What The World Needs Now Is Anthroposophy. Lecture 12 of 15.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornarch, Switzerland, November 2, 1919:
The lecture yesterday will have shown you that if we are to acquire insight into the nature and evolution of man, we must be constantly mindful of the power and influence of Lucifer, of Christ, and of Ahriman.
These influences were, of course, already at work in earlier stages of cosmic evolution, but in spheres where it was unnecessary for man to have clear consciousness of their effects. On the other hand, the very purpose of our Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch is that man should become increasingly conscious of what takes effect through him in earthly existence. The unveiling of many more of the secrets of human life would be desirable at the present time if only there were greater willingness to face things frankly and objectively. For without the knowledge of certain facts of the kind indicated yesterday, it will not be possible for humanity to make progress either in the inner life or in the sphere of social life. Think only of something that is connected with the social problems we have recently been studying. It has been our aim to demonstrate the necessity for separating the spiritual life, and also the political life or life of rights, from the economic life. Our greatest concern is to create conditions throughout the world, or at least — for we cannot do more at present — to convince men of the necessity for conditions which would provide the foundation for a free spiritual life no longer dependent upon the other spheres of social life or as deeply entangled as it is to-day in the economic life on the one side and in the political life of the State on the other. Civilised mankind must either establish the independence of the spiritual life or face collapse — with the inevitable result of an Asiatic influence taking effect in the future.
Those who still do not recognise the gravity of the present situation in the world are also, in a certain respect, helping to prepare for Ahriman's incarnation. Many things in external life to-day bear witness to this. The Ahrimanic incarnation will be greatly furthered if men fail to establish a free and independent spiritual life and allow it to remain entangled in the economic or political life. For the Ahrimanic power has everything to gain by the spiritual life being even more closely intermingled with these other spheres. To the Ahrimanic power a free spiritual life would denote a kind of darkness, and men's interest in it, a burning, raging fire. The establishment of this free spiritual life is essential in order that the right attitude, the right relationship, may be adopted to Ahriman's incarnation in the future.
But there is still a strong tendency to-day to conceal the facts of which we spoke yesterday. The vast majority of people cast a veil over these things; they refuse to see them as they really are and allow themselves to be deceived by words which have no connection with reality. And very often, endeavours to shirk reality are described as “honest” and “well-meaning”.
Take, for example, the recently published letter of Romain Rolland, in which he says that men should not allow themselves to be deluded by erstwhile proclamations of the victorious powers concerning justice and the upholding of political rights. The treatment which Russia is receiving from the Entente has led him to speak in these terms. He says: No matter whether it be on the part of monarchies or republics — what has been said about rights and justice is so much phrase-mongering; the issue at bottom is one of power, and of power alone.
Now even this apparent approach to reality still betrays willingness to be deluded, for Romain Rolland is just as deluded as ever; the delusion is not one whit less. It could only be so if such men were to discard phrases and recognise that all these things for which they aspire are meaningless as long as they fail to realise that if the old unified State as such — whether a democracy, a republic or a monarchy — does not become threefold, this is simply a way of helping Ahriman's incarnation. Hence all these things, including this recent letter addressed to the world by Romain Rolland, amount to nothing more than rhetorical harangues. People do not grasp the reality, for reality can be grasped only when the necessity for spiritual knowledge and deep penetration into the nature of things is thoroughly understood.
You are all familiar with the much quoted verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” Do men really take these lines in earnest? They utter them, but so often as mere phrases! No particular emphasis is laid on the tense: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God.” “ Word” here must obviously have the meaning it bore in ancient Greece. It is not “word” as understood to-day — word as mere sound — but it is the inner, spiritual reality. In either case, however, it is the imperfect tense that is employed. The implication therefore is: “In the beginning the Word was; but it is no longer.” Otherwise the sentence would run: “Now isthe Word; and the Word is not with God; it was with God, and a God was the Word but is so no longer.” This, moreover, is what stands in the Gospel of St. John; otherwise what would be the meaning of the words immediately following: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” This indicates a further evolution of the Word. “Word” also means anything that man can acquire in the way of intellectual wisdom through his efforts and through his intelligence. But it must be quite clear to us that what “word” denotes here is not really the goal for which man must strive at the present time or in the immediate future. To express what is now the goal, we should have to say: “Let man seek for the Spirit that reveals itself in the Word; for the Spirit is with God, and the Spirit is a God.” Mankind must press on from the word to the spirit, to perception and knowledge of the spirit.
When I remind you of these first verses of the Gospel of St. John, you will realise what little inclination there is to-day to take such things in earnest and to surmount the arbitrary interpretations so often accepted in matters of the greatest moment. Human intelligence itself must be quickened and illumined by what is revealed in spiritual vision. — Not that actual seership is essential; what matters is that the fruits of spiritual vision shall be understood. I have repeatedly emphasised that to-day it is not the seer alone who can apprehend the truth of clairvoyant experience; this apprehension is within the power of everyone at the present time, because the spiritual capacities of men are sufficiently mature if they will but resolve to exercise them and are not too indolent to do so. But if the level befitting humanity is to be achieved, such things as were mentioned in the lecture yesterday must be taken in deep earnestness ! I used a trivial example to show you how easy it is to be deluded by figures and numbers. Is there not a great deal of superstition where numbers are concerned? What can in some way be counted is accepted in science. Natural science loves to weigh, to compute, and social science loves statistics — again a matter of computation and reckoning. It will be difficult indeed for men to bring themselves to admit that all knowledge of the external world acquired through measure and number is so much delusion.
To measure — what does it mean, in reality? It means to compare something with a given dimension, be it length or volume. I can measure a line if I compare it with a line twice, three times, four times, etc. smaller:
In such measurements, no matter whether of lengths or surfaces or weights, the qualitative element is entirely lacking. The number 3 always remains the same, whether one is counting sheep, human beings or politicians ! It is not a matter of the qualitative, but only of the quantum, the quantitative. The essential principle of volume and number is that the qualitative is left out of account. But for that very reason, all knowledge derived from the principles of volume and measure is illusion; and the fact which must be taken in all seriousness is that the moment we enter the world that can be weighed and measured, the world of space and time, we enter a world of illusion, a world that is nothing but a Fata Morgana as long as we take it to be reality. It is the ideal of present-day thinking to experience in connection with all the things of the external world of space and time, their spatial and temporal significance; whereas, in truth, what things signify in space and time is their external aspect only, and we must transcend space and time, penetrating to much deeper levels, if we are to reach the innermost truth, the innermost being of things. And so a future must come when men will be able to say: “Yes, with my intelligence I can apprehend the external world in the way that is the ideal of natural science. But the vista thus presented to me is wholly Ahrimanic.” — This does not mean that natural science is to be ignored or put aside; it is a matter of realising that this natural science leads only to the Ahrimanic illusion. Why, then, must man have natural science, in spite of the fact that it leads only to illusion? It is because in his earth-existence he is already on the descending curve of evolution. Of the Fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, the Greco-Latin epoch, it may be said that in respect of knowledge, man was relatively speaking at the zenith. But now, in the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch, he is on the path of decline, he is a being growing physically weaker, and to perceive the world in the way the Greek perceived it would be too much for his strength.
That is something we are not told in history! Just imagine what modern historians would have to say about it — those worthy historians who describe Greece as if they were describing some region of their own time because they do not know that the Greeks looked out into nature with different eyes, listened with different ears from those of modern men. These historians do not tell us that modern human beings would suffer from constant headache or migraine if they were to see and hear in the outer world all that the Greeks saw and heard. The Greeks lived with infinitely greater intensity in the world of the senses. Our own apprehension of this world has already weakened. To be able to bear it, a Fata Morgana has to be and is presented to us. And not only what we perceive with the senses but on account of our scientific conceptions we “dream” about the external world — that, most emphatically of all, is a Fata Morgana. The greatest dreamers where the external world is concerned are precisely those who pride themselves on being realistic in their thinking. Darwin and John Stuart Mill are fundamentally dreamers. The dreamers are the very men who claim to be thorough-going realists.
But neither must we give ourselves up entirely to our own inner life and impulses. From the way things have developed in the movement represented by the “Theosophical Society”, many of you will have realised that cultivation of the inner life alone, as attempted by numbers of people to-day, does not lead to the goal befitting man in the present age. For the all too prevalent tendency is to make no free resolve of his own to transcend ordinary life and attain higher vision but rather to bring into prominence that in him which is not free. All kinds of hallucinatory tendencies, all kinds of faculties fraught with illusion come into play.
It should be realised that just as external science becomes Ahrimanic, the higher development of a man's inner nature becomes Luciferic if he gives himself up to mystical experiences. The Luciferic tendency wakens and becomes especially powerful in everyone who, without the self-training described in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment, sets about any mystical deepening of the impulses already inherent in his nature. The Luciferic tendency shows itself in everyone who begins to brood over experiences of his inner life, and it is extremely powerful in present-day humanity. It takes effect in egoism of which most people are entirely unaware. One comes across so many to-day who are quite satisfied when they can say of something they have done, that they have no cause for self-reproach, that they did it to the best of their knowledge and according to their conscience. That is an entirely Luciferic attitude. For in what we do in life the point is not whether or not we have cause to reproach ourselves; what really matters is that we shall take things objectively, with complete detachment, and in accordance with the course of objective facts. And the majority of people to-day make no effort to achieve this objective understanding or to acquire knowledge of what is necessary for world-evolution.
Therefore spiritual science must emphasise the following: — That Ahriman is actually preparing for his incarnation; where we can recognise how he is preparing for it; and with what attitude it must be confronted. — In such questions the point is not to say: We do this or that in order that we may have no cause for self-reproach — but to learn to recognise the objective facts. We must come to know what is at work in the world, and act accordingly — for the world's sake.
It all amounts to this, that modern man only speaks truly of himself when he says that he hovers perpetually between two extremes: between the Ahrimanic on the one side, where he is presented with an outer delusion, a Fata Morgana, and, on the other, the Luciferic element within him which induces the tendency to illusions, hallucinations and the like. The Ahrimanic tendencies in man to-day live themselves out in science, the Luciferic tendencies, in religion, while in art he swings between the one extreme and the other. In recent times the tendencies of some artists have been more Luciferic — they are the expressionists; the tendencies of the others have been more Ahrimanic — they are the impressionists. And then, vacillating between all this, there are the people who want to be neither the one nor the other, who do not rightly assess either the Luciferic or the Ahrimanic but want to avoid both. — “Ahriman — no! — that I must not, will not do, for it would take me into the realm of the Ahrimanic; that I must not, will not do, for it would take me into the realm of the Luciferic!” They want to be virtuous, avoiding both the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic.
But the truth of the matter is that Lucifer and Ahriman must be regarded as two scales of a balance and it is we who must hold the beam in equipoise.
And how can we train ourselves to do this? — By permeating what takes Ahrimanic form within us with a strongly Luciferic element. What is it that arises in modern man in an Ahrimanic form? It is his knowledge of the outer world. There is nothing more Ahrimanic than this knowledge of the material world, for it is sheer illusion. Nevertheless if the Fata Morgana that arises out of chemistry, out of physics, out of astronomy and the like can fill us with fiery enthusiasm and interest, then through our interest — which is itself Luciferic — we can wrest from Ahriman what is his own.
That, however, is just what human beings have no desire to do; they find it irksome. And many people who flee from external, materialistic knowledge are misconceiving their task and preparing the best possible incarnation for Ahriman in earth-existence. Again, what wells up in man's inmost being to-day is very strongly Luciferic. How can we train ourselves rightly in this direction? — By diving into it with our Ahrimanic nature, that is to say, by trying to avoid all illusions about our own inner life and impulses and observing ourselves just as we observe the outer world. Modern man must realise how urgent it is to educate himself in this way. Anyone who has an observant eye in these matters will often come across circumstances of which the following is an example.
A man tells him how indignant he is with countless human beings. He describes minutely how this or that in a, in b, inc, and so on, angers him. He has not an inkling that he is simply talking about his own characteristics. This peculiarity in human beings was never so widespread as it is to-day. And those who believe they are free of it, are the greatest culprits. The essential is that man should approach his own inner nature with Ahrimanic cold-bloodedness and dispassion. His inner nature is still fiery enough even when cooled down in this way! There is no need to fear that it will be over-cooled.
If the right stand is to be taken to Ahriman's future incarnation, men must become more objective where their own impulses are concerned, and far, far more subjective where the external world is concerned — not by introducing pictures of phantasy but by bringing interest, alert attention and devotion to the things of immediate life.
When men find one thing or another in outer life tedious, possibly because of the education they have received or because of other circumstances, the path which Ahriman wants to take for the benefit of his incarnation is greatly smoothed. Tedium is so widespread nowadays! I have known numbers of people who find it irksome to acquaint themselves for example with banking procedure, or the Stock Exchange, or single or double entry in book-keeping. But that is never the right attitude. It simply means that the point has not been discovered where a thing burns with interest. Once this point is reached, even a dry cash-book can become just as interesting as Schiller's Maid of Orleans, or Shakespeare's Hamlet, or anything else — even Raphael's Sistine Madonna. It is only a question of finding the point at which every single thing in life becomes interesting.
What I have just said may make you think that all these matters are very paradoxical. But in reality they are not. It is man who is paradoxical in his relationship to truth. What he must realise — and this is a dire necessity to-day — is that he, not the world, is at fault. Nothing does more to prepare the path for Ahriman's incarnation than to find this or that tedious, to consider oneself superior to one thing or another and refuse to enter into it. Again it is the same question of finding the point where everything is of interest. It is never a matter of a subjective rejection or acceptance of things, but of an objective recognition of the extent to which things are either Luciferic or Ahrimanic, with the result that the scales are over-weighted on the one side or the other.
To be interested in something does not mean that one considers it justifiable. It means simply that one develops an inner energy to get to grips with it and steer it into the right channel.
As some of you may know — it is a long time ago now — a number of friends bought themselves books on mathematics. A kind of “sporting spirit” had crept into them! They bought the works of Lübsen [Note 1] but it was not long before most of the volumes found their way to library shelves and the mathematical knowledge was not much in evidence! This, of course, is not meant as a hint to tackle the matter again — I am making no such suggestion. But to come to grips with something in which, to begin with, one is not interested at all, in order that a new understanding of world-existence may arise — that is of untold significance. For such things as I want to bring home to you in these lectures — how Lucifer and Ahriman intervene in the evolution of mankind side by side with the Christ Impulse — these things must be taken in all earnestness and their consequences rightly assessed.
Had there been no Luciferic wisdom, no understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha could have been acquired through the Gnosis in the early centuries of Christendom. Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha diminished with the fading of the Luciferic wisdom. And where is there any evidence to-day of such understanding ? The fact that understanding cannot be found through external, Ahrimanic science is perceived by those who to some extent recognise its characteristics. Take, for example, a man like Cardinal Newman — a very significant figure in the sphere of religion during the second half of the nineteenth century. At his investiture as Cardinal in Rome, he declared that he could see no salvation for the religious development of mankind other than a new revelation! [Note 2] But there it remained. He himself showed no special inclination to receive anything of the new spiritual life that can now stream into humanity out of the spiritual worlds. What he said remained in the sphere of abstraction.
In very truth humanity needs a new revelation. Of this there is evidence on all sides. There have been discussions recently about the deterioration in morals and in the general attitude to morality during the last four or five years. The conclusion reached is that denominational religious instruction must be introduced more intensively into the schools. But it cannot be emphasised often enough that this instruction was already being given and the times are supposed to have come under its influence. If the old denominational instruction is again to be introduced we shall simply be beginning the whole process over again. In a short time we shall be back where we were in 1914. It is in the highest degree important to realise that in the subconsciousness of human beings there are longings quite different in character from what comes to expression on the surface.
When we founded the Waldorf School in Stuttgart earlier this year, we were obliged to arrange for the religious instruction to be divided among the various clergy. A particular hour is devoted to religious instruction, which is given by a Catholic priest for the Catholic children and by an Evangelical pastor for the Evangelicals. I shall not speak of the difficulties that came from the side of the priests — that is a chapter by itself. What I do want to say, however, is that an immediate desire was expressed for religious teaching apart from any denomination. At first I thought that the attendance would be insignificant in comparison with the numbers attending the denominational instruction. But in spite of the fact that soon there will not be a single pulpit in Stuttgart from which invectives are not poured on Anthroposophy, a large number of children — five times as many as we expected — have asked for a kind of anthroposophical instruction in religion, and the class has had to be divided into two. Subjectively this may not be altogether welcome, for it may prove to be a rod for our own backs. But of that I do not want to speak. I want only to show that there is a longing for progress in human beings but that they are asleep and do not perceive that forces are keeping these longings in subjection. And moreover the courage to bring these longings to the surface is very largely lacking.
Just think what the effect could be of knowledge such as that of the future incarnation of Ahriman, who is preparing for it by means I have been describing both yesterday and to-day. It is essential to inform ourselves objectively about these things in order that we may take the right stand towards what is going on around us in the way of preparation for the Ahriman-incarnation. Only if you apply deep and mature reflection to what has been said in these lectures about the Ahrimanic currents, will you be able to apprehend the gravity of the present situation.
Notes:Note 1. Heinrich Borchert Lübsen (1801–64).Note 2. See his speech in Rome, May 12th, 1879, when he had been raised to the rank of Cardinal. “... Hitherto the civil power has been Christian. Even in countries separated from the Church, as in my own, the dictum was in force, when I was young, that ‘Christianity was the law of the land’. Now, everywhere that goodly framework of society, which is the creation of Christianity, is throwing off Christianity. The dictum to which I have referred, with a hundred others which followed upon it, is gone, or is going everywhere; and by the end of the century, unless the Almighty interferes, it will be forgotten.” (The Life of John Henry Newman, by Wilfrid Ward. Vol. 2, p. 460.)