Friday, April 5, 2019
The historical significance of the scientific mode of thinking
From Sympton to Reality in Modern History. Lecture 4 of 9.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 25, 1918:
Before turning to other matters I must speak of certain wider conceptions that follow from our consideration of the recent development of human history. We attempted to examine this development from the stand-point of a symptomatology; we tried to show that what are usually called historical facts are not the essential elements in history, but that they are symbols of the true reality that lies behind them. This true reality, at least in the sphere of the historical evolution of mankind, is thus detached from what can be perceived in the phenomenal world, i.e. the so-called historical facts. If we do not regard the so-called historical facts as the true reality but seek in them manifestations of something that lies behind them then we discover of course a super-sensible element.
In studying history it is not easy to show the true nature of the super-sensible because people believe, when they discover certain thoughts or ideas in history, or when they record historical events, that they are already in touch with the super-sensible. We must be quite clear that whatever the phenomenal world presents to the senses, to the intellect or emotions cannot in any way be regarded as super-sensible. Therefore everything that is normally depicted as history belongs to the sensible world. Of course when we study the symptomatology of history we shall not regard the symptoms as having equal value; the study itself will show that, in order to arrive at the super-sensible reality behind the events, a particular Symptom is of capital importance, whilst other symptoms are perhaps of no importance.
I have already mentioned many of the more or less important symptoms manifested since mankind entered the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. I should now like to try to describe to you, step by step, a few characteristics of the super-sensible present in the background. Some I have already described. For of course a fundamental feature pulsing in the super-sensible is the entrance of mankind into the civilization of the Consciousness Soul, that is to say, the acquisition of the organs necessary for the development of the Consciousness Soul. That is the essential. But we have recently seen that the other pole, the complement to this inner elaboration of the Consciousness Soul, must be the aspiration to a revelation from the spiritual world. Men must realize that henceforth they will be unable to progress spiritually unless they open themselves to the new revelation of the super-sensible world.
Let us now consider these two poles of evolution. To a certain extent they have come to the fore in the centuries since 1413 when mankind entered the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. These two impulses will continue to develop, will assume a wide diversity of forms in the different epochs up to the third millennium and will be responsible for the manifold vicissitudes that befall mankind. Individuals will gradually become aware of this. In considering these two impulses in particular, we learn that fundamental changes have occurred since the fifteenth century. Today we are in a position to draw attention to these important developments. In the eighteenth century, and even in the early nineteenth century it would not have been possible to show the operation of these two impulses purely from the observation of external phenomena. They had not yet been operative for a sufficient length of time to show their full effect. Now such is their dynamic power that it is perceptible in external phenomena.
Let us now consider an essential fact which has an important bearing today. Whilst early indications were apparent only to those who were more or less acquainted with the true state of affairs — I am referring to the Russian Revolution in its last phase, namely from October 1917 to the peace negotiations of Brest-Litovsk — this extraordinarily interesting development which can easily be followed, since it lasted only a few months, is of immense importance to those who seriously wish to understand the historical symptoms, for this development is of course a historical symptom. In the final analysis the origin of the Russian Revolution is to be found in the deeper impulses of contemporary evolution. In this revolution it is a question of new ideas. For when we speak of real evolution in mankind we are concerned only with new ideas. Everything else — as we have already indicated, and we will recur to this later — is subject to a certain extent to the symptoms of death. It is a question of making new ideas effective. As you will have gathered from the many discussions which I have had upon this subject over recent decades — these new ideas must be able to capture the broad masses of peasantry in Eastern Europe. Of course we are dealing here with a passivity of soul, but a soul that, as you know, is receptive especially to new and modern ideas, for the simple reason that it bears within it the seed of the Spirit Self. Whereas, on the whole, the rest of the world's population bears within it the impulse to develop the Consciousness Soul, the broad mass of the Russian population, together with a few satellites, bears within it the seed from which the Spirit Self will be developed in the course of the sixth postAtlantean epoch. This necessitates, of course, very special circumstances. But this has an important bearing on what we are about to study next.
Now this idea — partly correct, partly false or wholly mistaken — this modern idea of something entirely new which was destined to capture the broad mass of the population could only come from those who had had the opportunity to be educated, namely from the ruling classes.
After the fall of Czarism the centre of the state was at first occupied by an element that was closely connected with a totally sterile class, the upper middle class — called in the West, heavy industry, etcetera. This could only be an interlude which we need not discuss, for this class is destitute of ideas and, as a class, is of course quite incapable of developing ideas. (When speaking of these matters I never indulge in personalities.)
Now at first those elements which were of middle class origin, together with a sprinkling of working class elements, formed the party of the left. They formed the leading wing of the so-called Social Revolutionaries and were gradually joined by the Mensheviks. They were men who — purely in terms of their numbers — could easily have played a leading part in determining the future course of the Russian Revolution. As you know events took a different course. The radical wing of the Russian Social Democratic party, the Bolsheviks, took over the helm. When they (the Bolsheviks) came to power, the Social Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks and their followers in the West were quite sure that the whole charade would not last more than a week before everything collapsed. Well, the Bolsheviks have now been in power more than a week and you can rest assured of this: if many prophets are bad prophets, then those who today base their predictions of historical events upon the outmoded world conceptions of certain middle classes are certainly the worst! What is the cause of this situation? This problem of the October Revolution, throughout the months following its outbreak and until today, is, in the terminology of physics, not a problem of pressure, but of suction. It is important that we can infer from the historical situation that we are dealing here not with a problem of pressure, but of suction. What do we understand by a problem of suction? As you know, when we create a vacuum by sucking out the air in the glass jar of an air pump and then remove the stopper, the air rushes in with a hissing sound. The air rushes in, not of its own volition, but because a vacuum has been created.
This was the situation of those elements which to some extent stood midway between the peasantry and the Bolsheviks, between the Social Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, and the radical revolutionary groups of the extreme left, i.e. the Petrograd Soviet. What had happened was that the Mensheviks, though they had an overwhelming majority in the Provisional Government were totally destitute of ideas. They had not a word to say about the future of mankind. No doubt they cherished touching ethical sentiments and other romantic ideals, but, as I have often pointed out, ethical good intentions do not provide the impulses which can further the development of mankind. Thus a vacuum was created, an ideological vacuum, and the radical left wing rushed in. It is impossible to believe that, by their very nature, the most radical socialist elements who were alien to Russian tradition and culture were destined to take over in Russia. They could never have done so if the Social Revolutionaries and the various groups associated with them had had any ideas of how to give a lead. But you will ask: what ideas ought they to have had? A fruitful answer can only be found today by those who are no longer afraid to face this fact: for this section of the population the only fertile ideas are those which spring from spiritual experience. Nothing else avails.
It is true that these people have become more or less radical and will now deny their middle class origin, many at least will deny it, but there is no mistaking their origin. But the essential point is that this section of the population which created a vacuum, who were bereft of ideas, simply could not be induced to develop anything in the nature of positive ideas.
And this applies, of course, not only to Russia. But the Russian Revolution in its final phase — provisionally the final phase — demonstrates this fact with particular clarity to those who are prepared to study the matter. We see how, day after day, these people (i.e. the Mensheviks and their supporters) who have created a vacuum are gradually forced back and how others rush in to fill the vacuum, i.e. to replace them. But today this phenomenon is world-wide. The fact is that the section of the population which today stands politically between the right and the left has steadily refused to make the slightest effort to develop a positive Weltanschauung. In our epoch of the Consciousness Soul a creative Weltanschauungmust of necessity be one which also promotes social cohesion.
It was this which from the very beginning permeated our Anthroposophical movement. It was not intended in any way to be a sectarian movement, but endeavoured to come to terms with the impulse of our time, with everything that is essential and important for mankind today. This was increasingly our goal. It is this which is most difficult to bring to men's understanding today for the simple reason that the belief persists (not in all, but in the majority) that what they are looking for in Anthroposophy, as they understand it, is a little moral uplift, something necessary for one's private and personal edification, something which insulates one from the serious matters which are settled in Parliament, in the Federal Councils, in this or that Corporation, or even round the beer table. What we must realize is that the whole of life must be impregnated with ideas which can be derived only from spiritual science.
Whilst this section of the population, i.e. the bourgeoisie, was indifferent to spiritual ideas, the proletariat showed and still shows today a lively interest in them. But as a consequence of the historical evolution of modern times the horizon of the proletariat is limited purely to the sensible world. It is prisoner of materialistic impulses and seeks to steer the evolution of mankind into utilitarian channels. The bourgeoisie knows only empty rhetoric, what it is pleased to call its Weltanschauung is simply verbiage, because it has no roots in contemporary life and is a survival from earlier times. The proletariat, on the other hand, because it is motivated by a totally new economic impulse lives therefore in realities, but only in realities of a sensible nature.
This provides us with an important criterion. In the course of the last few centuries the life of mankind has undergone a fundamental change; we have entered the machine age. The life of the middle class and the upper middle class has scarcely felt the impact of the machine age. For the new and powerful influences which have affected the life of the bourgeoisie in recent centuries belong to the pre-machine age ... for example, the introduction of coffee as the favourite beverage for cafe gossip. Equally the new banking practices, etcetera, introduced by the bourgeoisie are wholly unsuited to the new impulses of today. They are simply a hotchpotch of the ancient usages formerly practised in commercial life.
On the other hand the proletariat of today is the caste or class which is dominated by a modern impulse in the external life and to a certain extent is the creation of modern impulses themselves. Since the invention of the spinning jenny and the mechanical loom in the eighteenth century, the entire political economy of mankind has been transformed, and these inventions have been largely responsible for the birth of the modern proletariat. The proletariat is a creation of the modern epoch, that is the point to bear in mind. The bourgeois is not a creation of modern times. For the class or group which existed in earlier times and which could be compared with the proletariat of today did not belong to the third estate; it still formed part of the old patriarchal order. And the patriarchal order is totally different from the social order of the machine age. In this new order the proletarian is surrounded by a completely mechanized environment wholly divorced from living nature. He is entirely engaged in practical activities, but he thirsts for a Weltanschauung and he has endeavoured to model his conception of the universe on the pattern of a vast machine. For men see the universe as a reflection of their own environment. Now I have already pointed out there is an affinity between the theologian and the soldier. They see the universe as a battleground, the scene of the clash between the forces of good and evil, etcetera and leave it at that. Equally there is a close affinity between the jurist and the civil servant; they and the metaphysician see in the universe the realization of abstract ideas. Small wonder then that the proletarian sees the universe as a vast machine in which he is simply a cog. That is why he wishes to model the social order on the pattern of a vast machine.
But there was and still is a vast difference between, for example, the modern proletarian and the modern bourgeois — we can ignore the class which is already in decline. The modern bourgeois has not the slightest interest in deeper ideological questions, whereas the proletarian is passionately interested in them. It is true the modern bourgeois holds frequent meetings for an exchange of views, but for the most part they are so much hot air; the proletarian on the other hand discusses his daily life and working conditions and the daily output of mass production. When one passes from a middle class reunion to a proletarian meeting one has the following impression — In the former they spend time in discussing what a fine thing it would be if men lived in peace, if all were pacifists for example, or other fine sentiments of alike nature. But all this is merely verbal dialectic seasoned with a pinch of sentimentality. The bourgeoisie is not imbued with a desire to open a window on the universe, to realize their objectives from out of the mysteries of the Cosmos. When you attend a proletarian meeting you are immediately aware that the workers are talking of realities, even if they are the realities of the physical plane. They have the history of the working class at their finger-tips, from the invention of the mechanical loom and the spinning jenny until the present day. Every man has had dinned into him the history of those early beginnings and their subsequent development, and how the proletariat has become what it is today. How this situation arose is familiar ground to every worker who is actively involved in this development and who is not completely stupid, and there are few amongst this section of the population who haven't a good head on their shoulders.
One could give many typical instances of the obtuseness of the present bourgeoisie with regard to ideological questions. One need only recall how these people react when a poet presents on the stage figures from the super-sensible world (those who are not poets dare not take this risk for fear of being labelled visionaries). The spectators half accept these figures because there is no need to believe in them, because they are totally unreal — they are merely poetic inventions! This situation has arisen in the course of the development of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. If we consider this situation spatially, we see the growth of a section of the population which, unless it takes heed, is increasingly in danger of ending completely in empty talk. But one can also consider this same situation in relation to time, and in this respect I have repeatedly called attention from widely different angles to certain important moments in time.
The epoch of the Consciousness Soul began approximately in 1413. In the forties of the nineteenth century, about 1840 or 1845, the first fifth of this era had already run its course. The forties were an important period. For the powers impelling world evolution foresaw a kind of crisis for this period. Externally this crisis arose because these years in particular were the hey-day of the so called liberal ideas. In the forties it seemed as if the impulse of the Consciousness Soul in the form of liberalism might breach the walls of reactionary conservatism in Europe. Two things concurred in these years. The proletariat was still the prisoner of its historical origins, it lacked self-assurance, confidence in itself. Only in the sixties was it ready to play a conscious part in historical evolution; before this one cannot speak of proletarian consciousness in the modern sense of the term. The social question of course existed before the sixties, but the middle class was totally unaware of it. At the end of the sixties an Austrian minister [ Note 1 ] of repute made the famous remark: ‘The social question ends at Bodenbach!’ Bodenbach, as you perhaps know, lies on the frontier between Saxony and Austria. Such was the famous dictum of a bourgeois minister!
In the forties therefore the proletarian consciousness did not yet exist. In the main, the bearer of the political life at that time was the bourgeoisie. Now the ideas which could have become a political force in the 1840's were exceedingly abstract. You are all familiar (at least to a certain extent I hope) with what are called the revolutionary ideas — in reality they were liberal ideas — which swept over Europe in the forties and unleashed the storm of 1848. As you know, the bearer of these ideas was the middle class. But all these ideas which were prevalent at the time and which were struggling to find a place in the historical evolution of mankind were totally abstract, sometimes merely empty words! But there was no harm in that, for in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul one had to go through the abstractive phase and apprehend the leading ideas of mankind first of all in this abstract form.
Now you know from your own experience and that of others that the human being does not learn to read or write overnight. In order to develop certain potentialities mankind also needs time to prepare the ground. And mankind was given until the end of the seventies to develop new ideas. Let us look at this a little more closely. Starting from the year 1845, add thirty-three years and we arrive at the year 1878. Up to this year, approximately, mankind was given the opportunity of becoming acclimatized to the reality of the ideas of the forties. The decades between the forties and the seventies are most important for an understanding of modern evolution, for it was in the forties that what are called liberal ideas, albeit in an abstract form, began to take root and mankind was given until the end of the seventies to apprehend those ideas and relate them to the realities of the time.
But the bearer of these ideas, the bourgeoisie, missed their opportunity. The evolution of the nineteenth century is fraught with tragedy. For those who listened to the speeches of the outstanding personalities of the bourgeoisie in the forties (and there were many such throughout thc whole civilized world) announcing their programme for a radical change in every sphere, the forties and fifties seemed to herald the dawn of a new age. But, owing to the characteristics of the middle class which I have already described, hopes were dashed. By the end of the seventies the bourgeoisie had failed to grasp the import of liberal ideas. From the forties to the seventies the middle class had been asleep and we cannot afford to ignore the consequence. The tide of events is subject to a pattern of ebb and flow and mankind can only look forward to a favourable development in the future if we are prepared to face frankly what occurred in the immediate past. We can only wake up in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul if we are aware that we have hitherto been asleep! If we are unaware when and how long we have been asleep, we shall not awake up, but continue to sleep on.
When the Archangel Michael took over his task as Time Spirit at the end of the seventies the bourgeoisie had not understood the political impact of liberal ideas. The powers which in this epoch intervened in the life of mankind began by obscuring the nature of these ideas. And if you take the trouble, you can follow this very clearly. How different was the configuration of the political life at the end of the nineteenth century from that envisaged in the forties! One cannot imagine a greater contrast than the ideas of 1840–1848 (which were certainly abstract, yet lucid despite their abstract nature), and the ‘lofty human ideals’, as they were called, in the different countries in the nineteenth century and even up to our own time, when they ended in catastrophe.
The temporal complement therefore to the spatial picture is this: in the most productive and fertile years for the bourgeoisie, from the forties to the end of the seventies, they had been asleep. Afterwards it was too late, for nothing could then be achieved by following the path along which the liberal ideal might have been realised in this period. Afterwards only through conscious experience of spiritual realities could anything be achieved. There we see the connection between historical events.
In the period between the forties and the seventies the ideas of liberalism, though abstract, were such that they tended to promote tolerance between men. And assuming for the moment that these ideas were realized, then we should see the beginning, only the first steps it is true, but nonetheless a beginning of a tolerant attitude towards others, a respect for their ideas and sentiments which is so conspicuously lacking today. And so in social life a far more radical, a far more powerful idea, an idea which has its source in the spirit, must lay hold of men. I propose first of all, purely from the point of view of future history, to indicate this idea and will then substantiate it in greater detail.
Only a genuine concern of each man for his neighbour can bring salvation to mankind in the future — I mean to his community life. The characteristic feature of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul is man's isolation. That he is inwardly isolated from his neighbour is the consequence of individuality, of the development of personality. But this separative tendency must have a reciprocal pole and this counterpole must consist in the cultivation of an active concern of every man for his neighbour.
This awakening of an active concern for others must be developed ever more consciously in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. Amongst the fundamental impulses indicated in my book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. How is it achieved? you will find mentioned the impulse which, when applied to social life, aims at enhancing understanding for others. You will find frequent mention of ‘positiveness,’ the need to develop a positive attitude. The majority of men today will certainly have to foreswear their present ways if they wish to develop this positive attitude, for at the moment they have not the slightest notion what it means. When they perceive something in their neighbour which displeases them — I do not mean something to which they have given careful consideration, but something which from a superficial angle meets with their disapproval — they immediately begin to criticize, without attempting to put themselves in their neighbour's skin. It is highly anti-social from the point of view of the future evolution of mankind — this may perhaps seem paradoxical, but it is none the less true — to harbour these tendencies and to approach one's neighbour with undisguised sympathy or antipathy. On the other hand the finest and most important social attribute in the future will be the development of a scientific objective understanding of the shortcomings of others, when we are more interested in their shortcomings than in our concern to criticize them. For gradually in the course of the fifth, sixth and seventh cultural epochs the individual will have to devote himself increasingly and with loving care to the shortcomings of his neighbour. On the pediment of the famous temple of Apollo in Greece was inscribed this motto: ‘Know thyself’. Self knowledge in the highest sense could still be achieved at that time through introspection. But that is becoming progressively less possible. Today man has made little advance in self knowledge through introspection. Fundamentally men know so little of each other because they are concerned only with themselves, and because they pay so little attention to others, especially to what they call the shortcomings of others.
This can be confirmed by a purely scientific fact. Today when the scientist wants to discover the secrets of human, animal and plant life he does two things. I have often spoken of this and it is most important. First of all he carries out an experiment, following the same procedure for inorganic life as for organic life. But by experimentation he loses touch with living nature. He who is able to follow with true insight the results of experimentation knows that the experimental method is shot through with the forces of death. All that experimentation can offer, even the patient and painstaking work of Oskar Hertwig [ Note 2 ] for example, is dead-sea fruit. It cannot explain how a living being is fertilized, nor how it is born. By this method one can only explain the inorganic. The art of experimentation can tell us nothing of the secrets of life. That is the one side.
Today however there is one field of investigation which operates with very inadequate means and is as yet in its very early stages, but which is calculated to give valuable information about human nature, namely, the study of pathological conditions in man. When we study the case history of a man who is not quite normal we feel that we can be at one with him, that with sympathetic understanding we can break through the barrier that separates us from him and so draw nearer to him. By experimentation we are detached from reality; by the study of what are called today pathological conditions — malformations as Goethe so aptly called themwe are brought back to reality. We must not be repelled by them, but must develop an understanding for them. We must say to ourselves: the tragic element in life — without ever wishing it for anybody — can sometimes be most instructive, it can throw a flood of light upon the deepest mysteries of life. We shall only understand the significance of the brain for the life of the soul through a more intensive study of the mentally disturbed. And this is the training ground for a sympathetic understanding of others. Life uses the crude instrument of sickness in order to awaken our interest in others. It is this concern for our neighbour which can promote the social progress of mankind in the immediate future, whereas the reverse of positiveness, a superficial attitude of sympathy or antipathy towards others makes for social regression. These things are all related to the mystery of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul.
In every epoch of history mankind develops some definite faculty and this faculty plays an important role in evolution. Recall my words at the end of the last lecture. I said: men must be prepared to recognize more and more in the events of external history creation and destruction, birth and death, birth through impregnation with a new spiritual revelation, death through everything that we create. For the fundamental characteristic of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul is that, on the physical plane, we can only create if we are aware that everything we create is destined to perish. Death is inherent in everything we create. On the physical plane the most important achievements of recent time are fraught with death. And the mistake we make is not that our creations are fraught with death, but that we refuse to recognize that they are vehicles of death.
After the first fifth of the epoch of the Consciousness Soul has elapsed, people still say today: man is born and dies. They avoid saying, for it seems absurd: to what end is man born if he is destined to die? Why bring a man into the world when we know that death is his lot. In that event birth is meaningless! Now people do not say this, because nature in her wisdom compels them to accept birth and death in the sphere of external nature. In the sphere of history, however, they have not yet reached the stage when they accept birth and death as the natural order of things. Everything created in the domain of history, they believe, is without exception good and is destined to subsist for ever. In the epoch of the Consciousness Soul we must develop a sense that the external events of history are subject to birth and death, and that, whatever we create, be it a child's toy or an empire, we create in the knowledge that it must one day perish. Failure to recognize the impermanence of things is irrational, just as it would be irrational to believe that one could bear a child which was entitled to live on earth for ever.
In the epoch of the Consciousness Soul we must become fully aware that the works of man are impermanent. In the Graeco-Latin epoch this was not necessary, for at that time the course of history followed the natural cycle of birth and death. Civilizations rose and fell as a natural process. In the epoch of the Consciousness Soul it is man who weaves birth and death into the web of his social life. And in this epoch man can acquire a sense for this because in the GraecoLatin epoch this seed had been implanted in him under quite specific circumstances.
For a man of the middle Graeco-Latin epoch the most important moment in his development was the early thirties. These years were to some extent the focal point of two forces which are active in every man. The forces which operate in the symptoms of birth are active throughout the whole period from birth to death; but their characteristic features are manifested at birth. Birth is only one significant symptom of the activity of these forces; and the other occasions when the same forces are active throughout the whole of physical life are less important. In the same way, the forces of death begin to act at the moment of birth and when man dies they are especially evident. These two polar forces, the forces of birth and the forces of death, always maintain a kind of balance. In the Graeco-Latin epoch they were most evenly balanced when man reached the early thirties. Up to this age he developed his sentient life and afterwards, through his own efforts, his intellect. Before the thirties his intellectual life could only be awakened through teaching and education. And therefore we speak of the Graeco-Latin epoch as the era of the Rational or Intellectual Soul because the sentient life up to the age of thirty and the intellectual life which developed later were united. But this no longer applies in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul. Today intellectual development ceases before middle life. The majority of people one meets today, especially amongst the middle classes, do not mature after the age of twenty-seven; thereafter they are content to plough the same furrow. You can easily see what I mean by looking around you. How few people today have radically changed in any way since the age of twenty-seven. They have aged physically, their hair has turned grey, they have become decrepit ... (perhaps that is going a little too far), but, on the whole, man reckons that he has reached maximum potentiality by the age of twenty-seven. Let us take the case of a member of the so-called intellectual class. If he has had a sound training up to the age of twenty-seven he wants to establish himself; if he has gained a qualification he wants to make use of it and advance his career potential. Would you expect a man of average intelligence today to become a second Faust, that is to say, to study not only one faculty, but four faculties in succession up to the age of fifty? I do not mean that he should of necessity go to the university, perhaps there are better possibilities than the four faculties. A man who is prepared to continue his studies, to expand his knowledge, a man who remains plastic and capable of transformation is a rarity today. This was far more common amongst the Greeks, at least amongst the intellectual section of the population, because development did not cease in the early thirties. The forces inherited at birth were still very active. They began to encounter the forces leading to death; a state of equilibrium was established at the midway stage of life. Today this situation has come to an end; the majority hopes to be ‘made’ men, as the saying goes, by the age of twenty-seven. Yet at the end of their thirties they could recapture something of their youthful idealism and go forward to wider fields if they really wished to do so! But I wonder how many there are today who are prepared to make the readjustment necessary for the future evolution of mankind: to develop a constant readiness to learn, to remain plastic and to be ever receptive to change. This will not be possible without that active sympathy for others of which I have already spoken. Our hearts must be filled with a tender concern for our neighbour, with sympathetic understanding for his peculiarities. And precisely because this compassion and understanding must take hold of mankind it is so rarely found today.
What I have just described throws light upon an important fact of man's inner psychic development. The thread linking birth and death is broken to some extent between the ages of twenty-six to twenty-seven and thirty-seven to thirty-eight. In this decade of man's evolution the forces of birth and death are not fully in harmony. The disposition of soul which man needs, and which he could still experience in the Graeco-Latin epoch because the forces of birth and death were still naturally conjoined, this disposition of soul he must develop in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul because he is able to observe birth and death in the external life of history. In brief, our observation of external life must be such that we can face the world around us fearlessly and courageously, saying to ourselves: we must consciously create and destroy in all domains of life. It is impossible to create forms of social life that last forever. He who works for social ends must have the courage constantly to build afresh, not to stagnate, because the works of man are impermanent and are doomed to perish, because new forms must replace the old.
Now in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch, the epoch of the Intellectual or Rational Soul, birth and death were active in man in characteristic fashion; as yet there was no need for him to be aware of them externally. Now, in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul he must perceive them externally; to this end he must again develop in himself something else, and this is very important.
Let us look at man schematically in relation to the fourth, fifth and sixth cultural epochs.
In the fourth post-Atlantean epoch (the Graeco-Latin epoch) man was conscious of birth and death when he looked within himself. Today he must first perceive the forces of birth and death externally, in the events of history, in order to discover them within himself. That is why it is so vitally important that in the epoch of the Consciousness Soul man should have a clear understanding of forces of birth and death in their true sense, i.e. a knowledge of repeated lives on earth, in order to acquire an understanding for birth and death in the unfolding of history.
But just as man's consciousness of birth and death has passed from an inner experience to an external realization, so in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch he must develop within himself something which in the sixth post-Atlantean epoch beginning in the fourth millennium will once again be experienced externally, namely, evil. In the fifth post-Atlantean epoch evil is destined to develop in man; it will ray outwards in the sixth epoch and be experienced externally just as birth and death were experienced externally in the fifth epoch. Evil is destined to develop in man's inner being.
That is indeed an unpleasant truth! One can accept the fact that in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch man was familiar with birth and death as an inner experience and then perceived them in the cosmos as I pointed out in my lectures on the Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection, and the Mystery of Golgotha. Therefore mankind of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch is brought face to face with the phenomenon of the birth and death of Christ Jesus because birth and death were of vital importance in this epoch.
Today when Christ is destined to appear again in the etheric body, when a kind of Mystery of Golgotha is to be experienced anew, evil will have a significance akin to that of birth and death for the fourth post-Atlantean epoch! In the fourth epoch the Christ impulse was born out of the forces of death for the salvation of mankind. We can say that we owe the new impulse that permeated mankind to the event on Golgotha. Thus by a strange paradox mankind is led to a renewed experience of the Mystery of Golgotha in the fifth epoch through the forces of evil. Through the experience of evil it will be possible for the Christ to appear again, just as He appeared in the fourth post-Atlantean epoch through the experience of death.
In order to understand this — we have already given here and there a few indications of the Mystery of Evil — we must now say a few words about the relationship between the Mystery of Evil and the Mystery of Golgotha. This relationship will be the subject of our next lecture.