Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 8, 1920:
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Today's Heathen Science versus Christianity
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, May 8, 1920:
You will remember that I have discussed in detail how much criticism has come from many sides of the idea of a connection between the Christ Event, the appearance of Christ on Earth, and Cosmic events such as the course of the Sun, or the relation of the Sun to the Earth. The connection can only be understood when one studies more deeply all that we have hitherto said as to the movements of the stellar system. Let us make a beginning in this direction today, for you will see that ultimately astronomy cannot really be studied at all without entering into a study of the whole being of Man. I have already mentioned this, but we shall see how deeply grounded is the statement in the whole being of the world, for we can only understand something of the nature of the world or of the nature of Man when we consider the two together, not separately, as is done at present. You will observe a curious fact in relation to this very matter, namely, that materialism, if only it is not directly acknowledged to be such, is preferred by the religious denominations to Spiritual Science. That is, both Protestants and Roman Catholics prefer to consider the outer world in its various realms in a materialistic sense, rather than to enquire how the Spiritual works in the world and presents itself in material phenomena. In confirmation of this you need only consider the Jesuits' views of Natural Science. These are strictly materialistic; from their point of view the outer world, the Cosmos, is only to be understood in the light of quite materialistic interpretations. The utmost care has been taken to protect in this way a certain form of faith, which has been cultivated since the Council held in Constantinople in 869 — to protect it by keeping external science on the level of materialism. Of course in the widest circles, illusions have arisen through the apparent conflict with materialism even in scientific realms. This however is only apparent, for it does not matter whether one says that there is spirit somewhere, or whether one denies spirit altogether, if the material world itself is not explained spiritually.
You know perhaps that the acme of modern interpretation of external nature is Astro-physics, the theory that sets out to study the material starry world, to establish the material unity of the world accessible to the senses. Now one of the greatest Astro-physicists is a Roman Jesuit, Father Secchi. There is no difficulty in standing on the ground of modern material science and at the same time adhering to this shadow of religious belief. This means that as a matter of fact, a materialistic interpretation of the heavens stands nearer today to the religious creeds, and especially to one of the Jesuit persuasion, than does Spiritual Science, for this particular creed is especially concerned not to explain the world by showing the relation of the material to the spiritual. The spiritual must form the content of an independent form of belief in which nothing is said of the scientific study of the Universe; the latter is to remain materialistic, for the moment it ceases to be so it would have to go into what relates to the spiritual — it would have to speak of spirit.
What has just been said must be taken seriously, otherwise we should overlook the significant fact that the Jesuit scientists are the most extreme materialists in the domain of Natural Science. They continually allege that Man cannot approach the spiritual by research into Nature, and they take trouble to keep the spiritual as far removed as possible from such research. This can be traced even in Father Wasmann's studies of ants.
After these preliminary remarks, let us recall an important fact which apparently takes its course entirely in the spiritual world, but which, when we consider this part of our argument more closely, will make clear to us a parallel phenomenon between spiritual life and the life of the external starry world. As you know, we divide the post-Atlantean time into epochs of civilisation, naming the first the old Indian, the second the old Persian, the third the Chaldean-Babylonian-Egyptian, the fourth the Graeco-Latin; and then there is the fifth, in which we now live, beginning in the middle of the fifteenth century. A sixth will follow this, and so forth. I have frequently shown how the fourth epoch began in the continuous stream of the post-Atlantean time, about the year 747 BC., and ceased — speaking roughly, I always say about the middle of the fifteenth century, but to speak more accurately, it really ended in the year AD. 1413. That was the fourth; and we are now in the fifth.
If we thus consider the succession of civilisations, we can describe their characteristics, bearing in mind the descriptions given in Occult Science. Thus we can describe the Graeco-Latin, in which the Event of Golgotha occurred, but in doing so we need not refer to that Event, for we can describe the epoch by connecting it with the preceding one. It is possible to describe the successive epochs in their fundamental nature, and to have an epoch from 747 BC. to AD. 1413 so running its course that nothing in history shows that during this time an important event occurs. Let us recall the time of the occurrence of the Event of Golgotha, remembering all we know concerning the civilisations of the most advanced people of the time — the Greek, the Roman and the Latin. Let us reflect that to these people the Event of Golgotha was an unknown affair. It occurred in a small corner of the world, and the first mention of its effects is to be found in Tacitus, the Roman historian, one hundred years later. It was not observed by its contemporaries, least of all by the most cultured.
Thus the fact comes into evidence in the historical stream of evolution that there was no necessity inherent in the regular progress of the evolution of mankind from the first three epochs of civilisation to the fourth, that the Event of Golgotha should take place. This fact should receive close attention. The Event actually took place 747 years after the beginning of the fourth post-Atlantean period. In trying to understand the Event of Golgotha, we may say that it gave purpose and meaning to the life of the Earth, that the Earth would not have had this meaning if evolution had simply gone on as the outcome of the first, second and third post-Atlantean epochs. The Event of Golgotha came as an intervention from other worlds. This fact is not sufficiently considered. In modern times several historians have alluded to it, but they have not been able to make anything of it. In fact, history practically omits the Event of Golgotha. At most the historians describe the influence of Christianity in the successive post-Christian centuries, but the actual intervention of the Mystery of Golgotha itself is not described in an ordinary course of history. It would indeed be difficult to describe it, if one kept to the ordinary methods of history. Certainly remarkable men — oddly enough, clergy among them — have attempted to explain the causes of the Event of Golgotha. Pastor Kalthoff, for instance, and many others. Pastor Kalthoff tried to explain Christianity from the consciousness and the economic conditions of the last centuries preceding the appearance of Christ. But what did this explanation amount to? In effect it said: People lived in certain economic conditions, and eventually the idea of Christ arose, the dream of Christ, as it were, the ideology of Christ; and from these arose Christology. It arose in humanity only as an idea. People like Paul, and a few others, described what had thus arisen as an idea as though it had occurred as a fact in a remote corner of the world! — Such explanations mean a doing-away with Christianity. It is a noteworthy phenomenon of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries that Christian pastors should set themselves the task of saving Christianity, by eliminating Christ. People were ashamed to admit the facts of the rise of Christianity outright. They found it more satisfactory to explain the rise of Christology, to explain it simply as an idea. Various streams of thought found their way into this domain, and one special province of science has become remarkable in this connection, arising in the materialistic stream of culture which reached its culminating point in Marxism. Thus Kalthoff is a kind of Marxist Pastor who tries to explain Christology out of a sort of pious Marxism. Others have ridden other hobby horses in seeking an explanation for the phenomenon of Christianity; why then should not each explain Christianity or explain Christ Jesus, according to his own fancy? A psychiatrist explains Christ according to psychiatry, simply by saying that the way in which Christ appeared in His time can be explained today from the standpoint of psychiatry as due to an abnormal consciousness. This is no isolated case. And these are phenomena which must not be disregarded, otherwise we do not see what is happening at the present time, for they are signs of present day life as a whole. We must clearly recognise that which has given the Earth a meaning, was an intervention from another world. We must distinguish two streams in human evolution, which indeed run side by side today, but only met for the first time at the beginning of our era. One is the Christian stream, which was added to the continuous current from olden times. Natural Science, for instance, has not yet accepted the Event of Golgotha and flows on in the continuous stream as though that Event had never occurred. Spiritual Science must endeavour to bring natural scientific study and Christology into harmony; for where has Christology any place if the Kant-Laplace theory holds sway and we look back to a primeval mist out of which everything has been formed? Would Christianity ultimately have any real world-significance for Man on Earth if the stars were regarded as they are by Father Secchi? For the starry heavens are regarded by him materialistically, not as though an Event of Golgotha had been born from out of them. And that becomes the chief ground for leaving it to other powers to say how Man should think of the Event of Golgotha. If Man can develop nothing from Cosmic knowledge concerning the Event, some other source must be found to tell him what he ought to think of it, and it is obvious that Rome is that source. All these things are so consistently — in a sense, so grandly — thought out, that it is inexcusable to be under any illusions about them at the present difficult and fateful time.
These 747 years fall in the world's evolution as a period which speaks with the utmost significance. It tells us of all that is connected with the old evolution, all that recalls, and is related to the past periods of time. The new beginning commenced at the end of this epoch, 747 years after, let us say, the founding of Rome — which was really 747, not the point of time given in the ordinary history books.
Here we have a fresh start, and if we now go back and take the periods of time, we shall have to say that everywhere we must add fresh turning-points of time to those already rightly assigned. An entirely new division of the course of time was brought about by the Event of Golgotha's falling in this period, inserted into human evolution from outside, as it were. We must clearly realise the existence of these two streams in world evolution in so far as Man is involved in it. If we hold fast to this we can now see something more.
We know that according to the view of ordinary astronomy, the Moon moves round the Earth. (In reality she does not do this as generally as described; she too describes a lemniscate; but for the moment we will disregard this.) The Moon moves round the Earth. While so doing she also revolves around herself. I have already explained this. She is a polite lady and always turns the same side to us, her back is always turned away from the Earth. Not however quite exactly; we can only say that virtually, speaking generally, she always turns the same side to the Earth. A seventh part of the Moon indeed goes round the edge, as it were, so that really it is not quite always the front of the Moon that is turned towards us, for after a time a seventh part comes forward from the back, and another seventh part retires. This is compensated by the further movements; the whole seventh does not quite go over, it returns; and the Moon reels, as she goes round the Earth — she actually reels. I will only mention this here; in any elementary astronomy book you can look up further details. Could we transport ourselves to a far-distant spot in Cosmic space, which according to the calculations of astronomy would be only a far-distant star, this rotation of the Moon on its own axis would from there take somewhat more than 27 days. If however, we transport ourselves to the Sun, we see that the movements of the Sun and Moon are not uniform, they move with dissimilar velocities; this rotation of the Moon seen from the Sun is not the same as seen from a distant star, but takes rather more than 29 days. Thus we may say that the stellar day of the Moon is 27 days, and its solar day 29 days.
This of course is connected with all the intervolving which takes place in the Universe. As we know, the Sun rises at a different vernal point every Spring, moving round the whole ecliptic, round the whole Zodiac in 25,920 years. These reciprocal movements bring it about that the stellar day of the Moon is considerably shorter than its solar day.
Bearing this in mind we may say: Here too is something remarkable. Every time we make an observation we notice a difference from one full Moon to another in the mutual aspects of Sun and Moon, a difference of almost 2 days. That shows us that we have to do with two movements in Cosmic space, which indeed go together but do not point back to the same origin. What I have set forth here from a Cosmic point of view, can be compared with what I have set forth previously from an ethical-spiritual point of view. There is an interval between the beginnings of the individual epochs of civilisation in the one stream and the beginnings of those connected with the Christ Event. It is always necessary when it is full Moon, as regards sidereal time, to wait for the accomplishment of the solar time. That lasts longer. There is again an interval. Thus in the Cosmos we have two currents, two movements, one in which the Sun takes part, and another, the Moon; and they are of such nature that we may say: If we start from the Moon-stream, we find the Sun-stream intervening in it, just as the Christ-Event intervenes in the continuous stream of evolution, as though coming from a foreign world. To the Moon-world the Sun-world is a foreign world, from a certain point of view.
Now let us consider this subject from yet a third standpoint. This we can do by trying to remember exactly how the human memory works, especially when we include the reminiscence of dreams. We find, for instance, that what has taken place quite recently, although it does not enter the inner movements and course of the dream, plays into its picture world. Do not misunderstand me. We can of course dream of something that happened to us many years ago, but we do not do so unless something has recently occurred which is related by some thought or feeling to the earlier years. The whole nature of dreams is in some way connected with quite recent occurrences. If one wishes to observe such matters, it must be assumed that one is a person who notices the fine details of human life; if such be the case, observation will furnish as exact results as any exact science.
To what is this due? It is due to the fact that a certain time is required in order that what we experience in our soul may be imprinted by the astral body upon the etheric. Approximately from two and a half to three days, though sometimes after only one and a half or two days, but never without having slept upon it, what we have experienced in our intercourse with the world is imprinted by the astral upon the etheric body. It always takes a certain time to be established there. Now compare this fact with another — viz. the fact that in everyday life we alternately separate physical body and etheric body from the astral body and Ego in sleep, and in waking unite them. We may therefore say that altogether between birth and death there is a rather looser connection between the physical and etheric bodies on the one hand and the Ego and astral body on the other. For the physical and etheric bodies remain always together between birth and death, and the astral body and Ego keep together also, but not the astral and etheric bodies; every night they separate. There is thus a looser connection between the astral and etheric bodies than between the etheric and physical; and this is again expressed in the fact that there must in a sense be a certain parting-asunder of the astral and etheric bodies before what we have experienced in the astral body is imprinted upon the etheric body. When some event influences us, it does so of course in the waking condition. This means it works upon the physical, etheric and astral bodies and the Ego. There is however, a difference in their reception of its working. The astral body takes it up at once. The etheric needs a certain time for the impression to be so established that there should be complete harmony between the astral and etheric. Does not this clearly and distinctly show that although we confront an event with all four principles of the human being, there are two currents which do not run the same course in their connection with the outer world, one stream needing longer than the other? There we have the same as we have in history, the same too as we have in the Cosmos — Moon and Sun, Heathendom and Christendom; and now, etheric and astral. Always a differentiation in time. Thus we find this interaction of two streams appearing in our ordinary life, two streams which come together and give a common resultant for life, but yet cannot be grasped so simply as to permit of the causes and effects of the one stream coinciding with the causes and effects of the other.
These things are of the highest importance for the consideration of the Universe and of life, and cannot be dispensed with if one wishes to understand the Universe. There are other facts too which are also entirely overlooked. And what do all these things betoken? They indicate the existence of a certain harmony between cosmic life, historical life and the life of individual men; but a harmony not constructed as is usual today where there is a desire to account for everything by a fundamental law of bio-genesis. The consequence is that we cannot have a single Astronomy but need different Astronomies, one of the Sun, another of the Moon. If we have two clocks, one always a little slower than the other, then the latter will always be in advance; but we should never be able to assume that what happens on the one has its cause on the other. That would be impossible. So too, although there is a certain conformity to law in the one being always the same amount behind the other, the two streams of which we have been speaking have nothing to do with one another; they only work together as I look at them together. Solar astronomy has nothing to do with lunar astronomy. The two only work conjointly in our Universe.
It is important to bear this in mind, and just as we have to distinguish between the solar and lunar astronomy as regards the regulation of the movements of the Sun and Moon, so too must we distinguish in history between what takes place in us by reason of the movement in the periods of civilisation, and what takes place in us through our being in the cycle of time whose central point is the Event of Golgotha. These two things work together in the world, but if we wish to grasp them, we must discriminate between them. We see the prototype of the historical in the cosmic, and we see the ultimate expression — I do not say the effect — but the last expression of these universal facts in our own life in the two or three days which must elapse before our thoughts have become so far firm that they are no longer above in the astral body where they may appear as dreams, as it were, of themselves, but are below in the etheric body and must be brought up by our own active memory or by something that recalls them. Thus within us one movement flows into the other. Just as we have to realise that there is a lunar current that, as it were, generates independent systems or structures of movement, so we must realise that we in our human being are closely connected as regards our physical and etheric bodies with something beyond the human, while on the other hand, in our astral body and Ego we are closely related to something else beyond the human.
Concerning these things a veil of darkness is spread by modern observation, which confuses everything, and assumes a cosmic mist which forms into a ball from which the Sun, Moon, Planets emerge. This is not the case, the Sun and Moon are not from the same origin but are two streams running side by side; and just as little can Man's human Ego and astral body be traced to the same origin as his physical and etheric bodies. They are two different streams. In the book Occult Science it will be seen that these two streams must be traced back to the Sun period. Then to be sure, on going back from the Sun to Saturn, one comes to a sort of unity. This however, lies very far back indeed; from the Sun onwards, there is continually the tendency for two streams to run side by side.
In this description I have wished to show how necessary it is to throw light on the parallel between cosmic existence, historical existence and human existence, in order to arrive at a judgement of how Man has to relate to the cosmic movements. We have seen that if he places himself rightly, the result is not one astronomy, but two; a solar and a lunar astronomy. So too we have a human development of a heathen nature — natural science is still heathen — and a human development of a Christian nature. In our day many have the tendency to prevent these two streams, which have met on Earth in order to work together, from coming together.
Consider for instance, how the whole purport of a book such as that of Traub [*Rudolf Steiner als Philosoph und Theosoph, by Friedrich Traub, Tubingen, 1919.] — the rest of the book has no meaning without this — consists in the assertion: ‘Yes, Dr. Steiner wishes to unite the two streams, heathen and Christian. We will not let that happen. We want natural science to remain heathen, so that there may be no necessity to bring about anything in Christendom which may reconcile it with natural science.’ of course, if Natural Science is allowed to be heathen, Christianity cannot unite with it. Then it can be said: ‘Natural Science is carried on externally, materialistically; Christendom is founded on faith. The two must not be reconciled.’ Christ however, truly did not appear on Earth in order that side by side with his Impulses the heathen impulse should increase in power; He came to permeate the heathen impulse. The task of the present time is to unite what man would keep asunder — Knowledge and Faith — and this must come to pass. Therefore attention must be drawn to such things, as I have done in one of my recent public lectures. On the one side the Church has reached the conclusion that Cosmology is not to be admitted into Christology, and on the other hand a Cosmology is reached by the principle of the indestructibility of matter and force. [*The word “force” on this page is generally rendered “Energy” in English scientific writing (Indestructibility of Matter and Energy).] But if matter and force are regarded as indestructible and eternal, it leads to the treading under foot of all ideals. And then Christianity too is meaningless. Only when what constitutes matter and its laws is regarded as a transitory phenomenon, and when the Christ-Impulse becomes a seed of what will exist when matter and force no longer rule as they do now according to law but have died away, then alone will Christianity, and then alone will ethical ideals and human worth, have a true meaning. There are two great antitheses: The one arising from the final logical conclusion of heathenism — ‘Matter and Force are immortal’, and the other arising from Christianity — ‘Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.’
These are the two greatest contrasts which can be expressed in a concept of the world, and our age has indeed every need not to be confused about such things, but with a mind-awake, earnestly to look at what must be attained as a right concept of the world, in which moral human value and the Christian Impulse in the evolution of the world are not lost sight of in the illusion of indestructible matter and indestructible force. More of this in the next lecture.