Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, December 14, 1919:
Today I should like to discuss a few things, speaking at times more generally, in connection with what was said yesterday and the day before. From those two lectures you will have been able to learn that spiritual science, as conceived here, is to be born, in our time and for the very near future, out of the deepest and most serious demands of human evolution. I have often mentioned that we are not concerned here with those ideals which originate in man's subjective nature, but rather with what is being deciphered from the spiritual history of the evolution of humanity; and from this spiritual history one can clearly see that the science of initiation, that is, the science which brings over its knowledge from beyond the threshold of the spiritual world, is absolutely necessary for the further evolution of mankind. But all that can be said today concerning a genuine knowledge of the spiritual world is opposed by those powers which stand for the antiquated; and the opposition of the people in whom these powers live must be overcome. The statement of the necessity for a complete transformation of learning and thinking with regard to the most important affairs of human evolution must be seriously and basically understood. Therefore I should like to ask you to attach special importance to the idea that it must be our purpose to overcome everything of a merely sectarian nature, still rampant even in the anthroposophical mind, and really to see the significance for the world and for humanity of anthroposophically-orientated spiritual science.
People today are still far from being awakened out of the sleep in which they were enfolded by that development which I have already described to you in certain of its fundamental characteristics, and which began about the middle of the 15th century. Certainly what was incorporated in the evolution of humanity during that time: namely, external physical science with its great triumphs, the materialistic conception of cosmic laws, and with it the mistaken social ideas so clearly evident today — all that has from this direction enveloped humanity in sleep continues to have a powerful effect; and a fruitful advance will not be possible unless mankind is shaken out of this sleep. Let us never forget that the knowledge of the spiritual has powerful enemies in all those who wish to be assured first of all — just from pure mental indolence — of the continuance of what they have been accustomed to think. We cannot say that we should take no notice when on the part of such people hostility and opposition to spiritual science as it is purposed here become more and more determined as this spiritual science becomes better known. To be sure, anyone might believe that such things should be allowed to pass entirely unnoticed; but that would be an utterly wrong view in our present time. We do not fail to notice noxious insects which approach us; we try to get rid of them, and often this must be done in ungentle ways. The mode of procedure must be decided in each individual case.
These things must also be understood out of the necessities of the time. Therefore it must be viewed with very special satisfaction in these times of ours, which are becoming ever more difficult, if there are nevertheless people who are possessed of sufficient power of will to stand up for our cause. But there are alas! still far too few people who fully comprehend the seriousness of what is now at stake in the evolution of humanity. On the one hand, there are those who do not intend to stir out of long-accustomed habits — not for any spiritual reasons, but from mental laziness and other such considerations; and on the other hand, there must be those who strongly oppose with their whole being whatever is ripe for destruction. We must not suppose that any sort of indulgence toward what is ready to perish can be allowed to hinder us today. In the last five or six years people could have learned that things belonging to the old order lead ad absurdum; and those who have not yet learned it will have abundant opportunity to do so in the immediate future. There must be in us the zeal for that which is to be implanted as something new in the evolution of mankind.
That a violent hatred would be manifest toward that anthroposophical spiritual science which has now been carried on in Europe for two decades, could be foreseen — anyone could foresee it who knew and knows that what we call anthroposophical spiritual science is intimately connected with the powers which must be summoned in the present and the very near future for the progress of humanity. This spiritual science must not be confused with sleepy-headedness, with that disposition to create for oneself a little sensual soul-enjoyment by means of spiritual ideas and concepts. We stand at the beginning. Against us rages the battle of the will to exterminate. In so far as we have understood the true impulse of our spiritual science, we have never intended to act aggressively; but we must not neglect whatever is necessary to meet the opposition of the aggressive element which will appear more and more from without. Here our courage must not give way; we must not try to proceed through indolence. It will not be easy to infuse truth into human evolution, and indulgence is positively not that with which to gird ourselves. Matters have come to a pretty pass indeed, as the recent events on the occasion of a lecture by Professor T. in Reutlingen prove. If the gentlemen who are the official representatives of Christianity are baffled, then they are ready to say, as a city clergyman did in the discussion: “Here Christ is mistaken!” Of course Professor T. is not mistaken; but if what he has to say does not agree with the revealed text of the Bible, then Christ is wrong, not Professor T. That is characteristic of the disposition we meet today, only people will not see it because it is uncomfortable to see it; and it could be found in all fields if only people were inclined to look for it.
For those who are able to see the relations in life, it is clear that the European calamity of recent years, although it has apparently played an external role, is inwardly connected with what people have become accustomed to think, and concerning which — please pardon the somewhat trivial, banal expression — concerning which people are so fond of saying: What glorious progress we have made! and smack their lips with satisfaction.
What is necessary is to become inwardly objective. Under the influence of modern culture people have lost objectivity. The personal is everywhere in evidence. When sometime the history of the last five or six years is written, that will be possible only from spiritual-scientific foundations, and then the chapters of this world history will show how enormously the personal element has influenced the great world-historical events. I said that it will be impossible without spiritual-scientific foundations to speak of the events of the last five or six years; and in support of this I need only refer to what I have frequently indicated here. Of the thirty or forty men in prominent leading positions who participated in 1914 in what is called the outbreak of the World War — people love inexact language nowadays, because it is adapted to cover up the truth; it was neither an “outbreak,” but something quite different, nor was it a “world war”; it was something entirely different, which will not come to an end for a long time yet — of the thirty or forty men who participated at that time, a large proportion were not entirely compos mentis, the forces of soul and spirit were not all functioning, and where the consciousness is clouded, there are doors by which the Ahrimanic powers have especially easy access to human resolutions and human intentions.
The Ahrimanic powers played an essential role in the beginning of those events of 1914. Even today anyone who is so minded could easily perceive, from following up events in a purely external way, how necessary it is to infuse spiritual knowledge into the evolution of humanity. But man is far removed by habits of thought, perception, and feeling from observing such things with absolute seriousness. There is on the one hand the fact — and more than that, the imminent fact — that the time is ripe for people to appear who are able to bring suitable and capable souls to meet those spiritual impulses which have been entering our physical world since the last third of the 19th century. Side by side with the fact that we have sailed into a materialistic time, there exists the other fact that the doors between the spiritual world and ours stand open since the last third of the 19th century, and that people who open their souls and minds to spiritual impulses can have relations with the spiritual world. To be sure, the number may be small of those whose consciousness is touched today by the spiritual world; but it is a fact that this spiritual world makes itself felt in many a human spirit. We may say that the next ten, twenty, thirty years, up to the middle of the century, will be years in which more and more people will have learned to listen to the still small voice, and so open their inner being to the impulses of the spiritual world which would enter.
Those people today who receive such impulses from the spiritual world, who know about the truths and the knowledge that must enter into human evolution, know the following also: If what we call science, and especially what we call art, is not fructified by the science of initiation practiced by such people, humanity will face a quick decline, a fearful decline. Let the kind of teaching that prevails in our universities continue for another three decades, let social questions be treated as they are now for thirty years more, and you will have a devastated Europe. You can set up ideals in this field or that as much as you please, you can talk yourselves hoarse about individual demands coming from one group or another, you can talk in the belief that with such urgent demands something will be done for humanity's future — it will all be in vain unless the transformation comes from the depths of human souls, from the thought of the relation of this world to the spiritual world. If in this regard there is not a change in learning, a change in thinking, then the moral deluge will overwhelm Europe!
The important thing is to realize what it would actually mean if a number of persons who look deeply into the knowledge from beyond the threshold were obliged to recognize that the confusion, the materialistic tendencies, the social errors, are going on and on — and people do not wish to alter their thinking and learning — it is important to realize what it would signify if these few persons possessing the science of initiation were compelled to see that humanity is going downwards because of sheer laziness in thinking and feeling. You should not be deceived as to the number of motives there are today for such a state of affairs in the so-called civilized world. There are many ruling motives — for is it not really natural to expect the humanity of our time in its pride to reject everything coming from the direction of the science of initiation? Humanity is so immensely clever in every single one of its individuals! humanity is so inclined to sneer at what can be won only by working upon the development of one's own soul. Humanity believes that without learning anything it knows everything. In neither the natural nor the social realm can the problems of the present time be solved without a fructifying of human thinking, feeling, and willing from the spiritual world. To many people today it seems positively like a creation of fancy when we speak of this science of initiation, or of anything like the threshold of the spiritual world. It is true, not everyone today can cross the threshold to the spiritual world; but no one would be prevented from perceiving the truth of what is said by those who have crossed that threshold. It is false reasoning when it is said again and again by one or another: How am I to know that what is presented by anyone as the science of initiation is correct, when I cannot myself see into the spiritual world? That is false reasoning. Common sense which is not led astray by the erroneous ideas of our time in the natural or the social sphere can decide of itself whether the element of truth rules in what anyone says. If someone speaks of spiritual worlds, you must take account of everything: the manner of speaking, the seriousness with which things are treated, the logic which is developed, and so on, and then it will be possible to judge whether what is presented as information about the spiritual world is charlatanism, or whether it has foundation. Anyone can decide this; and no one is hindered from making fruitful in the natural and social realms that which is brought over from the well-spring of spiritual life by those who have the right to speak of the principle of initiation.
Those forces of humanity's evolution which have so far guided man unconsciously, so that he has been able to advance, are becoming exhausted, and will be entirely exhausted by the middle of the century, approximately speaking. The new forces must be drawn from depths of souls; and man must come to understand that in the depths of his soul he is connected with the roots of spiritual life.
As to crossing over the threshold, naturally not everyone today can accomplish that, for the human being has become accustomed in the course of recent centuries to consider everything he encounters as taking place in time. But the first experience beyond the threshold is of a world in which time as we understand it has no significance. The time concept must be abandoned. Hence it is advantageous for people who wish to prepare themselves for an understanding of the spiritual world, to begin this training at least, by trying to picture backwards — let us say a drama, which outwardly starts, of course, with the first act and proceeds to the fifth — to picture it as starting at the end and going back to the beginning of the first act; to imagine and feel a melody, not in the succession in which it is played, but letting the tones run backward; to picture the daily experience, not from morning to evening, but running backward from evening to morning. In this way we seriously accustom our thinking to the canceling of time. In our daily life we are accustomed to picture the second event as occurring after the first, the third following the second, the fourth following the third, and so on; and our thinking is always an image of external happenings. If now we begin to think sometimes from the end toward the beginning, to feel from the end toward the beginning, we impose an inner compulsion upon ourselves, and this compulsion is good, for it forces us out of the ordinary sense world. Time runs one, two, three, four, and so on, in this direction à. If we reverse our thinking, so that it goes from evening to morning, thus: ß instead of from morning to evening, then we are thinking against time. We cancel time.
If we are able to continue such thinking, going back in our life as far as we possibly can, we shall have gained very much; for only one who escapes from time can enter into the spiritual world.
We say that man is provided with physical body, etheric body, astral body, and ego. At first only the physical and etheric bodies come into consideration for the physical sense world. The etheric body still takes part in time in earth events; the astral body can be found only when we are freed from time. The physical body is in space; the ego, the true ego, can be found only when we have escaped from space, for the world in which the true ego lives is spaceless.
So there are two conditions belonging to the earliest experiences namely, that we become free from time and free from space when we cross the threshold to the spiritual world. I have often referred previously to various ways of attaining concepts which disregard space, when I have called your attention to the dimensions — not in such a childish way as four-dimensional space and the like are often spoken of by spiritists, but in a more serious way. Just consider how much of the content of your consciousness is lost when you are no longer in space and time. Your life is completely adjusted to space and time. The soul life of man, as well, is entirely accommodated to space and time. If you enter a world to which you are not adapted, the lack of adaptation implies sensations of pain and suffering; so that the first entrance into the spiritual world is not won without the vanquishing of pain and suffering. People fail to realize this, or else they shrink back in terror from the spiritual world because they are unwilling to enter the kind of abysmal world in which space and time do not exist.
When I thus call before your mental vision this first experience of life beyond the threshold, you become vividly conscious that there are indeed few people today who have sufficient inner courage to venture themselves, as it were, into the bottomless and timeless in actual experience. Certain people, however, are bound by their destiny to cross over the threshold; and without the wisdom which can be brought over from beyond the threshold no further progress is possible. From this you will feel what is necessary. It is necessary that what we call confidence of one man in another should be increased in the future. It would be a fundamental social virtue. In our time of social demands this virtue is one of the rarest, for although people demand that everyone shall serve the community, no one has confidence in another; the most unsocial instincts hold sway. In order that the general education of humanity shall progress in such a way that human beings may grow into the spiritual world, it will be necessary that those who may rightly speak of the science of initiation be given confidence — not confidence arising from blind belief in authority, but from common sense; for what is brought as information from beyond the threshold can always be comprehended if only common sense is really employed.
And then from the viewpoint of common sense, and keeping that in mind on the one hand, we must, on the other, constantly direct our attention to what confronts us today. Although not everyone says thus openly, “There the Christ is mistaken” yet the logic of the present life is characterized by this kind of talk. And when people say they cannot distinguish between what is announced with inner logic from the spiritual worlds and what the university professors say — then common sense is not in evidence, or at least there is no intention to use it. When anyone declares that Christ is mistaken, surely from his common sense a man can say without further ado that such a person can no longer be taken into account from this point of view.
We have lost a real science of the soul. We no longer have any; and I have pointed out — only recently in public lectures in Basel [On November 10, 1919: The Spirit as Guide through the Sensible and Supersensible Worlds.] and in other places — why we have lost the science of the soul. The science of the spirit became uncomfortable to the Catholic Church as early as the 9th century; and, as I have frequently explained, the spirit was abolished at the Eighth General Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 869. At that time the dogma was announced that, if a man is a true Christian, he must not think that he consists of body, soul, and spirit, but only of body and soul, and that the soul has spiritual qualities. Psychology still teaches that today, and believes that such teaching represents the point of view of unprejudiced science; but it is only repeating the dogma of 869. Even all that refers to the soul was monopolized by the confessional churches in the form of belief, in the form of creed or dogma. All knowledge pertaining to the soul that should come from man himself was monopolized by the denominational societies; and only external nature was left as the object of real knowledge, of free knowledge. No wonder we have today no science of the soul, for secular scholarship has devoted itself entirely to the science of nature, since the science of the soul was monopolized and the science of the spirit abolished. So we have no science of the soul. If we build upon the science that is the fashion today, we can make no progress; for if we build upon the word-psychology of our time (it really is not much more than that), we cannot come to a real understanding of what takes place in the soul. You know from my statement in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment that upon crossing over the threshold to the spiritual world, thinking, feeling, and willing become separated in the consciousness. In the ordinary present-day consciousness thinking, feeling, and willing form a sort of chaos; they are intermingled. At the moment when the threshold to the spiritual world is crossed, at the moment when one sets about acquiring the science of initiation through experience, thinking, feeling, and willing become independent powers in the consciousness. They become independent, and then one learns to know them.
Only then does one learn really to distinguish thinking from feeling and from willing.
Especially does one learn to distinguish thinking from willing. If we consider the thinking which is active in us as human beings, not according to its content, but as a force — if we consider the thinking force in us, we find that the very force with which we think is something like a shining into our life of that which we experienced in the spiritual world before birth, or before conception. And the will-nature in man is something embryonic, something germinal, which will come to complete development only post mortem after death. So we may say: If this (see diagram) is the course of human life between birth and death, then thinking, as it exists in man within the course of this human life, is only an appearance, for its true being lies in the time before birth, or before conception; and willing is only a germ, for what develops from this germ does so only after death.
Thinking and willing in human nature are fundamentally different.
If now someone appears possessing the logic of our time, which tends to classify and arrange everything systematically, he will say: “We have been told today that thinking is the force which comes from the life before birth, and that willing is the force which points to the life after death.” Now one has defined; by definition one has nicely drawn the line between thinking and willing. But nothing is accomplished by definitions, though their insufficiency is generally not observed. Many definitions, especially those which are considered scientific, appear very clever; but they all have a hitch somewhere — which recalls that definition once given in ancient Greece to the question, What is man? “Man is a two-legged creature without feathers.” Whereupon the next day a pupil brought a plucked fowl and said: “This is a man, for it is a two-legged creature without feathers.” Things are not so simple that they can be treated thus with the ordinary intellectual tools. You see we can say quite well, we must maintain, that what we experience as thinking has its true reality before birth, and that only something like a reflected image of it shines into us. Here a certain difficulty presents itself, but you will overcome it with a little effort of thought.
If you have a mirror here, and here an object — for example, a candle — you have here a reflected image. You can distinguish the image from the object, and will not take the one for the other. If in some way — let us say with a screen — you have the candle itself covered, you will see only the reflection in the mirror. The reflected image will do whatever the candle does, and so from the reflection you will be able to see what it does. You are accustomed to think spatially, and you can therefore easily imagine how the reflection of the candle is related to the reality. But the thinking force in us, as force, is a reflected image, and its reality is in the life before birth. The real force whose image we employ in this life, is in the life before birth. Therefore the principle of human consciousness which results from observing one's own consciousness is: I think, therefore I am not, cogito ergo non sum! That is based on the principle which must be grasped: that in thinking something of the nature of an image exists, and that the force of thinking belongs to the life before birth. Modern development began by setting up the opposite as the basic axiom of philosophy: Cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am, which is nonsense. You see what tests modern humanity must go through; but we are at the crossroads, and we must learn to transform our thinking about the basic factors of the soul life.
Having thus in a certain way traced back thinking to its essential being, we might now be able to state something similar with regard to willing. When we regard the will-force between birth and death and what it becomes after death, we must conceive willing, not as reality and reflection, but as germ and completion. This provision: namely, that we have the image of thinking and the embryo of willing, alone gives us the possibility of freedom between birth and death. You can read about it in my books, The Riddle of Man [Not yet translated. (as of this printing – e.Ed)], and Riddles of the Soul [Not yet translated. (as of this printing – e.Ed)], as well as in the second edition of Philosophy of Spiritual Activity [The fourth edition is now available. Published by Anthroposophic Press, New York.] where these things are also treated philosophically.
But here is a peculiar fact from which you must see how little the indolent, everyday thinking suffices for entering into reality. We have grasped the essential nature of thinking; but when we do grasp this essential nature of thinking, we must say at the same time: This thinking is not mere thinking, but in it is also a force of willing. With the very inner being with which we think we will at the same time. It is principally thinking and has an undertone of willing; but in the same way, our willing has an undertone of thinking. We have in fact two different things in us: something which is chiefly thinking but has an undertone of willing; and something which is chiefly willing but has an undertone of thinking (see Diagram No. IX). When you consider the reality, you will not be able to form pure concepts which can be arranged systematically, but in a certain sense the one is always at the same time the other. Only when you come to an understanding of these things do you begin to perceive certain relations of man with worlds which are beyond those seen with our eyes and heard with our ears, but within which we live no less than in the world of the senses. We cannot say that other worlds than the sense world do not concern us; we are in their midst. We must realize that, while we are walking about here on this earth, we walk through the spiritual worlds exactly as we walk through the physical air.
Relations — I say — with the spiritual worlds result when one sees into these delicate details of human soul-life. Through that which is more thinking and has only an undertone of willing we are connected with a certain kind of spiritual existence of the spiritual worlds. And with another kind of spiritual worlds we are connected through that which is more willing and less thinking. That has indeed its deeper significance; for what we discover in this way manifests itself in human life; and the differentiations which exist in the world arise because the one or the other force of human nature is always developed more in one direction or another. Those forces, for example, existing in the willing which has an undertone of thinking were pre-eminently developed in the ancient Hebraic culture; and those forces of the human soul-being which are based essentially in the thinking which has an undertone of willing were developed in what is called the ancient pagan culture. At the present time we have the two streams flowing side by side; we have in the civilized world the two streams intermingling: one, a continuation of ancient paganism, in the conception of nature; and the other, which comes from the ancient Hebrews, we have in the social viewpoint of the present, in our ethical and religious concepts.
This dualism also exists today in the individual human being himself. On the one hand, man worships nature in a pagan fashion; and on the other — without finding a proper basis in nature, except that he carries over his habits of thought into so-called social science, or sociology — he ponders on the social life, even the ethical life. And when he philosophizes, he says that in one realm he finds freedom and in the other natural necessity, between which there is supposed to be no bridge; he finds himself in a ghostlike region between the two, and the confusion is terrible.
But in many respects this confusion is the content of the life of the present time, of the life that is perishing. What is lacking in this present life of ours? We have a conception of nature: it is merely the continuation of ancient paganism; we have a moral social conception: it is merely the continuation of the Old Testament. Christianity was an episode which was at first historically understood; but today it has fallen through the sieve of human culture, so to speak. In reality, Christianity does not exist; for with the people who frequently speak of Christ you can do as I recommended in connection with Harnack's Nature of Christianity. Wherever Harnack writes “Christ” in this book, you can strike out the word “Christ”, and substitute “God the Father,” or you can even replace it with a merely pantheistic “God,” or anything of the kind, and generally speaking there will be no essential contradiction. Where there is contradiction, he is talking nonsense, with predicates unrelated to subjects. All these things must be said today, for it must be thoroughly understood here what the content of the future consciousness must be.
Likewise, you see what the present theory of evolution is: that man has evolved from lower beings, and so forth; that these lower beings have developed themselves up to him. Certainly you need only to refer to my Occult Science to see that in one sense that must be said even by us. The fact is, however, that when we consider the human head, we see that this human head as we carry it on our shoulders today is already devolving, not evolving. If our entire organism (please understand me clearly now) — if our entire organism were to have the same organization as our head, we should have to be continually dying. We live only by means of the vital force in the rest of our organism, which is constantly being sent up into the head. The forces through which we finally die have their being in our head — are in our head. The head is an organism that is perpetually perishing; it is in retrogression. For this reason that which pertains to soul and spirit can attain its development in the head. If you represent the head in a sketch, you must do it thus: its ascending evolution has already passed over into a retrograde process; here is a void (see illus.).
Into this void, into what is being continuously destroyed, the soul and spirit enter. That is literally true: it is owing to our head that we have soul and spirit, because our head is already perishing. That is to say, in our head we are perpetually dying; and the undertone of willing, which is a quality of our thinking, lies in our head; but this undertone of willing is a continuous stimulus, a constant impulse to dying, to the overcoming of matter.
Now when we die, this willing really begins; and when our body is given over to the earth, that which played its role in our head between birth and death is carried on through our whole body, even physically in the earth-body. You carry your head on your shoulders, my dear friends, and in it the process goes on automatically which is accomplished when you are committed to the earth by fire or decomposition, only in life this process is constantly being revived, and hence obstructed, by what is sent up from the rest of the organism. After death the same process continues which you carry on in your body between birth and death. It is continued in the earth: the earth thinks according to the same principles as the thinking you do with your human head, owing to the fact that your body becomes decomposed in the earth, that corpses are put into it. When we pass through the gate of death, we carry into the physical earth, by means of our decomposing corpse, the process which we seize for ourselves during our life between birth and death. That is a truth of modern science, and people must know such truths in the future. The science of the present time is childish regarding such things, for it does not even think about them, investigate them.
And inversely, what we have in our head as evolution through destruction, is the continuation of that which existed before birth, or before conception. The destruction begins only with birth, for only then do we have a head — before that there was no destruction. Here we are really touching the edge of an extraordinarily significant mystery of cosmic existence. What exists in our head, through which we come into relation with other people and with external nature, is the continuation of something which exists in the spiritual worlds before we enter into the physical body. If anyone understands that perfectly, then he comes to comprehend how forces play into this physical world from the spiritual worlds. That is most clearly seen when these things are considered concretely, rather than in the abstract. Let me give an example:
In 1832 Goethe died. The period belonging to the first generation after his death, that is, up to 1865, was not such that many forces from his spirit influenced it. (This is merely a representative example; of course the forces of other men are active also.) Thus, up to the year 1865 anyone who directed his attention to Goethe's soul would have noticed little influence coming from his forces to the earth. Then after the first thirty-three years the forces began to come from him out of the spiritual worlds into our earth evolution; and they became stronger and stronger up to the year 1898. If we follow it further, beyond this period, we can say: The first period of influence of Goethe's super-sensible forces upon our earth civilization is, then, 1865 to 1898 (as I have said, up to 1865 it was insignificant, then it began). After thirty-three years we have in 1931 the end of a further period, which would be the second; and 1964 would be the end of the third period.
From such an example it can really be learned how relatively soon after a man has passed through the gate of death the forces which he then develops take part in what is going on here on earth. Only we must know how these forces take part. Anyone who works spiritually — really spiritually — knows how the forces of the spiritual worlds cooperate with the forces he uses. When I said day before yesterday that the middle of this century will be an important point of time, the statement was made — as in the example just given — on the basis of observations from which it can be seen how forces from the spiritual world pervade the physical world.
The middle of this century, however, will coincide with that point of time when the atavistic forces still remaining from before the middle of the 15th century will have fallen into the worst decadence; hence humanity must resolve before the middle of this century to turn toward the spiritual. We still meet many people today who say: “Why does misfortune come? Why do the Gods not help?” The fact is, we are in the period of humanity's evolution in which the Gods will immediately help if men turn to them, but in which the Gods are compelled by their laws to deal with free men, not with puppets.
Now I have reached the point to which I referred yesterday. When, let us say, a man with vision — even in the Greek epoch and up to the middle of the 15th century — alluded to the phenomena of birth and death, he could point to the divine world, he could point out that man's destiny between birth and death is woven out of the divine worlds. Today we must speak differently: we must say that man's destiny is determined by his previous earth-lives; and through the manner in which he is conditioned by his destiny he creates the forces through which the divine worlds can approach him. Our thinking must be the opposite of that of earlier times regarding the relation of man to the divine-spiritual worlds: we must learn to seek in man the sources from which the powers are developed which will enable one or another divine being to approach him. We have now reached this momentous point of time in earth-evolution. What takes place outwardly must today be understood as an expression of inner occurrence, which can be comprehended only from the point of view of spiritual-scientific insight. You see it is possible today for every person to observe, I might say the ultimate consequences of events. There have been plenty of people murdered in the last four or five years — at least ten or twelve million in the civilized world, probably more; three times as many have been made cripples in the different countries — our civilization has certainly done a grand job! But we must gradually come to recognize these things as the mouth of the stream, as it were, and we shall have to seek the source in what is going on in human souls in connection with that opposition to the will of the spiritual world to break into our world, — the spiritual world which would bear the being of man into the future. In our time everything must be observed from this point of view; that is, must be treated profoundly.
We might say that many events might perhaps be more correctly evaluated if we were to alter the viewpoint. Roughly speaking — and I say this now as something intended to give this lecture an entirely appropriate conclusion, as indeed the nuance has been given to these three lectures by the gratifying presence among us of a number of our English friends — we can speak today of victors and vanquished. It is an obvious point of view, but perhaps not the most important one. Perhaps there is another, a much more important point of view, which might be taken from the following.
I once read aloud here from this same platform a thesis of Fercher von Steinwand, [Compare: Entwickelungsgeschichtliche Unterlagen zur Bildung eines sozialen Urteils (not yet translated).] that German-Austrian poet, who in the sixth decade of the 19th century expressed his opinion about the future of the German people. The lecture is noteworthy because it was given before the ruling King of Saxony and his ministers. In this sixth decade — those who were there at the time heard it — Fercher van Steinwand said that his German people is predestined some time in the future to play a role somewhat like that which the Gypsies were playing then. It was a deep glimpse into the evolution of humanity which Fercher van Steinwand had. These things can be looked in the eye with complete objectivity; and if this is done, perhaps another point of view will be chosen than the one frequently taken today. It will be asked: What is to be said about the changed conditions — changed among the so-called vanquished, changed among the so-called victors? Well, the actual victor is Anglo-Americanism; and this Anglo-Americanism, through the forces which I have publicly characterized here is destined for world-dominion.
Now we can ask: Since the German people will be excluded from sharing the things by means of which the external world will be ruled in the future, what really happens in that case? The responsibility — not that of the individual, naturally — the people's responsibility for events concerning the whole of human society ceases. Not that of the individual, but the people's responsibility ceases among those who are down-trodden — for they are that. The responsibility ends, and it becomes all the greater on the other side; that is where the actual responsibility will rest. The outer dominion will be easily won; it is won by means of forces for which the victors can take no credit. The external passing over of the external dominion is accomplished as the final natural necessity; but the responsibility will be something of deep significance for souls. For the question is already written down in humanity's book of destiny: Will there be found among those upon whom the external dominion devolves as by an external necessity, a sufficiently great number of people who feel the responsibility, so that into this external, materialistic dominion, into this culmination of materialistic dominion, may be transplanted the impulses of the spiritual life? And that must not happen too slowly! The middle of this century will be a very significant point of time. The whole weight of the responsibility should be felt, if one is chosen, as it were by outer natural destiny, to enter upon the dominion of materialism in the external world, — for that is what it will be. For this dominion of materialism bears within it at the same time the seed of destruction. The destruction which has begun will not cease; and “entering upon external dominion” means taking over the forces of destruction, the forces of human illness, and living in them. That which will bear humanity into the future will come forth from the new seed of the spirit, and will have to be fostered. Therefore, the responsibility rests directly upon that side to which falls world-dominion.
Our thinking today must not be superficial concerning these things, but thorough; neither must we merely seem to be spiritual while in reality we are materialistic. Two things are very frequently heard in our time: One is, “Why talk of social ideas; no bread comes from ideas!” It is a cheap objection that is very often made. And the other is, “When the people are working again then everything will be all right; then the social question will have a different appearance.” Both statements are disguised materialism, for both have the purpose of denying the spiritual life.
In the first place, what differentiates us from the animal world? The animals go around and get their food, so far as there is any, according to their implanted instincts. If there is not enough, they must starve. In what way is man better off? He works on the production of food. At the moment he begins to work, thought begins; and only when thought begins, does the social question begin also. If a man is to work, he must have an incentive for it; and the incentives that have existed up to the present time will no longer exist in the future. New incentives will be required for work; and the question is not at all a matter of everything's being all right when the people work again — no; but when, arising from a feeling of world-responsibility, men shall have thoughts which sustain their souls, then the forces proceeding from these thoughts will be carried over from hand to will, and work will result. Everything depends upon thoughts, and thoughts themselves depend upon our opening our hearts to the impulses of the spiritual world. Of responsibility and of the significance of thoughts much must be said in our time. Therefore I wished in this lecture to lay stress upon just this aspect.
Since destiny is now such, my dear friends, that one really cannot get away when one wishes to travel, we shall still be here tomorrow. Therefore, at eight o'clock tomorrow night I will speak to you especially about the anthroposophical foundation, the spiritual-scientific, occult foundation of the social question. Thus I shall be able before leaving to speak to our friends on the social question, but I shall explain its deeper foundations from the spiritual-scientific point of view.
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