Building Stones for an Understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha.
Lecture 2 of 17.
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, February 13, 1917:
Let us turn our thoughts, my dear friends, as we do continually, to the guardian spirits of those who are absent from us, taking their place where the great destinies of the time are being fulfilled:
Spirits ever watchful, Guardian of their souls
May your vibrations waft
To the Earth-men committed to your charge
Our souls' petitioning love:
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may helpfully radiate
To the souls it lovingly seeks!
And to the Spirits of those, who have passed through the gate of death:
Spirits ever watchful, Guardians of their souls!
May your vibrations waft
To the Men of the Spheres committed to your charge
Our souls' petitioning love:
That, united with your power,
Our prayer may helpfully radiate
To the souls it lovingly seeks!
And that Spirit, Who for the healing of the Earth and for her progress, and for the freedom and salvation of mankind, passed through the Mystery of Golgotha; that Spirit Whom in our Spiritual Science we seek, to Whom we would draw near, May He be at your side in all your difficult tasks! (These meditations were repeated at the beginning of each lecture in the series.)
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The lecture given here a week ago had as its culminating point the fact, well known to the spiritual investigator, that although in the outside world the very height of materialistic views and opinions prevail — we are nevertheless just entering on an epoch of the de-materialising of thought and of the world of ideas, which, in the course of time, must lead to a spiritualising and permeating of the earth-life as such, by the spirit. That which is to lay hold of and affect the external life on the physical plane must first be grasped by a few and then by an ever-increasing number of persons, grasped and understood Spiritually. Spiritual Science is in this respect to be a beginning, a means whereby men can uplift their souls to that which is today accessible to those who desire to raise themselves to it, and of which the external physical life is not as yet a reflection, though that is what it must become if the earth is not, in a sense, to be swamped in the downfall of materialistic development. The situation of present-day man can be described as follows. His soul is generally speaking really very near to the Spiritual world; but the ideas and especially the feelings produced by a materialistic conception of the world and by a materialistic attitude towards it, have woven a veil before that which is in reality very close to the human soul today. The connection between the physical Earth-existence, in which man with his whole being is involved notwithstanding many assertions to the contrary made in other quarters — the connection between this materialistic earth existence and the Spiritual world can be found by man, if he will endeavour to develop the inner courageous forces necessary for understanding, not only what nature paints to his external senses, but also that which remains invisible. We can unite ourselves with this invisible essence and experience it, if we stir up the inner force of the soul sufficiently to become aware that in this force the soul shares in something super-human and Spiritual. This connection must not be sought just as human connections and relationships are sought, in the rude external sense-existence; for the connection between the human soul and the Spiritual world is to be found in the intimate forces which the human soul develops when it evolves an inner, silent and quiet attention., Man must now train himself to this, for he has become accustomed, in this materialistic age, to pay attention only to what presses on him from without, and which in a sense calls out to his capacities of perception. The spirit that must be experienced within does not call out, we have to wait for it, and we can only approach it by preparing ourselves for its approach. Concerning the things belonging to the external world which present themselves to our senses and press in upon our outer perception, we can say that they come to us, that they speak to us; but we cannot say anything of the kind as regards the way in which the spirit, the spiritual world, draws near to us. The language of modern times — as I have often said — is more or less coined for the use of the external world, and it is therefore difficult to find words conveying a real impression of that part of the spiritual world which stands before the soul. But an attempt can be made to show approximately the difference between that and the physical. We might say that the Spiritual is experienced in the feeling of gratitude which comes whenever one experiences the Spiritual; one feels: I am grateful to it. Take special note of this: we owe gratitude to the spiritual world. In observing the physical world we say: we see spread out before our senses the mineral world, from which proceed the plant world, the animal world, and our own, — the world of man. In the latter we feel ourselves in a sense at the top of an ascending sequence of external kingdoms; but as far as the Spiritual kingdoms are concerned, we feel ourselves at the bottom, while above and beyond us stretch out the kingdoms of the Angels, Archangels, Archai, and so on. We feel the whole time that we are being supported from these kingdoms, continually called to life by them. We owe gratitude to them. We look up to them and say: our lives and the whole content of our souls flows down to us from the will-impregnated thoughts of the Beings belonging to those worlds, and by them we are constantly being formed. This feeling of personal gratitude to the higher kingdoms should become just as alive in us as the feeling — let us say — of the impressions received through physical perception. When these two feelings are equally alive in our souls-one, that: ‘The external sense things react upon us,’ and the other, that: ‘We owe what lives in the very centre of our being to the Higher Hierarchies,’ — the soul is then in that state of balance in which it can continually perceive aright the co-operative working of the Spiritual and the physical, which indeed goes on unceasingly, but which cannot be perceived unless the two feelings described above are properly balanced.
In the future from now on, evolution will have to proceed in such a way that through the presence of these two feelings in the human soul additional forces will be super-added, forces which are not able to grow therein in the present materialistic age. It is of course understood that what is here meant refers to something which has greatly altered in the course of the development of mankind. Only at the early primeval stages of man's development was there a connection with the Spiritual world, and that indeed was but dim, and unconscious. At the primeval time of his development man had not only the two states be now has, of sleeping and waking and between these a chaotic dreamy state; there was then a, third state, in which reality was present This was not merely a state of dreaming, for in it man was able, although his consciousness was damped down, to see pictures and to learn by them, for these pictures were true to spiritual reality. Now, as we know, in order that man should develop the full Earth-consciousness, this method of perception had to be withdrawn. If it had persisted, man would never have gained his freedom, he could not have become free if he had not been subjected to all the dangers, arguments and temptations of materialism; but he has to find his way back again to the Spiritual world, and must now be able to grasp it in full Earth consciousness. This is in connection with very far-reaching and complex conceptions, which have altered with all else that has undergone change in the evolution of humanity, in the manner just indicated. In the primal ages it was quite natural to live in constant communion with the souls departed from this physical life; no proof of this was then necessary; for in that state of consciousness in which man perceived the Spiritual world in pictures, he lived in the company of those with whom he was in any way connected by karma and who had passed into the Spiritual world through the portal of death. It was personal knowledge to man that the Dead existed; he knew they were not dead but alive, — living in a different form of existence. A thing need not be proved if one knows it! In those early times there was no need to discuss immortality or to wonder about it, for one had personal experience of the so-called Dead. This communion with the Dead had moreover other and far-reaching results. It was then easier to the Dead themselves to work through men; I do not say this cannot be done now, it can still be done in this way; but I do say it was then easier for the Dead to find means of working through men here on earth, and thus to participate in what goes on here. In those primeval ages the Dead were active in the impulses of will of the people; in all that men understood and did, the Dead took part; thus helping to bring about what took place on earth. Materialism has not only brought in materialistic ideas, that would be its least harmful accomplishment; — it has also brought about a completely different form of union with the Spiritual world. It is now only possible in a much more restricted measure for the so-called Dead to take part in the evolution of the earth through the so-called living; but man will have to get back to this connection with the Dead. This, however, will only be possible when to some extent he learns to understand the language of the Dead, and this language is none other than that of Spiritual Science. It may certainly appear, at first sight, as though Spiritual Science tells us only more or less of Spiritual erudition; of evolving worlds, of the evolution of man, of the different principles composing the nature of man; things in which perhaps some people are not interested, wishing rather for something calculated to set their hearts and feelings aglow. Certainly it is a good thing to want that, but the question is how far the satisfying of that demand will take us. It may seem as though Spiritual Science only teaches how the earth evolved and developed through old Saturn, Sun and Moon, how the different epochs of civilisation developed on the earth and how the different principles of man were added; but while we devote ourselves to these seemingly abstract though in reality quite concrete thoughts, endeavoring to think in such a way that these things really remain in our minds as pictures, we are really learning in a definite way to form certain thoughts and ideas which we could not have brought into our souls in any other way. If we have the right feelings and realise how our ideas have changed since we busied ourselves with the subject of Spiritual Science, the time will come when we shall consider it just as absurd to say that these things do not interest us, as it is for a child to say it has no interest in learning the A.B.C. — but only wishes to learn to speak! What the child must go through in its physical existence in learning to speak, is abstract compared with what the living language can communicate, just as the ideas pertaining to Spiritual Science are abstract compared to the thoughts, ideas and feelings aroused in the soul under the influence of these concepts. Of course this requires patience, and it is also necessary that we should not merely consider what, Spiritual Science has to give in the abstract, but should take whole life into account. That, however, as regards what we are now considering does not suggest itself to the man of the day. In other respects, however, it may appeal to him; for he is accustomed to be more or less satisfied when he has once seen a work of art or a landscape, or has once listened to some scientific explanation. He is very apt to say, if the matter is brought before him a second time: ‘Oh! I know that already — I have seen or heard that before!’ Such is life in the abstract. In other domains, where life is judged according to what is to be found in it, — according to its actuality, — that is not the method of procedure. For one does not often meet a man at dinner who excuses himself from eating because he has eaten the day before. At meals one repeats the same process over and over again. Life is a constant repetition. If the Spiritual is indeed to become real life to us — and unless it does, it cannot bring us into touch with the universal Spiritual world, — we must imitate in our souls the laws of life in the physical world, which world, although now grown torpid, was yet created by spirit. In particular, shall we become aware that a good deal is taking place in our soul, if, with a certain rhythmic regularity we allow such impressions to enter our souls as necessitate a certain freedom of thought, a certain emancipation from the mode of thought usual in the physical world. The salvation — if we may use so sentimental a word — the salvation of the Spiritual development of man depends upon our not giving way as regards Spiritual things to that idle habit common today, of saying, “Oh! I know that already, I have heard that before!” Rather should we take these things as being like life itself, which is ever connected with repetition, with what I might call the return of the same action at the same place. As soon as we are interested in letting our soul be permeated by the life of the spirit, our inner attention increases. It becomes so acute that we are able to grasp inwardly in our soul those important moments in which the connection with the Spiritual world nearest to our heart can best be developed. For instance, the moments of falling asleep and that of awaking are very important for the communion with the Spiritual world. The moment of falling asleep would be less fruitful to most people at the beginning of their Spiritual development, because immediately after one is asleep the consciousness is so dimmed that it cannot take in the Spiritual; but the moment of passing from sleep into the waking state, if we do but accustom ourselves, not simply to let it pass by unobserved but to pay attention to it, may be very fruitful for us, if we try to wake up consciously, yet not allowing the outer world to approach us at once with all its crude brutality. In this respect there is a great deal of good in the folk-customs of olden times, much that is quite right and today but little understood. Simple people who are not yet plastered over, as one might say, with intellectual culture, often say: ‘When you wake, you ought not at once to look at the light’; — that is, you should remain awhile in a state of wakefulness without allowing the brutal impressions of the outer world to press in upon you immediately. If this be observed, it is possible at the moment of waking to see those Dead that are karmically connected with us. That is not the only time when they approach us, but it is then easiest to perceive them. At such a time we can see what takes place between us and the Dead, not only at the moment but beyond it; for our perception of the Spiritual, world is not bound up with time as is the perception of the physical world. This indeed constitutes one of the difficulties attached to the grasping of the Spiritual world in its essence. At the moment of perception something may momentarily reveal itself to us out of the Spiritual world, something extending over a very great space of time; the difficulty is to have the Spiritual presence of mind to grasp this far-reaching something, at the moment; — for that moment may, as indeed is generally the case, pass away in status nascendi. It is forgotten as soon as seen. That constitutes the great difficulty of grasping the Spiritual world. Were it not for this, many, many people, especially at the present day, would already be receiving impressions of the Spiritual world.
There are also other moments in life when — as I might say — it is possible for the Spiritual world to penetrate to us. Each time we develop a thought in such a way that it springs from ourselves, when we take the initiative, when we are confronted with a decision to be made by ourselves even in quite small things, that again is a favourable moment for the approach of the Dead karmically connected with us. (Of course if we simply yield ourselves up, allowing life to take its course, carrying us along with the stream, there is but little likelihood of the real, true, inwardly living Spiritual world working into us.) Such moments need not necessarily be ‘important’ ones, in the sense we attach to the word in external material life, for very often, what is really important as a Spiritual experience, would not seem important to the outer life; -but to one who is able to see into these things, it is extremely clear that such experiences, perhaps outwardly unimportant yet inwardly exceptionally important, are profoundly related to our karma. So it is necessary to notice even very intimate soul-occurrences if one desires to attain an understanding of the Spiritual world. For instance, it may occur that a man sitting in his room or walking in the street may be startled by an unexpected sound, perhaps a crack or a bang. After his fright he may have a moment of musing, during which something important is revealed to him out of the Spiritual world. It is necessary to pay attention to these things; for as a rule a man is only concerned with the fright he had; be only keeps on thinking of the shock he had. That is why it is of such importance to acquire ‘Inner Balance’ in the manner indicated at the end of the book Theosophy and in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. When that has been acquired we are no longer so perplexed after a shock as to think of nothing else, for we shall have the mastery over ourselves, and may be able to call up, though perhaps but very faintly, what we experienced in such apparently unimportant, but really extremely important moments. Such things are of course mere beginnings, and must develop further. When we develop the two capacities: — that of ‘attentiveness at the moment of waking’ and ‘attentiveness at the moment when we are shaken by some outer occurrence,’ we shall be able once more to find the connection with the great Cosmos, which is composed of both substance and spirit, of which we are a member and from which we came forth-came forth indeed for the purpose of becoming free men — but from which we certainly did come forth. In reality, the belief of primeval man was correct; we do not wander about the earth like hermits, as is now believed. What primeval man believed is true: Man is a member of the whole great Cosmic Connection, as each one of our fingers is a member of our whole organism. People no longer possess this feeling today — at least the great majority no longer feel themselves members of the great World-Organism, in so far as they as Spiritual beings are living in a visible world. Yet ordinary scientific reflection might teach a man, even today, that he and his life are part of the whole cosmic ordering in which he as organism is placed. Let us take a very simple example, which only needs a very simple reckoning. We all know that in the Spring, on the 21st March, the sun rises at a definite point in the heavens. This we call the Vernal Point. We know too that this Vernal Point is not the same each year, but that it progresses. We know that now the sun rises in Pisces. Up to the fifteenth century it rose in Aries (Astronomy continues to say ‘in Aries’ which is not correct, but this remark does not apply at the moment.) Thus the Vernal Point progresses; the Sun rises a little further on in the Zodiac every spring, and it is easy to see that in a given time it will have moved through the whole Zodiac; the place of sunrise will have moved through the whole Zodiac. Now the approximate time required for the Sun in its journey through the Zodiac is 25,920 years. Thus, taking the Vernal Point of any given year, it will be further on the year following, and the year after will have progressed again. When 25,920 years have gone by the Vernal Point will be back again at its original place. Thus 25,920 years is an exceptionally important space of time in our Solar System; the sun has accomplished what I might call a cosmic step when at the vernal ascent it returns to the same point. Now Plato, the great Greek philosopher, called these 25,920 years a cosmic year — the great Platonic Cosmic year. Now if one has not gone into all this deeply, what I am about to say will seem only remarkable; — it is indeed remarkable; but at the same time full of profound significance.
In his normal state a man draws eighteen breaths a minute. This varies, because he breathes rather quicker in childhood and more slowly in old age — but of a normal man it is correct to say: he draws eighteen breaths a minute. It is easy to reckon that 18 times 60 make 1,080, which is the number of breaths to the hour: multiply this by 24 — the number of hours in the day and you get 25,920 breaths in the day. Thus you see, my dear friends, that the same number regulates the human day as regards a man's breathing as regulates the passage of the Vernal Point through the great cosmic year.
This is a sign which shows that we are not just talking in a general, vague, dimly-mystical way when we say that the Microcosm is an image of the Macrocosm, but that man is really governed in an important activity, upon which each moment of his life depends, by the same number and measure as the course of the sun, in which course he is himself placed.
Now let us take something else. — The patriarchal age, as it is called, is seventy human years. Of course seventy years is not a hard-and-fast rule for the duration of a man's life; a man may live much longer; for man is a free being and sometimes goes beyond such limitations. We will however keep to this, and say that the normal life of man is seventy or seventy-one years, and let us see how many days these contain. Well now, we have 365.25 days in a year; — to begin with, we will multiply this number by 70, and we get 25,567.5; then we multiply by 71 and we get 25,932.75 days. This proves that between the ages of 70 and 71 comes the point of time when a man's life includes exactly 25,920 days — that is, the patriarchal age. — Thus we have defined a human day by saying that it contains 25,920 breaths; and we define the period of a man's life by saying that it reckons 25,920 days.
Now let us investigate something else — which is not so difficult now. We shall easily see that, if we divide the 25,920 years which the sun's vernal point requires to pass through the Zodiac, by 365.25, the result is something like 70 or 71. That means that if we consider the Platonic year as one great year and divide it till we bring out a day, we find the proportion of a day to a Platonic year. — What is that? It is the course of a human life. A man's life is to a Platonic year as a human day to a man's life.
The air is all around us. We breathe it in and breathe it out. According to the law of numbers it is so regulated that when we have breathed in and out 25,920 times, our life is spent. What then is a day of our life? It is comprised in the outgoing and incoming of our ego and astral body, in and out of our physical body and etheric body. So that day after day the ego and astral body go out and return, go out and come in; just like our breathing. Many of our friends will remember that to make this subject clear, in public lectures I have compared the alternation of waking and sleeping to deep breathing. Just as in breathing we breathe the air in and breathe out, so, when we fall asleep and awake, the astral body and ego go out and in. This implies that a being exists, or can be presumed to exist, which breathes in and breathes out just as we do in the eighteenth of a minute, — and the breathing of this being signifies the out-going and in-coming of our astral body and ego. This being is none other than the living being of the earth. As the earth experiences day and night, it breathes; and in the process of its breathing it bears our sleeping and waking on its wings. It is the breathing process of a greater being. — And now let us take the breathing process of a still greater being; of the sun, in its circuit. Just as the earth accomplishes a day by the releasing and drawing in of the ego and astral body into man, so does the Great Being corresponding to the sun bring human beings forth; for the 70 to 71 years are one day, as we have shown: one day of the sun-year, the great Platonic Year. Our collective human life is an out-breathing and in-breathing of this great Being, to whom is appointed the great Platonic Year. You see how it is; we draw one small breath in the 18th of a minute, which regulates our life; — our life is lived on the, earth, the breathing of which comprises day and night: that corresponds with the out-going and in-coming of the ego and astral body into the physical and etheric bodies: and we are ourselves breathed in by the great Being whose life corresponds to the course of the sun, our own life is one breath of this great Being. Now you see that as Microcosms we are actually part of and subject to the same laws, as regards the Universal Beings, as the breath we draw is subject to our own human being. It is governed by number and measure. It is a great and wonderful thing, and in its significance must cut deeply into our very hearts: that number and measure regulate the great cosmos, the Macrocosm, exactly as they regulate us, the Microcosm. This is not merely a figure of speech, it is not merely mystically felt; but the wisdom-filled contemplation of the world teaches us that we, as Microcosms, stand within the Macrocosm. When we make such simple calculations as these — which can of course be arrived at by the most ordinary scientific methods of reckoning — then, if our hearts are sensitive to the secrets of cosmic existence and not mere blocks of wood, the saying ‘we are placed in the Universe’ will cease to be abstract words, for we shall be fully alive to the fact. A knowledge and a feeling will spring up within us the fruits of which will be borne in the impulses of our will, and our whole being live in unison with the great Life, Divine Cosmic Existence. That is the path along which we find to some extent our way into the Spiritual world, which way must be found at the time alluded to in the last lecture, when Christ will walk the earth in His etheric form. I even indicated the very year in which He began to move etherically over the earth; — it must be found! Only people must accustom themselves to realise the connection, the very intimate connection already being established from cosmic existence, which will, when it is felt and realised, bring about a need, an intense longing to seek this union with the Spiritual world. For before very long, people will be compelled to realise at any rate one thing; which is the following:
If a man be deadened by materialism, he may indeed deny the existence of a Spiritual world, but he cannot kill out in himself the forces which are able to seek a connection with the Spiritual world. He may delude himself as to the existence of a Spiritual world, but he cannot kill out those forces in his soul which are intended to bring him in touch with the Spiritual world. This has very significant consequences — which should be taken into account, especially at the present time; forces are there and they work, whether their existence is believed in or not. The materialist does not forbid the spiritually inclined forces in his soul to work, he cannot do so; — and they do work. You may say; Is it then possible for a man to be a materialist and yet to have forces at work within him which are seeking the Spiritual? Yes, that is the case. These forces are at work within him; no matter what he may do they work within him. What effect do they then have? Well, wherever there are forces present, their own original activity can be suppressed, — but they then transform themselves into something else, into different forces. You see, my dear friends, if we do not employ the Spiritually tending forces for gaining understanding of the Spiritual world, — I only say ‘understanding,’ for that is all that is required at first, — these forces will transform themselves into the forces of illusion in human life. Their activity then takes the form of inducing a man to be subject to all kinds of illusion, illusions regarding the external world. It is not without significance that this should be realised in our time, for never have people indulged their imagination as they do today, although they do not care for imagination: as their imagination only works along certain definite lines. If it were desired to give examples of this, of the fanciful weavings of people who entirely desire to be realists, materialists, light could be thrown on all sorts of things, there would be no end to it. We might perhaps begin — were it not heretical — by glancing at what statesmen have prophesied even a few weeks ago as to the probable course of events in the world and at what has occurred since, and we shall see that the capacities of illusion have played no small part for some years. We might investigate many of the departments of life in the same way, and it is quite remarkable to note that everywhere we find these strongly developed capacities of illusion. Indeed they sometimes even lend a childlike — I might almost say a childish character to the opinions and attitude to life of materialistically inclined people. When one sees what is required today to make men understand each other, or to try and make them see what is before their very nose, one can understand what I mean by saying ‘childlike’ or even ‘childish.’ Well, my dear friends, it is even so. When people turn away from the Spiritual world, they must pay for it by becoming subject to illusion, by losing the capacity of forming accurate concepts concerning external physical reality and the course of events therein. They are then compelled to exercise their imagination in another direction, because they refuse to hold by the truth; whether the truth concerns the Spiritual or the physical life, it comes to the same thing, they turn away from it. I once gave you an example which can be applied to this, for it is typical of it: there are plenty of discussions and arguments to be met with as to the Spiritual Science advocated by me. Those persons reasoning against it base their arguments on their own statement that everything given out here is mere fancy. ‘It has all been imagined,’ they say, ‘and such flights of fancy cannot seriously be admitted!’ So these people will not accompany us into the true Spiritual world because they believe it to be imaginary, and they despise such fanciful imaginations. They then proceed to add all kinds of arguments which have just as little likeness to the reality as black to white and they proceed, (this indeed is a typical example) to speak of my family descent and the way in which I did this or that in my life. There they develop a bold imagination! — Here we can see, side by side, the turning away from the Spiritual world, and the capacity for illusion! These people do not notice this, yet they are following an absolute law. A certain amount of force in them tends towards the Spiritual world; a certain amount of force tends to the physical world. If the force tending to the Spiritual world is not used for that purpose, it turns towards the physical world; not in order to study and grasp the truth and actuality there, but to drive people into illusions concerning life. This cannot in each single case be so observed that one can say: ‘Ah! This man has been driven into illusion through having turned away from the Spiritual world.’ Examples of this can certainly be found, but they have to be looked for; they cannot be discovered straight away, because life is complicated, and one person influences another. It is ever the case that a stronger soul influences the weaker, so that even when we find some of that capacity for illusion in one person, it certainly may come from a hatred for, a turning away from, the Spiritual world; yet this dislike may not be in the soul of the person subject to the illusions; — it may have been suggested to him. For in Spiritual domains the danger of infection is infinitely greater than in any physical domain.
In our next lecture we shall consider how this is connected with the general karma of man; how these things — when observed in the light of the important law of the metamorphosis of the soul-forces from the Spiritual into forces of illusion — work in the whole connection of life, and their connection with the conditions of development of our present time and those of the near future. We shall then carry further what we have begun today and connect it with the Christ and the Mystery of the present age, so as to obtain some light on the significance of the Spiritual outlook in general.
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