern times with the treasures of knowledge inherent in the science of the spirit have not yet completely realized this goal. No, because everything has to work its way through its various hindrances. The hidden feeling of the good in spiritual science has, however, been the reason that it has been fought not only with logic but also hatred. You will ask, “But do not all reasonable people really desire the good?” As it is generally understood nowadays, one could say, “Yes, all reasoning people desire the good.” But what really counts is not that someone thinks he would like the good or that he desires it, but that he wills it, that he absolutely will have it. That is the point. If one considers the achievements of modern civilization from the point of view of their moral defects, those moral defects that work in the lifeless, one will find that the world needs a wisdom that, along with being wisdom, also causes good. Materialistic science, however, is indifferent to good and evil. It uses what it creates from matter just as well for good as for evil, serving one just as willingly as the other.
Here, again, we have a point where, if we look at the world as a whole and its course of development, we can perhaps see the necessity for the science of the spirit. It is not enough to shut ourselves away in a little circle and form a world conception. The smallest circles are surrounded on every side by the great network of human evolution. Let us look at the manifest results of European civilization in the last three years. If we do not follow an ostrich policy but with truly throbbing hearts enter lovingly into our surroundings, we shall see these results and grasp what they are bringing us. Because the one or other of us is protected from what rages against Europe today is no reason for turning away from the terrible state into which modern civilization has been hurled. It is there, as present fact.
It may be useful at this point to comment on a new publication. A book, good of its kind, has lately been written that endeavors to judge from the standpoint of human feeling and moral perception the problems that have agitated the world during the last two years. It is a good book, recently published, that tries to show with a certain all embracing survey how man can escape from the evil network of blood and hate in which modern civilization finds itself. It was written by a Chinese author whom I mentioned to some of our friends four or five years ago as an important personality when his first book on European conditions was published. This new book by Ku Hung Ming, a highly cultured Chinese, is good and contains much that is objective. It reveals a man who avoids the mistakes that many make; a man who stands aloof from these errors.
Many people have opinions today; many give vent to one or another opinion about the conditions of our age. The greater part of what is presented, however, is not said in order to give expression to what people really think but to deafen themselves to what actually exists. We see streams of hatred flow over the world. Why are they set going? Why is this or that said? Do you imagine that those who say, “The Pope should excommunicate a whole nation,” and energetically demand it, think that they have really reached this conclusion from objective events? Do you believe that these people possess the calm of objective knowledge? They say it to deafen themselves so as not to have to admit to themselves what should be admitted. A great part of what is said today is intended to close one's ears. Some people will not admit to themselves what they really ought to admit. They say one thing or another merely to avoid saying what they ought to say.
This Chinese, Ku Hung Ming, does not proceed in this way. He says, “When one sees what has developed in Europe, what has happened there and the forces that are at work, one can do nothing but admit that things had to come about as they have. In its one sided cultivation the materialism that developed in the nineteenth century was bound to lead to these consequences and it is bound to lead even further, ending in the final downfall of European culture.” Ku Hung Ming is quite convinced that European culture must go under if Europeans refuse to become like the Chinese and if Chinese conditions do not spread over Europe. The only salvation for European culture, so he says, is for Europeans to become Chinese, that is, become Chinese in their souls. Much of what he says is deeply impressive. One should not take it lightly that a wise man of today can find no way out for European culture other than finally merging it all — everything in it that has led it ad absurdum — in good Chinese principles. I will not elaborate Ku Hung Ming's ideas on the methods for making Europe Chinese. Of course, we should see at once that we cannot become Chinese or return to the position of Chinese culture, but if there were no other way out than the one Ku Hung Ming sees, then that would be better than to continue on the path that European culture has taken. It would definitely be better. It would be better to become Chinese than to proceed further on the course that materialistic civilization has pursued thus far, because disintegration would be inevitable. Do not believe, however, that it can be prevented by any of the old means and methods.
As a matter of fact, spiritual science has always been somewhat in agreement with the opinion of Ku Hung Ming — not regarding Chinese civilization but rather the first part of his statement. It therefore fosters, as its great ideal, drawing knowledge from the spiritual world that leads back into it, and that also can make men good through its own force; that is, a knowledge working morally through its own force and engendering moral impulses. So, as scientists of the spirit our answer would not be, like Ku Hung Ming's, to “become Chinese,” but rather to seek by paths of spiritual science to bring about the fructification of European culture because that is actually the only way it can be brought about. This striving toward new sources of human knowledge and activity is absolutely necessary for European humanity. The bitterest tears could be shed over much that meets one today when a book such as that of Ku Hung Ming is read, for these times of ours are more grave than many believe. There are many things in human life that separate man from man, and it is from this separation of souls that all the frightful conditions we are experiencing come. This separation will only be overcome through a knowledge that conceives of the human being beyond all divisiveness, through a knowledge that is for every single human being. All those divisions upon which men build their feelings today are actually only valid here in the physical world. When one sees the sympathy and antipathy poured out today, and when one sees that they come only from the unspiritual, then in all this outpouring of sympathy and antipathy one also recognizes the denial of the spirit.
All racial hatred, for instance, is really also a fight against the spirit. Because this age of ours is so strongly inclined to fight against the spirit, it therefore possesses this talent for racial hatred. Here is one of the deepest secrets of our present spiritual culture; the only way out is through the living grasp of the spirit.
Just think how, the moment we fall asleep and our ego and astral body leave behind our physical and etheric bodies, we are in a world where all that leads to sympathy and antipathy simply does not exist. In the moment that follows falling asleep we are united with those whom we look upon from the consciousness of our time with the deepest antipathy. We must pass through their souls in the realm of interpenetrability. We can rage as we will and hurl tirades of hatred against this man or that, but as soon as we fall asleep and enter the realm where all interpenetrates, we must pass through the souls of those we hate. The facts concerning such actual realities must now be made known. What I have just said is elementary, but if one enters more and more into the knowledge of actual reality, then the very entering possesses the force to create the impulse of the good. One only learns to know the real significance of hatred and unfounded antipathy in the world when one sees their effects in the spiritual world. He who knows what hate is in the spiritual world ceases to hate lest he put himself straight into the service of certain evil powers.
Since a larger number of friends than usual is gathered here for the meeting of the Building Association, I especially wished to speak about these earnest matters today. Those who have heard my last lectures will be able to connect what has now been said with what we studied before. Even if it has been no more than a digression, it can nevertheless throw light on many impulses that are being enacted in the world historical evolution of the present time.
Post a Comment