Rudolf Steiner, Dornarch, Switzerland, November 4, 1919:
The phase of evolution beginning in our own time has a very special character. The same may, of course, be said of each epoch but in every case it is a matter of defining the particular characteristics. The present phase of evolution may be characterised in a general way by saying that all the experiences confronting mankind in the physical world during the earth's further existence will represent a decline, a retrogression. The time when human progress was made possible through the constant refinement of the physical forces, is already over. In the future, too, mankind will progress, but only through spiritual development, through development on a higher level than that of the processes of the physical plane. Men who rely entirely on the processes of the physical plane will find in them no source of satisfaction. An indication given in spiritual science a long time ago, in the Lecture-Course on the Apocalypse, [Note 1] namely that we are heading for the “War of All against All”, must from now onwards be grasped in all its significance and gravity; its implications must not remain in the realm of theory but also come to expression in the actions, the whole behaviour of men.
The fact that — to use a colloquialism — people in the future are not going to get much fun out of developments on the physical plane, will bring home to them that further evolution must proceed from spiritual forces.
This can be understood only by surveying a lengthy period of evolution and applying what is discovered to experiences that will become more and more general in the future. The trend of forces that will manifest in the well nigh rhythmical onset of war and destruction — processes of which the present catastrophe is but the beginning — will become only too evident. It is childish to believe that anything connected with this war can bring about a permanent era of peace for humanity on the physical plane. That will not be so. What must come about on the earth is spiritual development. Its direction and purport will be clear to us if, after surveying a comparatively lengthy epoch preceding the Mystery of Golgotha, we bear in mind something of the meaning of the Mystery of Golgotha and then try to envisage the impulse of that Event working in the future evolution of mankind.
We have studied the Mystery of Golgotha from many different points of view and will do so again to-day by characterising, very briefly, the civilisation which preceded it — let us say as far back as the third millennium B.C. — and then continued for a time as Pagan culture in the period of Christian development itself.
Within this Pagan culture, the utterly different Hebraic-Jewish culture took root, having Christianity as its offspring.
The nature of Pagan culture can best be understood if we realise that it was the outcome of knowledge, vision and action born of forces much wider in range than those belonging to present earthly existence. It was actually through Hebraic culture that the moral element was first inculcated into humanity. In Paganism the moral element did not occupy a place separate and apart; this Pagan culture was such that man felt himself a member of the whole cosmos.
This is something we must particularly bear in mind. — The human being living on earth within the old Pagan world felt himself membered into the whole cosmos. He felt how the forces at work in the movements of the stars extend into his own actions, or, better said, into the forces taking effect in his actions. What later passed for astrology, and does so still, is but a reflection — and a very misleading one at that — of the ancient wisdom gleaned from contemplation of the stars in their courses and then used as the basis for precepts governing human action.
These ancient civilisations can be understood only if light is thrown by spiritual science upon human evolution in its outer aspect some four or five thousand years before Christ.
We are apt to speak in rather a matter-of-fact way of the second or the first Post-Atlantean epochs, but we err if we picture man's existence on the earth in the fifth, sixth or seventh millennia B.C. as having been similar to our present existence. It is quite correct that men living on the earth in those ancient times had a kind of instinctive soul-life, in a certain respect more akin to the soul-life of animals than to that of present-day man. But it is a very one-sided conception of human life to say that in those ancient times men were more like animals. In tenor of soul, the human being then moving about the earth was, it is true, more like the animal; but those human-animal bodies were used by beings of soul-and-spirit who felt themselves members of the super-sensible worlds, above all of the cosmic worlds. And provided we go back far enough, say to the fifth pre-Christian millennium, it may be said that men made use of animal bodies as instruments rather than feeling themselves within those bodies. To characterise these men accurately, one would have to say that when they were awake, they moved about with an instinctive life of soul like that of animals, but into this instinctive life of soul there shone something like dreams from their sleeping state, waking dreams. And in these waking dreams they perceived how they had descended, to use animal bodies merely as instruments. This inner, fundamental tenor of the human soul then came to expression as a religious rite, in the Mithras cult with its main symbol of the God Mithras riding on a bull, above him the starry heavens to which he belongs, and below him the earth to which the bull belongs. This symbol was not, strictly speaking, a symbol to these men of old; it was a vision of reality. Man's whole tenor of soul made him say to himself: When I am outside my body at night I belong to the forces of the cosmos, of the starry heavens; when I wake in the morning, I make use of animal instincts in an animal body.
Then human evolution passed, figuratively speaking, into a period of twilight. A certain dimness, a certain lethargy, spread over the life of humanity; the cosmic dreams receded and instinct gained the upper hand.
The attitude of soul formerly prevailing in men was preserved through the Mysteries, mainly through the Asiatic Mysteries. But in the fourth millennium B.C. and until the beginning of the third, humanity in general — when uninfluenced by the Mystery wisdom — lived an existence pervaded by a more or less dim, twilight consciousness. In Asia and the then known world, it may be said that during the fourth and at the beginning of the third millennium before the Mystery of Golgotha, man's life of soul was dim and instinctive. But the Mysteries were there, into which, through the powerful rites and ceremonies, the spiritual worlds were able to penetrate. And it was from these centres that men received illumination.
At the beginning of the third millennium a momentous event took place. — The root-cause of this dim, more instinctive life may be characterised by saying that as a being of spirit-and-soul, man was still unable at that time to make use of the human organs of intellect. These organs were already within him, they had taken shape in his physical constitution, but the being of spirit-and-soul could not make use of them. Thus men could not acquire knowledge through their own thinking, through their own powers of intellectual discernment. They were dependent upon what was imparted to them from the Mysteries. And then, about the beginning of the third millennium, a momentous event took place in the east of Asia.
A child of a distinguished Asiatic family of the time was allowed to grow up in the precincts of the Mystery-ceremonies. Circumstances were such that this child was actually permitted to take part in the ceremonies, undoubtedly because the priests conducting the rites in the Mysteries felt it as an inspiration that such a child must be allowed to participate. And when the being incarnate in that child had reached the age of about 40 — approximately that age — something very remarkable came to light. It became evident and there is no doubt at all that the priests of the Mysteries had foreseen the event prophetically — it became evident that this man who had been allowed to grow up in the precincts of one of the Mystery-centres in East Asia, began suddenly, at the age of about 4o, to grasp through the faculty of human intellect itself what had formerly come into the Mysteries through revelation, and only through revelation. He was as it were the first to make use of the organs of human intellect, but still in association with the Mysteries.
Translating into terms of our present language how the priests of the Mysteries spoke of this matter, we must say: In this man, Lucifer himself was incarnated — no more and no less than that! — It is a significant, momentous fact that in the third millennium before Christ an incarnation of Lucifer in the flesh actually took place in the east of Asia. And from this incarnation of Lucifer in the flesh — for this Being became a Teacher — there went forth what is described as the pre-Christian, Pagan culture which still survived in the Gnosis of the earliest Christian centuries.
It would be wrong to pass derogatory judgment on this Lucifer-culture. For all the beauty produced by Greek civilisation, even the insight that is still alive in ancient Greek philosophy and in the tragedies of Aeschylus would have been impossible without this Lucifer-incarnation.
The influence of the Lucifer-incarnation was still powerful in the south of Europe, in the north of Africa and in Asia Minor during the first centuries of Christendom. And when the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place on earth, it was essentially the Luciferic wisdom through which it could be understood. The Gnosis, which set about the task of grasping the import of the Mystery of Golgotha, was impregnated through and through with Luciferic wisdom. It must therefore be emphasised, firstly, that at the beginning of the third Millennium B.C. there was a Chinese incarnation of Lucifer; at the beginning of our own era the incarnation of Christ took place. And to begin with, the significance of the incarnation of Christ was grasped because the power of the old Lucifer-incarnation still survived. This power did not actually fade from man's faculty of comprehension until the fourth century A.D.; and even then, it had its aftermath, its ramifications.
To these two incarnations, the Lucifer-incarnation in ancient times and the incarnation of the Christ which gives the earth its meaning, a third incarnation will be added in a future not so very far distant. And the events of the present time are already moving in such a way as to prepare for it.
Of the incarnation of Lucifer at the beginning of the third millennium B.C., we must say: through Lucifer, man has acquired the faculty of using the organs of his intellect, of his power of intellectual discernment. It was Lucifer himself, in a human body, who was the first to grasp through the power of intellect, what formerly could be imparted to man only through revelation, namely, the content of the Mysteries.
What is now in preparation and will quite definitely come to pass on earth in a none too distant future, is an actual incarnation of Ahriman.
As you know, since the middle of the fifteenth century we have been living in an era in which it behoves mankind to come more and more into possession of the full power of consciousness. It is of the very greatest importance that men should approach the coming incarnation of Ahriman with full consciousness of this event. The incarnation of Lucifer could be recognised only by the prophetic insight of the priests of the Mysteries. Men were also very unconscious of what the incarnation of Christ and the Event of Golgotha really signified. But they must live on towards the incarnation of Ahriman with full consciousness amid the shattering events which will occur on the physical plane. Amid the perpetual stresses of war and other tribulations of the immediate future, the human mind will become very inventive in the domain of physical life. And through this very growth of inventiveness in physical life — which cannot be averted in any way or by any means — the bodily existence of a human individuality in whom Ahriman can incarnate, will become possible and inevitable.
From the spiritual world this Ahrimanic power is preparing for incarnation on the earth, is endeavouring in every conceivable way to make such preparation that the incarnation of Ahriman in human form may be able to mislead and corrupt mankind on earth to the uttermost. A task of mankind during the next phase of civilisation will be to live towards the incarnation of Ahriman with such alert consciousness that this incarnation can actually serve to promote a higher, spiritual development, inasmuch as through Ahriman himself man will become aware of what can, or shall we say, can notbe achieved by physical life alone. But men must go forward with full consciousness towards this incarnation of Ahriman and become more and more alert in every domain, in order to recognise with greater and greater clarity those trends in life which are leading towards this Ahrimanic incarnation. Men must learn from spiritual science to find the key to life and so be able to recognise and learn to control the currents leading towards the incarnation of Ahriman. It must be realised that Ahriman will live among men on the earth, but that in confronting him men will themselves determine what they may learn from him, what they may receive from him. This, however, they will not be able to do unless, from now onwards, they take control of certain spiritual and also unspiritual currents which otherwise are used by Ahriman for the purpose of leaving mankind as deeply unconscious as possible of his coming; then, one day, he will be able to appear on earth and overwhelm men, tempting and luring them to repudiate earth-evolution, thus preventing it from reaching its goal. To understand the whole process of which I have been speaking, it is essential to recognise the character of certain currents and influences — spiritual or the reverse.
Do you not see the continually growing number of people at the present time who do not want any science of the spirit, any knowledge of the spiritual? Do you not see how numerous are the people to whom the old forces of religion no longer give any inner stimulus? — Whether they go to church or not is a matter of complete indifference to large numbers of human beings nowadays. The old religious impulses mean nothing to them. But neither will they bring themselves to give a thought to what can stream into our civilisation as new spiritual life. They resist it, reject it, regard it as folly, as something inconvenient; they will not allow themselves to have anything to do with it. But, you see, man as he lives on earth is veritably a unity. His spiritual nature cannot be separated from his physical nature; both work together as a unity between birth and death. And even if man does not receive the spiritual through his faculties of soul, the spiritual takes effect, nevertheless. Since the last third of the nineteenth century the spiritual has been streaming around us; it is streaming into earthly evolution. The spiritual is there in very truth — only men are not willing to receive it.
But even if they do not accept the spiritual, it is there! And what becomes of it? Paradoxical as it may seem — for much that is true seems paradoxical to the modern mind — in those people who refuse the spiritual and like eating and drinking best of all things in life, the spiritual streams, unconsciously to them, into the processes of eating and digestion. This is the secret of that march into materialism which began about the year 184o, or rather was then in active preparation. Those who do not receive the spiritual through their souls, receive it to-day none the less: in eating and drinking they eat and drink the spirit. They are “eaters” of the soul-and-spirit. And in this way the spirit that is streaming into earth-evolution passes over into the Luciferic element, is conveyed to Lucifer. Thereby the Luciferic power which can then be of help to the Ahrimanic power for its later incarnation, is constantly strengthened. This must come to the knowledge of those who admit the fact that in the future men will either receive spiritual knowledge consciously or consume the spirit unconsciously, thereby delivering it into the hands of the Luciferic powers.
This stream of spirit-and-soul-consumption is particularly encouraged by Ahriman because in this way he can lull mankind into greater and greater drowsiness, so that then, through his incarnation, he will be able to come among men and fall upon them unawares because they do not confront him consciously.
But Ahriman can also make direct preparation for his incarnation, and he does so. Certainly, men of our day also have a spiritual life, but it is purely intellectual, unconnected with the spiritual world. This purely intellectual life is becoming more and more widespread; at first it took effect mainly in the sciences, but now it is leading to mischiefs of every kind in social life as well. What is the essential character of this intellectual life?
This intellectual life has very little to do with the true interests of men! I ask you: how many teachers do you not see to-day, passing in and out of higher and lower educational institutions without bringing any inner enthusiasm to their science but pursuing it merely as a means of livelihood — In such cases the interest of the soul is not directly linked with the actual pursuit. The same thing happens even at school. Think how much is learnt at the various stages of life without any real enthusiasm or interest, how external the intellectual life is becoming for many people who devote themselves to it! And how many there are to-day who are forced to produce a mass of intellectual material which is then preserved in libraries and, as spiritual life, is not truly alive!
Everything that is developing as intellectual life without being suffused by warmth of soul, without being quickened by enthusiasm, directly furthers the incarnation of Ahriman in a way that is after his own heart. It lulls men to sleep in the way I have described, so that its results are advantageous to Ahriman.
There are numerous other currents in the spiritual or unspiritual life which Ahriman can turn to his advantage. You have lately heard — and you are still hearing it — that national states, national empires must be founded. A great deal is said about “freedom of the individual peoples”. But the time for founding empires based on relationships of blood and race is past and over in the evolution of mankind. If an appeal is made to-day to national, racial and similar relationships, to relationships arising out of the intellect and not out of the spirit, then disharmony among mankind will be intensified. And it is this disharmony among mankind which the Ahrimanic power can put to special use. Chauvinism, perverted patriotism in every form — this is the material from which Ahriman will build just what he needs.
But there are other things as well. Everywhere to-day we see parties being formed for one object or another. People nowadays have no discernment, nor do they desire to have it where party opinions and party programmes are concerned. With intellectual ingenuity, proof can be furnished in support of the most radically opposing theories. Very clever arguments can be used to prove the soundness of Leninism — but the same applies to directly contrary principles and also to what lies between the two extremes. An excellent case can be made out for every party programme: but the one who establishes the validity of the opposite programme is equally right. The intellectualism prevailing among men to-day is not capable of demonstrating the inner potentialities and values of anything. It can furnish proofs; but what is intellectually proved should not be regarded as of real value or efficacy in life. Men oppose one another in parties because the soundness of every party opinion — at any rate the main party opinions — can be proved with equal justification. Our intellect remains at the surface-layer of understanding and does not penetrate to the deeper layer where the truth actually lies. This, too, must be fundamentally and thoroughly understood.
People to-day prefer to let their intellect remain on the surface and not to penetrate with deeper forces to those levels where the essential nature of things is disclosed. It is only necessary to look around a little, for even where it takes its most external form, life often reveals the pitfalls of current predilections. People love numbers and figures in science, but they also love figures in the social sphere as well. Social science consists almost entirely of statistics. And from statistics, that is to say from figures, the weightiest conclusions are reached. Well, with figures too, anything can be proved and anything believed; for figures are not a means whereby the essential reality of things can be proved — they are simply a means of deception! Whenever one fails to look beyond figures to the qualitative, they can be utterly deceptive.
The following is an obvious example. — There is, or at least there used to be, a great deal of argument about the nationality of the Macedonians. In the political life of the Balkan peninsula, much depended upon the statistics compiled there. The figures are of just as much value as those contained in other statistics. Whether statistics are compiled of wheat and rye production, or of the numbers of Greek, Serbian or Bulgarian nationals in Macedonia — in regard to what can be proved by these means it is all the same. From the figures quoted for the Greeks, for the Bulgarians, for the Serbians, very plausible conclusions can be drawn. But one can also have an eye for the qualitative element, and then one often finds it recorded that the father was Greek, one son was Bulgarian, another was Serbian. — What is at the back of it you can puzzle out for yourselves! — These statistics are taken as authoritative, whereas in this case they were compiled solely in support of party aims. It stands to reason that if the father is really a Greek, the two sons are also Greeks. But the procedure adopted there is just an example of many other things that are done with figures. Ahriman can achieve a great deal through figures and numbers used in this way as evidence of proof.
A further means of which Ahriman can avail himself is again one that will seem paradoxical. As you know, we have been concerned in our movement to study the Gospels in the light of spiritual science. But these deeper interpretations of the Gospels which are becoming more and more necessary in our time, are rejected on all sides, just as spiritual science as a whole is rejected.
The people who often profess humility in these matters — and they are insistent about it — are actually the most arrogant of all. More and more generally it is being said that people should steep themselves in the very simplicity of the Gospels and not attempt to understand the Mystery of Golgotha by entering into the complexities of spiritual science. Those who feign unpretentiousness in their study of the Gospels are the most arrogant of all, for they despise the honest search for knowledge demanded in spiritual science. So arrogant are they that they believe the highest revelations of the spiritual world can be garnered without effort, simply by browsing on the simplicity of the Gospels. What claims to be “humble” or “simple” to-day is often supreme arrogance. In sects, in religious confessions — it is there that the most arrogant of men are to be found.
It must be remembered that the Gospels came into existence at a time when the Luciferic wisdom still survived. In the first centuries of Christendom, men's understanding of the Gospels was quite different from what it came to be in later times. To-day, people who cannot deepen their minds through spiritual science merely pretend to understand the Gospels. In reality they have no idea even of the original meaning of the words; for the translations that have been made into the different languages are not faithful reproductions of the Gospels; often they are scarcely even reminiscent of the original meaning of the words in which the Gospels were composed.
Real understanding of the intervention of the Christ Being in earthly evolution is possible to-day only through spiritual science. Those who want to study, or actually do study the Gospels “without pretention” — as the saying goes — cannot come to any inner realisation of the Christ Being as He truly is, but only to an illusory picture, or, at very most, a vision or hallucination of the Christ Being. No real connection with the Christ Impulse can be achieved to-day merely through reading the Gospels — but only an hallucinatory picture of the Christ. Hence the prevalence of the theological view that the Christ was not present in the man Jesus of Nazareth, who was simply an historical figure like Socrates or Plato or others, although possibly more exalted. The “simple man of Nazareth” is an ideal even to the theologians. And very few of them indeed can make anything of an event like Paul's vision at the gate of Damascus, because without the deepened knowledge yielded by spiritual science the Gospels can give rise only to an hallucination of the Christ, not to vision of the Real Christ. And so Paul's vision at Damascus is also regarded as an hallucination.
Deeper understanding of the Gospels in the light of spiritual science is essential to-day, for the apathy that takes hold of people who are content to live merely within the arms of the denominations will be used to the utmost by Ahriman in order to achieve his goal — which is that his incarnation shall catch men unawares. And those who believe they are being most truly Christian by rejecting any development of the conception of the Christ Mystery, are, in their arrogance, the ones who do most to promote Ahriman's aims. The denominations and sects are positively spheres of encouragement, breeding-grounds for Ahriman. It is futile to gloss these things over with illusions. Just as the materialistic attitude, rejecting the spiritual altogether and contending that man is a product of what he eats and drinks, furthers Ahriman's aims, so are these aims furthered by the stubborn rejection of everything spiritual and adherence to the literal, “simple” conception of the Gospels.
You see, a barrier which prevents the single Gospels from unduly circumscribing the human mind, has been erected through the fact that the Event of Golgotha is described in the Gospels from four — seemingly contradictory — sides. Only a little reflection will show that this is a protection from too literal a conception. In sects, however, where one Gospel only is taken as the basis of the teaching — and such sects are quite numerous — pitfalls, stupefaction and hallucination are generated. In their day, the Gospels were given as a necessary counterweight to the Luciferic Gnosis; but if no attempt is made to develop understanding of their content, the aims of Ahriman are furthered, not the progress of mankind. In the absolute sense, nothing is good in itself, but is always good or bad according to the use to which it is put. The best can be the worst if wrongly used. Sublime though they are, the Gospels can also have the opposite effect if men are too lazy to search for a deeper understanding based on spiritual science.
Hence there is a great deal in the spiritual and unspiritual currents of the present time of which men should be acutely aware, and determine their attitude of soul accordingly. Upon the ability and willingness to penetrate to the roots of such matters will depend the effect which the incarnation of Ahriman can have upon men, whether this incarnation will lead them to prevent the earth from reaching its goal, or bring home to them the very limited significance of intellectual, unspiritual life. If men rightly take in hand the currents leading towards Ahriman, then simply through his incarnation in earthly life they will recognise the Ahrimanic influence on the one side, and on the other its polar opposite — the Luciferic influence. And then the very contrast between the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic will enable them to perceive the third reality. Men must consciously wrestle through to an understanding of this trinity of the Christian impulse, the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic influences; for without this consciousness they will not be able to go forward into the future with the prospect of achieving the goal of earth-existence.
Spiritual science must be taken in deep earnestness, for only so can it be rightly understood. It is not the outcome of any sectarian whim but something that has proceeded from the fundamental needs of human evolution. Those who recognise these needs cannot choose between whether they will or will not endeavour to foster spiritual science. On the contrary they will say to themselves: The whole physical and spiritual life of men must be illumined and pervaded by the conceptions of spiritual science!
Just as once in the East there was a Lucifer-incarnation, and then, at the mid-point, as it were, of world-evolution, the incarnation of Christ, so in the West there will be an incarnation of Ahriman.
This Ahrimanic incarnation cannot be averted; it is inevitable, for men must confront Ahriman face to face. He will be the individuality by whom it will be made clear to men what indescribable cleverness can be developed if they call to their help all that earthly forces can do to enhance cleverness and ingenuity. In the catastrophes that will befall humanity in the near future, men will become extremely inventive; many things discovered in the forces and substances of the universe will be used to provide nourishment for man. But these very discoveries will at the same time make it apparent that matter is connected with the organs of intellect, not with the organs of the spirit but of the intellect. People will learn what to eat and drink in order to become really clever. Eating and drinking cannot make them spiritual, but clever and astute, yes. Men have no knowledge of these things as yet; but not only will they be striven for, they will be the inevitable outcome of catastrophes looming in the near future. And certain secret societies — where preparations are already in train — will apply these things in such a way that the necessary conditions can be established for an actual incarnation of Ahriman on the earth. This incarnation cannot be averted, for men must realise during the time of the earth's existence just how much can proceed from purely material processes! He must learn to bring under his control those spiritual or unspiritual currents which are leading to Ahriman.
Once it is realised that conflicting party programmes can be proved equally correct, our attitude of soul will be that we do not set out to prove things, but rather to experience them. For to experience a thing is a very different matter from attempting to prove it intellectually.
Equally we shall be convinced that deeper and deeper penetration of the Gospels is necessary through spiritual science. The literal, word-for-word acceptance of the Gospels that is still so prevalent to-day, promotes Ahrimanic culture. Even on external grounds it is obvious that a strictly literal acceptance of the Gospels is unjustified. For as you know, what is good and right for one time is not right for every other time. What is right for one epoch becomes Luciferic or Ahrimanic when practised in a later one. The mere reading of the Gospel texts has had its day. What is essential now is to acquire a spiritual understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha in the light of the truths enshrined in the Gospels. Many people, of course, find these things disquieting; but those whose interest is attracted by Anthroposophy must learn to realise that the levels of culture, gradually piling one above the other, have created chaos, and that light must penetrate again into this chaos.
It is interesting nowadays to listen to someone whose views have become very extreme, or to read about some burning question of the day, and then to listen to sermons on the same subject given by a priest of some denomination who is still steeped in the form of thought current in bye gone times. There you face two worlds which you cannot possibly confuse unless you avoid all attempts to get at the root of these things. Listen to a modern socialist speaking about social questions and then, immediately afterwards, to a Catholic preacher speaking about the same questions. It is very interesting to find two levels of culture existing side by side but using the words in an entirely different sense. The same word has quite a different meaning in each case.
These things should be seen in the light that will dawn if they are taken in the earnest spirit we have been trying to convey. People belonging to definite religions do also come, in the end, to long in their own way for spiritual deepening. It is by no means without significance that a man as eminently spiritual as Cardinal Newman, ardent Catholic though he was, should say at his investiture as Cardinal in Rome that he could see no salvation for Christianity other than a new revelation.
In effect, what Cardinal Newman said was that he could see no salvation for Christianity other than a new revelation! But he had not the courage to take a new spiritual revelation seriously. And so it is with many others. You can read countless treatises to-day about what is needed in social life. — Another book has recently appeared: Socialism, by Robert Wilbrandt, the son of the poet. In it the social question is discussed on the foundation of accurate and detailed knowledge. And finally it is stated that without the spirit nothing is achieved? That the very course of events shows that the spirit is necessary. Yes, but what does such a man really achieve? He gets as far as to utter the word “spirit”, to pronounce the abstract word “spirit”; but he refuses to accept, indeed he rejects, anything that endeavours to make the spirit really take effect.
For that it is essential above all to realise that wallowing in abstractions, however loud the cry for the spirit, is not yet spiritual, not yet spirit! Vague, abstract chattering about the spirit must never be confused with the active search for the content of the spiritual world pursued in anthroposophical science.
Nowadays there is much talk about the spirit. But you who accept spiritual science should not be deluded by such chattering; you should perceive the difference between it and the descriptions of the spiritual world attempted in Anthroposophy, where the spiritual world is described as objectively as the physical world. You should probe into these differences, reminding yourselves repeatedly that abstract talk of the spirit is a deviation from sincere striving for the spirit and that, by their very talk, people are actually removing themselves from the spirit. Purely intellectual allusion to the spirit leads nowhere. — What, then, is “intelligence”? What is the content of our human intelligence? I can best explain this in the following way. — Imagine — and this will be better understood by the many ladies present! — imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror and looking into it. The picture presented to you by the mirror is you, but it has no reality at all. It is nothing but a reflection. All the intelligence within your soul, all the intellectual content, is only a mirror-image; it has no reality. And just as your reflected image is called into existence through the mirror, so what mirrors itself as intelligence is called into existence through the physical apparatus of your body, through the brain. Man is intelligent only because his body is there. And as little as you can touch yourself by stretching your hand towards your reflected image, as little can you lay hold of the spirit if you turn only to the intellectual — for the spirit is not there! What is grasped through the intellect, ingenious as it may be, never contains the spirit itself, but only a picture of the spirit. You cannot truly experience the spirit if you get no further than mere intelligence. The reason why intelligence is so seductive is that it yields a picture, a reflected picture of the spirit — but not the spirit itself. It seems unnecessary to go to the inconvenience of penetrating to the spirit, because it is there — or so, at least, one imagines. In reality it is only a reflected picture — but for all that, it is not difficult to talk about the spirit.
To distinguish the mere picture from the reality — that is the task of the tenor of soul which does not merely theorise about spiritual science but has actual perception of the spirit.
That is what I wanted to say to you to-day in order to intensify the earnestness which should pervade our whole attitude to the spiritual life as conceived by Anthroposophy. For the evolution of humanity in the future will depend upon how truly this attitude is adopted by men of the present day. If what I have characterised in this lecture continues to be offered the reception that is still offered to it to-day by the vast majority of people on the earth, then Ahriman will be an evil guest when he comes. But if men are able to rouse themselves to take into their consciousness what we have been studying, if they are able so to guide it that humanity can freely confront the Ahrimanic influence, then, when Ahriman appears, men will acquire, precisely through him, the power to realise that although the earth must enter inevitably into its decline, mankind is lifted above earthly existence through this very fact. When a man has reached a certain age in physical life, his body begins to decline, but if he is sensible he makes no complaint, knowing that together with his soul he is approaching a life that does not run parallel with this physical decline. There lives in mankind something that is not bound up with the already prevailing decline of the physical earth but becomes more and more spiritual just because of this physical decline.
Let us learn to say frankly: Yes, the earth is in its decline, and human life, too, in respect of its physical manifestation; but just because it is so, let us muster the strength to draw into our civilisation that element which, springing from mankind itself, will live on while the earth is in decline, as the immortal fruit of earth-evolution.