Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, August 29, 1920:
It was my aim in yesterday's lecture to evoke an idea of man's position in the universe. If he is considered from the viewpoint attained beyond the threshold that lies between the world of the senses and the supersensible worlds, then man's being is understood to be an integral member of the cosmos. Yesterday I first sought to show how man stands externally in the cosmos, as it were, by indicating that there exists a spiritual world behind the tapestry spread out about us containing all the sense impressions. I stressed that this spiritual realm is a chilly, cold world. We are within this domain unconsciously, as you know, between falling asleep and waking, but in reality we then dwell in it without experiencing its actual character. We then mediate the spiritual world's intercourse with this domain by carrying warmth-bestowing love into it. This then is one region of the spirit. As I pointed out yesterday, however, the spiritual region that is our actual environment is a different one; it is the one that lies below that mirror that reflects the memories within us. It is this domain of the spirit that gives rise to the forming of our limb organism and all that belongs to it; it is to this spirit region that the ordinary mystic strives. He does not find it, because it can only be disclosed if man penetrates the secrets of the physical and etheric organisms and discovers what it is that forms and molds this organism and permeates it with movement. This spiritual region differs essentially from the spirit domain described in connection with the external world. It need not first be warmed by man; it gives the impression of warmth. It is a region endowed with forces opposite of those in the other domain. Concerning the latter, I said that it is equipped with centripetal forces that hold the spiritual cosmos together. This other region, the source of the forces that move our limbs, is permeated with the opposite, namely, centrifugal forces. These are active perpetually, expanding the spiritual universe far and wide, as it were. They are the centrifugal forces, but you must not picture them as physical forces. They are spiritual beings. Here, in a sense, we look into the constitution of the universe. We relate what constitutes the universe to what is within ourselves. We trace the forces that live in our eyes, our ears, in short, in our whole sensory apparatus, and we recognize them as the forces that hold the world together. We find in ourselves the forces through which we move our arms and legs, by means of which a number of other things occur in our limb organism. We pronounce them to be forces that if left to themselves would disperse the universe in all directions. We as human beings are set within this nexus of forces. Within it is found a world of the most diverse beings, those beings with whom the nine hierarchies, of whom we have spoken on many occasions, come into relation through the human being, who is the intermediary between worlds of gods. One would like to put it like this: The gods encounter each other through the human being.
Thus one looks into the universe and beholds the human being in a certain respect as the mediator between divine worlds. One wishes that the awareness of this would penetrate human souls, for only such an awareness could overcome the egoistic elements of traditional religions. Indeed, these old religious elements are to a large extent founded entirely on egoism. In existing denominations, sermons are preached to appeal to people's egoistic instincts of immortality and the like. In the traditional religions the egoistic instincts are addressed. One need only have a feeling for how people speculate on these instincts. Spiritual science aims at presenting man in such a way that he becomes conscious of the role he plays in the universe. He arrives at the realization that through him a world of centripetal forces and a world of centrifugal forces are connected; in fact, they meet one another only in man himself.
If what I have just said does not remain a colorless theory but passes over into man's whole nature of feeling and perception, then he feels himself standing in the universe and says “I am here for the sake of cosmic evolution; through me passes the stream of cosmic events.” This feeling of being an integral part of the universe must permeate the consciousness of the present and of the immediate future. Think how this feeling contrasts with another that has been brought to the surface of human development by the civilization of the last three to four hundred years. Have these last centuries arrived on their own at anything like such an awareness of the human being? Indeed not; science has in no way reflected on what the human being is and signifies in the cosmos. Attention was directed to the various types of animals. People learned to recognize how one animal form evolved from others and concluded that man is the highest of the animal forms. Man was added on to the lower animals, so to speak, as the highest animal. People learned to know man in his animality; they did not speak at all about the essential being of man. From now on a reversal must take place in the souls of mankind. The human being must again become aware that he represents a channel for divine forces, that in a way he is the stage on which hierarchies encounter each other so that they may work together in the universe. Man should also know that when he has a low opinion of himself, acts basely and degrades his awareness of humanity, he will not be a mediator between the higher and the lower worlds. Man must learn to think of himself as a being that belongs to the cosmos. Divine beings who serve the centrifugal motive powers and divine beings serving the centripetal powers meet each other in man.
Where do they find their balance? The centripetal forces work principally through the human head; the centrifugal ones work primarily through the limb system. The middle man, the rhythmic man, is the one who is supposed to bring about the balance, the consonance and harmony between the centripetal and centrifugal cosmic forces. Consider what that means! It implies that when the human being develops a certain mood of soul, an inner attitude, which, as we have seen from a variety of aspects, can only come about in him through spiritual science, he gives a certain nuance to his whole inner experience, and it takes its course in a certain manner. This is expressed even in his very organism, the rhythms of heart and breathing. This means, in other words, that the manner in which man breathes and his heart beats has significance not only within the human being but within the whole cosmos. In the human heartbeat we have the combined activity of different worlds of gods or spirits. The ancient saying that man is a temple of the divine emerges anew from the modern knowledge of initiation science.
Therefore what arises from these insights of initiation science will have to bear a different character from what the traditional religions can bring to man. They reckon with his egoism. And the world conception that can come about through spiritual science — on what does that count? It reckons with man's responsibility in regard to the world; it appeals primarily to his sense of responsibility. It exalts the human being by showing him his position as an essential member of the whole universe.
This attainment of a certain consciousness of humanity is what is so urgently required. For what is the reason that mankind has fallen into such chaos today, the chaos into which, all over our civilized world, the social order has partly disintegrated already, and in part threatens to disintegrate? The reason is that the human being has forgotten his position in the cosmos; he wishes to know nothing of it. A person who does sense his link with the cosmos will realize that world evolution cannot be depicted as proceeding merely from causes outside man. He will know that it is primarily the forces in man himself that have caused the Earth's origin and that will bring about its end, carrying it over into other metamorphoses of universal formation. It is in the human being that we above all must seek for what we should know and feel, and through which we are intended to shape our will.
What is the nature of the forces that work chiefly in the human head and are related to the centripetal, compressing forces of the cosmos? They are the forces that are the oldest in our universe. Recall my description in Occult Science where I depicted the ancient Saturn evolution, and had to indicate that the human sense life emerged out of it. Behind our sense tapestry lies what has remained behind of this Saturn evolution as the cold, frosty world that has developed from the initial condition of warmth, into which we today must carry warmth. What lies behind the tapestry of the senses is, as it were, the oldest of worlds. We enter it unconsciously from the moment we fall asleep until we awaken; though, actually, we move about in it all the time. This world bestows on us everything connected with our senses. Shaping the senses in a way from within outwards, the centripetal forces work into our senses, into our eyes, ears, and from there into our physical brain, into which we think. Inasmuch as we go through the world as thinking beings, we actually pass through it with that human property that is fashioned for us out of this environment; that is to say, with the oldest forces that have already reached disintegration. We must never forget that these are the forces that have already arrived at dissolution.
It is really like this: If one makes a diagram of the universe as it draws apart into distant space, yet is held together centripetally at this boundary, we discover the oldest forces of the universe [see sketch above]. In a certain sense, they disintegrate. And our comprehension, our human intellect, arises from these disintegrating forces that are passing over into death and have turned into chaos.
It was modern humanity's destiny that for the last three to four hundred years this intellect had to be especially developed. This intellect, however, arises, so to speak, out of the dying chaos remaining from the ancient Saturn evolution. Right into the present, into the social life, people have been trying to introduce reforms based on these very forces. These forces, however, are those that exert their normal effect just when they are destructive. We could not think if we did not have them. We could not develop our intellect without them. We destroy the social order if we try to permeate it with what results out of this, our intellect.
Any activity of thought must call upon the intellect, the intellect that arises from chaos. We must not, however, apply to social reforms something that emerges out of chaos. In Eastern Europe we see the extreme offshoots of European intellectualism appearing in social reforms. What has arisen in Eastern Europe will spread across Asia, Europe, and the West unless, while there is still time, not once again an intellectual counteraction, but a different action is brought about that we shall consider right away. We need these forces for our spiritual life, our free cultural life. We need them because what is to be produced by our intellect can only arise from the chaos. But these forces are not usable if they are joined with the forces active in the social life. Here the same intelligence that is useful and productive in the narrowly defined life of the mind is harmful. The element that brings about inventions and creates gifted poems must arise out of the chaos, the mature material aspect of the human organism, but it must not be believed that it can bestow social impulses to man's external life. It is important for mankind to begin now to have clear insight into these matters. This will not be the case as long as people continue to reject any consideration of spiritual science. Nonetheless, what bestows greatness on the actual life of the spirit has to arise from this chaos. Mental life must emerge out of the chaotic substrata of man's individuality.
This links the question of education with that of general culture. For anything of this nature that is to be given to humanity must arise from the chaos that man brings with him when he descends through birth from higher worlds. He brings the disintegrating organism of the brain. From this chaotic brain organism arises the element that can constitute the life of the spirit. At the opposite end of mankind's organization the forces must develop that can underlie social ideas.
There, however, I am touching on something still quite incomprehensible to modern humanity's dreadful prejudices. Modern people believe that they think only with the head. This is nonsense; man thinks, feels, and wills not only with the head but with his whole being. Arms and legs are just as much organs of the soul as is the head. It is one of the worst prejudices that the soul life was apportioned organically in a one-sided way to the nervous system. Only the intellectual life is apportioned to the nervous system. Hence it is from the centrifugal forces, the fresh organic forces that do not represent the chaos but dwell particularly in man's limb organization and in all that belongs to it, that we must develop that which can result in social impulses, above all those of outer life and particularly the third member of the social organism, namely, the economic life. Here we are dealing with the youngest developments. In the head organization underlying the mind and spirit we deal with the oldest formations. In everything forming the basis of the economic organization we confront the youngest developments, those that are the bearers of the human will. In man of today they normally rest entirely in the unconscious; they must, however, be drawn up into consciousness through initiation science, the science of the Mysteries. And how can they be drawn up? I do not need to describe to you how the actual free spiritual life has to come about. It begins with the education of the child; from the child's individuality it draws out what was sent down by the gods from the spiritual worlds when the child entered through birth into physical existence. There we work out of the chaos, out of the dark, misty depths, in order to lead the human talents and gifts out of the spirit, through the chaos of matter, into physical existence.
It is a different matter when we must call upon the youngest member of man's organization, of which the human being is completely unaware in normal consciousness. There initiation science must draw everything out of unconscious depths. How does this take place? Well, social thinking is different from thinking out of the spirit. In the case of spiritual thinking, everything is based on the development of the individuality. In the case of social thinking one can, for instance, figure out statistically how many persons among a thousand twenty-year-olds will reach age sixty. The necessary figures are easily obtained by taking a thousand twenty year-olds from a certain region; of these, so many will reach age thirty after ten years; ten years hence, a certain number will reach age forty; and so on for age fifty and sixty. A certain type of calculation, the theory of probabilities, relies on what can thus be deduced from the numerical course of the development of groups of people. And in the matter of social institutions, one can rely upon this calculation. The insurance systems are based on these figures. If I insure my life when I am twenty, I have to pay at the rate arrived at by someone having calculated how many persons among one thousand twenty-year-olds will reach sixty, meaning how much one still has to pay at sixty. By considering this matter from the social standpoint, from that of the group, it works; otherwise all insurance companies would be bankrupted. They rely upon such groupings of facts in humanity's development.
Does this calculation have any value for the individual? Does it tell me at twenty how much longer I will probably live? Nobody will say to himself "This means that I shall live only so many more years." The probable length of life according to which I insure my life is different from the one I count on as an individuality. We are dealing with two quite different spheres of thinking and forming judgments. One has to consider the human being in quite a different way when trying to insure him, hence wishing to make some social arrangements, than when one thinks as an individual human being about one's own life.
What should be done if we wish to arrive at social arrangements in general, particularly those of an economic nature? We must engage in statistics along the same lines as these insurance statistics; we must compile results. From this, we never arrive at the wisdom that arises from man's inner being, the chaos; instead, we obtain something that can be expressed in numbers. Just look around at what people have come to, especially those devoted to Western science. You find statistics everywhere; based on statistics, decisions are made on how much duty should be paid for this or that article, how much is needed for one thing or another. The calculation is quite similar to that used for insurance. When we focus on the individual element that stands creatively in the spiritual life, we are subject to forming a quite different judgment than if we turn to what becomes established socially in groups of people. What becomes socially established, however, in human groups and can thus be calculated is connected with the centrifugal forces, the youngest forces of man's organization that have not yet reached consciousness. Therefore their content must be concluded from statistics.
Those who have a particular kind of enthusiasm, a cynical enthusiasm like Nietzsche [ Note 82 ] had, for all that springs from man's inner chaotic being and works itself out of it, attribute value to to this alone, and despise everything of a group order. Nietzsche had a tremendous scorn for anything of a group nature in the world. This is the reason why, particularly in his early years, he considered the whole development of humanity in such a manner that only the single chosen individuals had value in his view. He regarded world history as being merely the path whereby the others, the insignificant ones, provided a sort of circuitous route for a few outstanding individuals. This was the foundation of Nietzsche's first world conception. He wished to focus solely on the few geniuses evident in human evolution. As for the rest, Nietzsche said that the devil or statistics could have them. They were more or less the same thing to him. What is connected, however, with the economic structure and judgment which deal with the centrifugal forces, the youngest forces, of humanity's organization, is, and has to be, founded on statistics today.
Nevertheless, nothing really sound and wholesome can result from statistics. Trotsky and Lenin [ Note 83 ] have acquired their principal tenets from such statistics. In the purely economic thinking of the West, statistics play a major role. Yet, the whole of statistics has no direct value. Try sometime to compile statistics. You will not get much from them, however ingeniously you go about it. Indeed it must be admitted that what goes on by means of statistics as sociology is a pretty bad thing. Nothing much results or has resulted from it. Basically, some people classify the figures one way, others group them a different way; accordingly, the most diverse counsels are advocated.
What is the reason for this? The reason is that the forces to which all this relates, the centrifugal forces, are indeed the youngest forces in the human being, and have in no way risen into the realms of consciousness. Man is still childishly lost in this region. We therefore have to say that if one wishes to establish social science and impulses upon what exists in the normal, modern consciousness of humanity, nothing constructive would result. There will be no clear insight into what is necessary until men admit that modern science and consciousness are impotent in shaping a social judgment in the form which is necessary today. For what is required? It is necessary to know that an individual can get nowhere with figures; only associations can do something with numbers — groups of people who make use of these experiences, each complementary to the other. Yet despite this, such associations will still accomplish nothing special unless they have forces of direction, and what kind must they be? They must be those arising from imaginative perception, from initiation science. There will have to be those who are initiated in a certain sense, who will guide the experiences of associations into the right direction, particularly in the economic life.
Where will spiritual scientific directive forces first be required, if the needs of mankind in the present and near future are correctly understood? They will be needed precisely in the domain of the economic life. There, associations must be formed. The results that associations compile with their figures must be given their guidelines from the effects that can be gained solely from inner experience in the higher worlds. The life of the spirit, the life of genius, must be drawn from the chaos of the natural human organization by means of education. The basis of the economic life must be given its guidelines from initiation science. Initiation science must regulate whatever is collected by the different associations from various professional, industrial, or agricultural circles, and so on. It is precisely the economic realm that makes the influence of the spiritual life mandatory, particularly in economics. There will be no advancement without it. For, in the sphere of economics, everything will remain instinctive if it is not brought to consciousness by being developed in the manner I have stated. Therefore one should really say: “First of all, get a broom and out with everything that negates the spirit in the economic life!” On that depends the future welfare of mankind. Away with everything that rejects the spirit in the economic life — there above all! There, it is the most compelling; otherwise, economic chaos will result and with it the general chaos of civilization; and this, I might say, is becoming evident clearly and plainly enough.
People's way of thinking during this catastrophic, world-historical moment has been strange. Since 1914 they have seen the advent of a world catastrophe. What have been their thoughts? They felt that if only peace would come within a year, all would be in order again. When peace did not come, they said “If only it comes next year everything will be all right!” — and so on. Then came a peace that was actually only the starting point for greater conflicts. Now people continue to sleep. They do not see that the forces of decline accumulate and grow stronger from month to month. They do not wish to see it. And why not? Because they do not want to accept the spirit; they do not wish to have what alone can help to restore the world. It is of no use to believe today that compromises can be made with anything carried over from the past. That does not work. The world is asking to be built up anew; from new sources it must have new forces. What must be brought to bear as initiation science — from which forces could originate such as those I have characterized — it is this that is newly trying to come into the world. Initiation science must be accepted because without it the measures intended to lead to an ascent will deteriorate without fail, and there will be no progress.
What is needed is that a strong awareness of these things is established particularly in those people who will shoulder the greatest responsibility in the near future — I have already spoken of these facts here — namely, the Anglo-American world. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe are struck down. Inasmuch as their power and, above all, their influence are increasing, the English and American people have the definite responsibility to turn toward the life of the spirit.
This was the reason it was of such great importance that the representative center of our spiritual movement stood on neutral ground during the catastrophic years. Dornach offered a neutral ground on which those from all nations who wished to come could meet one another, where what was rooted in the soil of spiritual science itself placed no obstacle in the way of anybody. What stands here now was placed here, I might say, out of Central Europe. Truly, those were certainly not the worst forces of Central Europe which, in a material respect as well, established what stands here now. It stands here as if asking: “Does the world confront this with understanding?” Central Europe cannot be asked whether the world has an understanding for it. It is crushed to the ground, nearing its spiritual and economic devaluation, but that it had values may be evident from the fact that it could place this building here. This structure [ Translator's Note A ] now stands here as a question to man's comprehension for it. It is indeed an international question, a question directed to the world: Will this building stand here unfinished one day, as conditions now appear to suggest? Will it be unfinished, with only that part constructed that was built by Central Europe and added to by neutral regions? Or will the Anglo-American world bring understanding to this question that is directed to the future of humanity? One should experience this question as a deeply significant one. For either one will say “yes” to the spirit, and then the ways and means will be found to finish what otherwise must remain incomplete; or one will say “no” to the spirit, and then an unfinished building will stand here as a sign that one has no wish to understand the forces of ascent. Then, however, one will have given a negative reply to the question of whether one wishes to take the progress of humanity seriously.
Translator's Notes:A. Note by translator: Reference to the First Goetheanum.
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