Saturday, October 21, 2017
Reconnecting with the cosmos
Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms. Lecture 15.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, September 10, 1920:
If we make a survey of what takes place in the civilized world today, of what is present in it, we actually find — indeed, we may say this after the many explanations which have already been given — that civilization is increasingly falling into ruin. If we understand what spiritual science can tell us about the secrets of the universe, we must realize quite clearly that everything that takes place outside in the physical world has its source in the spiritual world. The causes for what takes place at any time in the historical development of mankind also lie in the spiritual world. Another truth, which cannot be called to mind too frequently, is that in the present moment of time, humanity's condition requires each individual to contribute something toward the reconstruction of culture from his own inner being. We no longer live in an age in which it suffices to believe that the gods will help. In the present time, the gods do not count on human beings recognizing them and their intentions, and much that a short time ago was not yet left to mankind is left to men's decisions today.
Such a truth must be grasped in all its gravity, and basically by each one individually. To do this it will be necessary, above all, to understand a number of things that we have outgrown. Gradually, in the course of the materialistic age, one might say that the human being has reached the point of grasping everything from a certain absolute standpoint, a standpoint, moreover, that differs according to the human being's age. When a person is twenty-five years old today, he feels called upon to judge everything. He believes that it is possible to have a final opinion about everything without undergoing any kind of development. Perhaps when he reaches the age of fifty, he may look down with a certain sense of superiority upon his faculty of judgment twenty-five years ago. At age twenty-five, however, he will in no way feel drawn as a result of his upbringing to seek and reckon with the more mature judgment of a man of fifty.
Among the causes underlying our present chaos, the one just outlined is by no means the least important; instead, it is one of the most significant, though admittedly one that had to exercise its influence upon the whole evolution of mankind. Only by man's feeling completely emancipated in a certain sense from the whole world context; by adopting an absolute standpoint not only personally in the life between birth and death, but at any given moment of this life; by assuming the standpoint that he is able to judge everything in a sovereign manner; only because this illusion was added to the many other illusions of life — and in the merely physical world everything is in a sense illusion — the course of human development will gradually lead the single human being toward freedom.
We should bear in mind, however, the great difference between our present epoch, which sets out from this standpoint, and the past epochs, in which entirely different life impulses lay at the foundation of human existence. We must pay heed to the life impulses of former times, which in turn are intended to become those of the future, to which all efforts in the present should be directed again. Indeed, such earlier life impulses must be observed. They only disappeared slowly and gradually in the course of human evolution, and we underestimate the whole tempo of modern spiritual development if we do not perceive the speed with which, in a few centuries, materialistic impulses have melted away a tremendous amount of the spirituality that once existed.
In order to gain some starting points for a real study of the present, which we shall pursue tomorrow, let's turn our minds back to, say, the best period of ancient Egyptian life. Naturally, in the life of ancient Egypt or ancient Chaldea, there certainly existed social institutions in the outer world as well. These social structures were inaugurated and implemented by certain human beings. However, these individuals did not make judgments by pursuing thoughts in their wise heads on how to come up with the best social arrangements, or by following their opinions on what might be right for the communal life of people. Instead, they turned to the initiation centers. In actual fact, the sage who was initiated into the mysteries of the universe in these centers was the actual leading adviser of the highest social rulers, who, depending on their rank and maturity, were in large part themselves initiates into the cosmic secrets. When one was supposed to make provisions concerning the affairs of the social order, one did not consult the clever human brain — in the literal sense of the word — but one consulted those who were capable of interpreting the heavenly signs. For one knew that when a stone falls to the ground this is connected with the forces of the earth; when it rains, that has to do with the forces of the air — the atmosphere. If, on the other hand, human destinies should be fulfilled that are supposed to interact with each other, this has nothing to do with any natural laws that can be figured out in the above manner. It has to do with those laws that could be traced in the cosmos by means of what makes the course of the stars evident. So, the course of the stars was read in the same way we read the time of day from a clock. We do not say “One hand of my clock is down here on the right, the other is on the left.” Rather, we say “We know that this position indicates that the Sun has set so many hours ago, and so forth.” Likewise, these individuals who could read the course of the stars said to themselves “This or that constellation of the stars signifies to us one or the other intention on the part of those divine spiritual beings who guide and direct everything we may call human destiny.” One beheld the intentions of those accompanying spiritual beings of the cosmos by looking up to the course of the stars. One was clearly aware that not everything that man has to know reveals itself here on Earth; indeed, the most important things he has to be aware of, the forces that work in his social life, reveal themselves in manifestations observable in the cosmos outside the earthly sphere. One knew that the concerns of humanity here on Earth cannot be managed unless one investigates the intentions of the gods in the realm outside Earth. Therefore everything that was to be accomplished here within the social order was connected with the sphere outside the Earth.
Where do we find any inclination today to investigate these great signs visible in the cosmos outside the Earth, when here or there the belief arises again that some reform movement should be introduced? A far more important symptom than materialism, than anything which has arisen in the form of natural-scientific materialism, is the fact that man no longer consults the cosmos outside the Earth in regard to his earthly concerns. One does not become spiritual by setting up theories concerning the human being or anything in the universe; one will only become spiritual if one understands how to connect humanity's earthly concerns with the cosmos outside the Earth.
In that case, however, one has to be convinced, above all, that the affairs of this world do not allow themselves to be arranged according to the judgments acquired by mere natural-scientific education. Then, one has to be able to introduce into the whole civilizing education the capacity to connect the sphere transcending the Earth with earthly concerns once more. Then, it was necessary, above all, to discern more clearly how this capacity was lost in the course of human evolution, and how we gradually arrived at the point of wanting to judge everything only from an earthly standpoint. Let us consider something that is now prevalent in the world, a component of social agitation.
You have all heard of the effort appearing everywhere to introduce compulsory labor — to require a person to work by means of some social order based on the legal decrees of this social order — no longer to appeal merely to what obliges man to work, namely, hunger and other motivations, but in fact to establish compulsory labor legally.
We see how, on one side, this compulsory labor is demanded by socialistic agitation. We note how, in Soviet Russia, this compulsory labor has already led to a downright rigid form, with human life taking on the aspect of life in the barracks. We also find that radical socialists enthusiastically uphold compulsory labor. We see also how the sleeping souls of the present receive news such as this, how government officials here or there have even determined to introduce compulsory labor. One reads this like any other news item, and does not pay it much attention. One rises in the morning as one usually does, eats breakfast, has lunch, goes into the country for the summer holidays, returns again and, in spite of the fact that the most important and fundamental events are taking place in the world, one behaves as one has always been accustomed to behave. Yet, mankind should not insist on clinging to old habits. Mankind should take seriously what it is that matters today, namely, having to relearn about all conditions of life. Even when we see that the demand for compulsory labor is being opposed, what are the viewpoints from which these matters are attacked? We have to admit that the opponents are as a rule not much brighter than those who advance these demands. For the most part, they will ask “Well, can a person still find joy in his work?”— or something like that. All the reasons cited for and against the above are worth more or less the same, because they arise from the same judgments that are limited only to what takes place here between birth and death; they do not originate from a sufficient insight into life. When the spiritual scientist comes and says “Go ahead and introduce compulsory labor, but in ten years you will have terrible results, for suicides will increase at an alarming rate,” people will view such a statement as fantasy. They will not recognize that this conclusion is derived from an inner knowledge of the relationships existing in the universe. They will not be willing to study spiritual science and to discover the basis from which one can find such a judgment justified. Instead, people will go on living as usual — some getting up in the morning, breakfasting and lunching, traveling into the country for the summer and more of the same, others sleeping away their time in some other manner, refusing to take these questions seriously. Still others will found clubs, social associations, women's associations, and so forth — things that are admittedly quite nice — but when such efforts are not connected to the actual cosmic order, they lead nowhere. Our age is much too conceited to abandon absolute standpoints which assume that, at any age, one definitely has a conclusive judgment about all things.
During these days and in the last few weeks I have explained the way in which the various branches of the threefold social organism have originated in the different territories of Earth evolution. I have said that, fundamentally speaking, all our spiritual life is only a transformation of what originated a long time ago in the Orient. But when we look into what was described on numerous occasions in the past few weeks from one aspect, and investigate it in regard to the standpoints which I have indicated just now, we find that, insofar as it referred to human destiny, all this knowledge of the Orient was deciphered from the course of the stars, from what exists outside the Earth, and the Greek concept of destiny was the last ramification of such extraterrestrial wisdom.
Then came the knowledge arising from the Middle region. As we indicated, this was a more juristic knowledge; it was something that man drew more out of his own being. It was not linked with observations of the cosmos outside the Earth. I told you that the higher world outlook of the Occident has been permeated with a juristic element, how the events that run their course in humanity's development were placed under juristic concepts. Punishment is meted out by a cosmic judge, just as the human judge hands down a penalty for some external misdeed. It was a juristic view, a juristic manner of conception, that permeated the entirely different form of the Oriental conceptions concerning the spiritual world.
This view of the spiritual world was connected with the fact that in the initiation centers those who were found to be sufficiently mature were initiated into the nature of that which was sent down to Earth from invisible realms by what was revealed in the visible. Then, the events that were to take place on Earth were guided according to the intentions of initiation. Naturally in the case of such a knowledge it is necessary to take into consideration more than the singular standpoint of any given age, by which one believes oneself able to make an absolute judgment on all sorts of matters. From the viewpoint of initiation the whole evolution of man must be considered, also what the human being brings into earthly existence through birth, and what can reveal itself to him when, in earthly life, he beholds a revelation of the supersensible existence.
In recent times something that was basically a science of the heavens has become permeated with a juristic element. This celestial science itself and its fate must be considered a little now. The sacred knowledge of the Orient was something that was cultivated in its purest form in the initiation centers perhaps 10,000 years ago in the Orient. Later on, although no longer in such pure form, it was cultivated in Egypt in a still relatively pure manner. Having become popularized in a certain sense, it was used by swindlers and conjurers on the streets of the later imperial Rome, although transformed into visible magic tricks. This is, after all, the course of world events; something that is sacred in one epoch can turn into the most unholy thing in a later age. While the highest Oriental knowledge belonged to the streets in the later imperial Roman time, juristic thinking was developing out of Romanism itself on the basis of the late Egyptianism, and subsequently dominated the world. In the ages that followed, but only slowly and gradually, what had once been brought down from the stars as human wisdom in the Orient grew dim and finally died out. For even in the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas[ Note 91 ] still said: “Human destiny, all of destiny occurring in the sublunar world, is guided by the Intelligences of the stars. It is, however, by no means something inevitable for man.” So this Catholic-Christian church father of the thirteenth century does not refer to stars, to planets, merely as physical planets; instead, he speaks of the Intelligences that dwell in these planets, who are the actual rulers of what should be called human destiny. What had once arisen in the Orient was really still present in the twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth centuries, although in its last ramifications, as an aspect of the Christian Catholic Church. It is simply a terrible misrepresentation of the present Catholic Church to withhold these matters from the faithful, so that the church can declare it a heresy, for example, to assume that the individual stars and planets are ensouled and permeated with spirit. By doing this, the Church not only denies Christianity; it even denies its last teachers who still had a more direct connection with the sources of the spiritual life than does the present age in any sense. Therefore one must point out that it was not so very long ago that the conception was completely abandoned which still pictured the world as permeated with spirit. If people would teach the truth today concerning what still held sway in the spiritual life of the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries; if, following preconceived opinions, they would not distort what prevailed in those times, then even this would still have a fructifying effect for a spiritualization of the present worldview. The materialism, the natural-scientific materialism, or the materialism of the mystics or theosophists, particularly the materialism of the Catholic Church, could not exist. For what is contained in the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church originated from the purest spiritual science; and this pure spiritual science beheld the spirit everywhere in the universe.
All that was beheld as spirit in the universe by the eye of the soul has been discarded. The universe became pervaded with materialism. For that reason, naturally, nothing remains except words of faith. For example, behind the Trinity, the doctrine of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, stand the most profound mysteries. On the other hand, there is nothing contained any longer in what is taught today as the dogma of the Trinity. On one side, there is the doctrine, the belief of the religious denominations, on the other side, natural science devoid of spirit. Neither can save humanity from the misery into which it has fallen. In order to render rescue possible, it is necessary that a sufficiently large number of people rouse themselves inwardly. For, particularly in the present epoch, the possibility exists in man's inner being to pick up those threads of a soul-spiritual kind which, if their power is inwardly experienced in the proper way, lead to an understanding of what can be gathered from spiritual science for an illumination of the life of nature as well as the social life. One should not wish to retain at all costs the bad habits of one's inner life, however they have developed during the past few centuries. These bad habits are based on the opinion that if one can keep quiet and be passive, the gods will eventually enter into one, reveal everything within, and mystical depth will be illuminated by an inner light, and so forth. The present age is not suited for that. It demands an inner activity of soul and spirit from the human being; it demands that man turn and look at what is trying to reveal itself within. Then he will find under all circumstances what wishes to reveal itself within — but he must be willing to unfold such inner spiritual activity. One must not believe, however, that much can be gained by some inner pseudo-mystical doings; above all else, one has to trace the spirit in the external things of the world.
I have called your attention to what happened, for example, in the East, in Asia. Once upon a time, so I told you, conditions in Asia were of a kind that the human being felt his heart expand, felt his soul grow warm, when, guided by the thought of the sacred Brahman, he directed his glance to the mighty external symbol of the swastika, the hooked cross. It made his inner life unfold. This inner mood of soul meant a great deal to him. Today, when an Oriental receives an ordinary Russian 2,000 ruble note — which is not worth much, for small change will no longer do for buying anything, only thousand ruble notes — he sees on it the beautifully printed swastika. Those thousand-year-old feelings that once upon a time inwardly beheld the sacred Brahman when the eye was directed to the swastika are certainly stirring. Today, the same emotional qualities arise on seeing the 2,000 ruble note.
Do you believe that one has a spiritual view of the world if one does not look at something like that and say to oneself “Those are the Ahrimanic powers who are at work here; herein lies a super-earthly intelligence, even though it is an Ahrimanic intelligence?” Do you believe that it suffices merely to say “Oh, that is the external material world! We direct our glance heavenward to spiritual things; we don't pay any attention to things for which people only have words"? If you seek for the spirit, you must look for it even where it turns up in the mighty aberrations of external world evolution itself, for there you can find the starting point for other aspects.
It is the tragedy of modern civilization that people believe that only human forces are at work everywhere, forces which arise between birth and death. Actually, our world is permeated all over by supersensible forces, spiritual powers, which manifest themselves in the various events that take place. If one wishes to do something, if one tries to realize intentions so that this or that result may come about, one needs to look to those benign spiritual powers capable of working against other spiritual powers; and the spiritual powers that can oppose the others have to be born in man through his own inner activity.
In regard to all this, however, one actually does need to look up into the spiritual world. This is something that is most inconvenient to many people. This is why the great majority of people in the world find even talk of initiation science unpleasant. For there is one thing that initiation science must make clear, under all circumstances, to the human being. Man is organized, in the first place, in the direction of his intellect. Certainly there are other aspects to his organization, such as digestion, metabolism, heartbeat, breathing, and physiological processes. He bears instincts within, hence, soul entities, and so forth. In addition he bears within him what is termed intelligence, and the present age is especially proud of this intelligence. But where does our intelligence come from? Materialism believes that our intelligence is derived from those processes that occur below in the liver, in the heart; they then become more refined and turn into the processes within the brain. These processes in the brain are just a little different from those that take place in the liver or the stomach, but these same processes produce thinking. We know that this is not so. Those processes that run their course in the brain, just as those in the liver or the stomach, would cause no thinking at all. Up in the brain something takes place; out of the constructive processes destructive ones are constantly developed.
Here not only upbuilding, but disintegrating processes are at work; matter is forever falling out into nothingness. Thus we are not dealing with an upbuilding in the brain. Any constructive process only serves to nourish the brain, not to produce thinking. If you wish to focus on those brain processes that have something to do with thinking, and you wish to compare them to the remaining organism, you must not compare them to the constructive processes, the processes of growth, but to the processes of elimination. The brain is constantly involved in elimination, and, as I said, the processes of destruction, of disintegration, of death, are the accompanying phenomena of intelligence. If our brain were incapable of elimination, we would be unable to think. If our brain would only contain upbuilding processes, we would exist in a dull, instinctive condition; at most, we could attain to quite dim dreams. We arrive at clear thinking precisely because the brain secretes and eliminates substances. Thinking only functions parallel to processes of elimination. It is only because the human organization eliminates what is useless to it that thinking establishes itself out of the spiritual world.
Now, take the thinking that has developed especially since the middle of the fifteenth century, the thinking of which modern man is so proud. It comes into being because we destroy our brain, because we bring about in it processes of disintegration, of elimination. Suppose that you are Trotsky or Lenin, traveling to Russia — transported there on orders of Ludendorff [ Note 92 ] in a sealed railway carriage and escorted by Dr. Helphand [ Note 93 ] (it was such a train, going from Switzerland through Central Europe, which brought Lenin accompanied by people like Dr. Helphand to Russia under Ludendorff's protection) — suppose you are such a person and you believe that out of the processes representing intelligence — the only processes from which natural-scientific thinking of the past few centuries has emerged — the social order could be developed. What kind of a social order will that turn out to be? It will be a reproduction of what takes place within the brain during the thinking processes. Do not think that what we develop without is different from what we develop within, if the only processes employed are thinking processes! If you try to establish a social order with them it will be something destructive, just as thinking processes in the brain cause destruction — exactly the same thing. Thinking, applied to reality, destroys. One can gain insight into such matters only when one looks into the deeper secrets of the being of man and the whole world. This is why humanity needs to pay attention to these things if any sort of valid judgment concerning public affairs is to be rendered. It does no good at all today to base discussions about any social concerns on the suppositions of the past few centuries, for they no longer hold water. It is important here to realize that completely different processes must come to pass in the human spiritual life; again the science of initiation must step in and draw from spiritual resources what can never be gleaned from mere sources of human intelligence. A social science of the present can only emerge as a consequence of spiritual science. This can and must be grasped from its very foundation.
This is what is in fact important for modern man, namely, that he does not attain a relationship with spiritual science merely in some superficial manner, but that he learns to recognize how completely spiritual science is linked to human destiny for the future.
In order that a person can gauge something like this, a feeling must develop in the human being for what is asserting itself with profound earnestness out of the spiritual resources. For such a feeling to come about, however, much must be eliminated, above all else the generally prevailing frivolity. Recently, in a lecture that I gave for local teachers, I indicated a symptom in which such frivolity appears today. One of our friends in London made efforts to arrange a gathering of a number of artists here in August. It was for the purpose of their becoming acquainted with our building and forming a sort of center from which the impulse could go out that is now so necessary if the building is ever to be completed. An English journalist was informed, not one from an ordinary daily paper but from a magazine that calls itself “Architect,” in other words, a publication that wishes to be taken more seriously. The journalist was even given a description in writing of what was intended. This fellow was so flippant and frivolous, however, that he wrote: “A visit to Dornach is anticipated by such and such persons. Dr. Steiner himself has promised to acquaint the visitors with what is going on there, and it is believed that ten days will suffice for this excursion. Of this time, four days will be spent on travel, and during the remaining six days the visitors will be able to recuperate from the shock they will have experienced following their first impression of Dornach.” So, this frivolous character has no idea what he is supposed to write about, and for his penny-a-line is only capable of making a stupid joke so that his readers can accordingly continue to maintain a frivolous mood.
Things have gone so far that the general mood of people is spoiled from the very outset, spoiled by this kind of journalist; there is no longer any question of anything being accomplished. The only thing such journalists can do is seize the opportunity to make some stupid, frivolous joke. No progress will be made if the earnestness with which such matters should be discussed is not understood. One will get no further if such matters are considered to be insignificant; if, from a certain jaded standpoint, one says, for example, “Oh, one cannot take such a journalist so seriously!” From a certain point of view one certainly need not give much credit to such penny-a-lining, but it must be evaluated according to what effect it has in the world.
These matters are indeed serious and of such a nature that they induce us again and again to say “This building here is intended to be a landmark for what should take place for the sake of mankind's ascent!” To be sure, from certain quarters no effort has been spared to make the building what it is now. Destiny, too, contributed its necessary share. It is, alter all, true that at the outset this building was erected here chiefly as the result of efforts made by the Central European countries. But when Central Europe's financial resources began to touch rock bottom, the neutral countries were ready in a most significant, commendable manner to do something for this building. Those from Central Europe who were able to do something for the building spared no effort throughout the time of the war psychosis, stirred up by hate and opposition, to maintain this site in such a manner that people from every part of the world, from all nationalities, could gather together here. This building was saved and maintained throughout all the years of chauvinism; nobody was denied the opportunity here to encounter others in a spirit of friendship, no matter what part of the world he came from. All this, however, demonstrates the impossibility of completing this building by relying on the earlier resources; it shows the necessity for efforts by those countries that are in a financially favorable position, for they are at the beginning of a period where they are not encumbered by financial disaster and are certainly in a position to do something for the building. One would hope that a message like the following will not one day spread through the world: A landmark for the dawning spiritual life was to be erected. Those people who were swept away by the cataclysmic world events and then perished left behind as a last legacy as much as they could accomplish. Those, on the other hand, who were not swept away, who could have begun the new life, did not realize what those who were doomed left for them.