In these days I must bring before you some facts which can shed light upon the great events of our time. Next Sunday too I shall have to direct your attention and your feelings to certain aspects which can throw some light upon the events which so deeply move our hearts and souls in the present time. Today I wish to give, as it were, a kind of basis, a kind of preparation, by guiding your souls toward certain powers and forces which are active in man's historical existence. They can only be recognised through the insight given by spiritual science and are not immediately perceptible to the ordinary consciousness. Let me point out today certain facts of human development, certain more or less subconscious facts. But let us set out from the truth that what takes place, as it were, in the hidden depths of every human being, can be recognized in the successive supersensible stages of knowledge, as described in my book “A PATH OF INITIATION” (KNOWLEDGE OF THE HIGHER WORLDS): it can be recognized through the so-called Imaginative knowledge, Inspirative knowledge, and Intuitive knowledge. Yesterday in my public lecture I emphasized that this must always be borne in mind: namely that the spiritual scientist who reveals something concerning the spiritual worlds, as a result of knowledge gained by Imaginative, Inspirative, and Intuitive perceptions, should not add anything which does not already exist, even without his knowledge, in those spiritual regions in which every human soul is at home. The spiritual scientist merely draws attention to something which always weaves and lives in the world, and he shows how the individual human soul lives in it. Such knowledge is therefore of importance not only for those who intend to penetrate into the stream of occult experiences, but it is of importance also for every human soul, for under every circumstance it constitutes an inner reality for all, but an inner reality which cannot be recognized by the ordinary perception in life.
Let me therefore set out from certain facts concerning human nature in general which are accessible to the Imaginative perception. Every day we may observe an enigmatic process — at least it is an enigma to ordinary science — which alternates rhythmically in our life: WAKING and SLEEPING.
We already know that during our waking state we belong to the physical world of the Earth with our four parts or members: with the physical body, the etheric body, the astral body, and the ego. We know that during our sleeping state, that is to say, from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, we exist in the physical world only with our physical body and with our etheric body and that we withdraw, as it were, into a purely spiritual world with our astral body and with our ego. What presents itself to the spiritual perception of the spiritual investigator may be characterized by saying: The spiritual investigator simply perceives something which always takes place in man, for example when he abandons his physical and etheric body on falling asleep, and ascends with his astral body and ego into regions pertaining to a higher world. The spiritual-scientific investigator simply watches a process which takes place in man, in every man, whenever he falls asleep.
We may therefore say: The spiritual investigator only observes something which would present itself to every human soul if in the state of sleep, not in the dreaming state, it could look down upon the world so as to discover among the objects in this world its physical and etheric body, but as something which exists outside the sleeping soul. But we should not think that from the standpoint of sleep we would see our physical body and our etheric body which we left behind in the same way in which we perceive with physical eyes the objects which surround us in the physical world. In order to see the world in the way in which we perceive it from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep, we must use our physical eyes, our physical sense-organs. We do not use our senses when we are outside our physical body and our etheric body. If we were suddenly to become clairvoyant during our sleep, we would not perceive anything of all that we see during our waking condition, nor in the way in which we perceive it then. And then we do not perceive our physical body and our etheric body in the same way in which we see our physical form when we look into a mirror. It is quite wrong to think that we behold our physical and etheric body as if we were bending over it with our astral body and our ego, that we view them from this standpoint and see them as if in a mirror. This is not the case. What presents itself to the Imaginative knowledge is that everything which we are accustomed to see in our waking state of consciousness during our ordinary life disappears in the end, it really vanishes from our sight. In reality, our physical body and our etheric body then appear to us as if they were extended into a world, enlarged into a world; they appear to us as if they were connected with the whole world of the Earth. We behold them ... and we are conscious of the fact that we are looking upon our physical body and our etheric body, but we behold them in such a way that to begin with they constitute for us as it were the only existing world.
Even as in our waking state we are surrounded by mountains, rivers, and clouds, by the Sun and the stars, etc., and look upon these as our environment, so when we are outside our physical and etheric body and look upon our environment, we behold our physical and etheric body as if enlarged into a world. We really behold this. We do not look upon anything else. And we envisage it in the same way in which we ordinarily view the different objects on the Earth.
We look upon our own bodily structure as if it were a whole world. And a strange thing appears: This world which we behold appears to us in such a way that in failing asleep we experience it in the same way in which we experience the Earth in the spring: it has shed off its snow covering and brings forth green shoots, and once more prepares itself for the growth and vegetation of everything that is produced upon it; everything begins to grow and to green. When we fall asleep and behold the physical body and the etheric body enlarged into a world, we behold them in such a way that we experience them as it were like a planet that is awakening in the spring. And this continues throughout the condition of sleeping. What we see in it, the mighty pictures which really appear to us in their extension as a planet, prepare to pass over into summer, just like the Earth faces summer when its spring is coming to an end. This is how we pass through sleep, if we live through it in the right way.
We go as it were through the sleeping state as far as a point in which we feel: our physical body and our etheric body carry a growing, greening life to the flowering stage, indeed to the stage of the development of fruits — everywhere we behold that everything is growing and flourishing.
If I may express myself in detail I must say: To the Imaginative vision the sight which thus appears presents to be sure a paradoxical aspect. When we survey the surface of the Earth with our physical eyes, we are conscious of the fact that the plants grow upward from below; but when we observe from outside what takes place in our body, and take the vegetable world as a comparison, it is as if its roots were to penetrate into our body from above, and its flowers would grow into the body. So that we then experience a world that is completely upside down, and its fruits grow into us.
We then discover that these fruits which penetrate into us really bring to expression the strengthening which is brought by sleep, this strengthening of which we are conscious. And this enables us to know (because everything which we thus perceive in the Imagination are forces) that by passing over into the condition of sleep, our physical body and our etheric body, which remain lying on the bed, receive forces from the whole cosmos. We behold how the forces, which express themselves in pictures of plants growing out of the world, come to us from the cosmos. We behold how the cosmos sends a whole vegetation into our bodily structure. And this gives us the sure knowledge that on falling asleep we abandon our body, because from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep our astral body and our ego keep the physical body and the etheric body away from the influences of the cosmic forces. By going out ourselves, we make our physical and etheric body free for the influences of the whole cosmos, which sends in these forces — elemental, not physical forces — expressed in the above-mentioned Imaginations.
Whenever we fall asleep, a connection is established between our physical and etheric body and the whole cosmos. In the waking condition we live in the physical world, but when we are asleep our physical and etheric body live in the sphere which may be designated as the elemental world, the world of pure forces, which presents itself to us in the form of the above-mentioned Imaginations.
And where are we ourselves, with our astral body and our ego? This has frequently been described and it is also contained in many books: with our ego and our astral body we live in the world which has been described as the world of the higher hierarchies, among the beings whom we designate as angels, archangels, archai, and so forth. Into these beings and into this world penetrate the astral body and the ego. Even as during our waking state we know of the existence of the creatures pertaining to the animal world, to the vegetable world, and to the mineral world, and stand above them, as it were, as human beings, by taking them into our thoughts, so we ourselves are now taken in by the beings of the higher hierarchies. I might say, we are absorbed by them like thoughts.
The significant thing is that we can say: Whereas there below our physical body and our etheric body enter in connection with the forces of the whole cosmos, we ourselves become thoughts from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, as if we were real beings woven out of the essence of thought and will. We become the thoughts of beings of the higher hierarchies. Even as WE think Nature, so do the beings of the higher hierarchies think US.
If we wish to speak exactly, it is therefore not correct to say: When we abandon the physical body, we think the world. It is instead correct to say: We experience that we are the thoughts of the world of the higher hierarchies. If thoughts had consciousness and could experience themselves during our waking state, this is how we should experience ourselves outside the physical body, as thoughts of the higher beings.
And how do we experience through Imaginative knowledge the moment of waking up again? When we gradually approach the moment of waking up, we really experience it in the same way (we may again compare this Imagination with external Nature) in which we experience the approach of winter, with its destructive and paralyzing effect on the greening, growing life of summer. We dive down into the physical and etheric body when we wake up, and even as the winter brings cold and frost which destroy the glory of summer, so we dive into the physical and etheric body in the same way in which the winter dives down into the Earth. We destroy the forces which entered from the elemental sphere of the cosmos into our physical and etheric body like a vegetation or an animal world; we destroy them in the same way in which the winter destroys the glory of summer.
When we are awake, our presence within the physical and etheric body brings about a condition comparable to the one in which the cosmos places the Earth in winter: We spread winter over our own physical and etheric being, by penetrating into it.
This shows you at the same time that comparisons often used from physical points of view are not correct from the spiritual aspect. Of course, we feel that we are connected with the whole cosmos and that our experiences are a microcosmic image of the macrocosmos. But when people wish to compare their microcosmic life with the life of the macrocosm, they like to say: When we wake up, this is like the approach of spring in our life, and our waking life is like summer — the autumn is like the fatigue which we feel in the evening and our sleeping life is like winter. But the very opposite is true. Summer life is the sleeping life, and winter life is the waking life! This is the truth.
When the spiritual investigator really investigates these conditions, he discovers that by rising up with his ego and astral body into the spheres of the higher hierarchies, where he is thought, as it were, by the higher beings, not only the forces of the elemental world influence his physical body and his etheric body, but that certain beings of the higher hierarchies also influence our physical body and our etheric body. Not only the elemental world, consisting of FORCES, but real BEINGS, the beings of the hierarchies, of the higher hierarchies, are active within our physical body and our etheric body.
Here a strange thing presents itself: Namely, we can perceive that when we fall asleep we penetrate into conditions which are quite different from those of our waking state. As stated, everything which can thus be said is based upon the fact that spiritual research allows us to watch how the process of falling asleep and of waking up takes place. And spiritual investigation discovers that from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep, our physical body and our etheric body are, for example, also subjected to the influence of that being of the higher hierarchies whom we must experience as FOLK-SPIRIT, as FOLK-SOUL, as the Folk-Soul to whom we belong.
When we wake up we not only dive down into our physical body and into our etheric body, but also into the processes which take place in them as the result of the activity of the Folk-Soul. And a peculiar thing appears — please note this carefully, for we who wish to penetrate into spiritual science must observe the connections in the world more deeply than through the ordinary external perception — the following strange thing appears: When we fall asleep, we do not only dive down into those beings of the higher hierarchies that correspond to our individual development, but also into the spiritual beings whom we must look upon as Folk-Souls; from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, we penetrate into the connection of all the other Folk-Souls, except into the Folk-Soul to which we ourselves belong. Let us note this carefully: During our waking state we live immersed in the spiritual facts produced in our physical body and etheric body by OUR OWN Folk-Soul; from the moment of waking up to the moment of falling asleep, we live as it were together with our own Folk-Soul.
But in addition to our own Folk-Soul there exist in the world all the other Folk-Souls of the other nations. When we fall asleep, we penetrate into the connection of these OTHER Folk-Souls; we do not dive down into one of these other Folk-Souls (let us bear this in mind clearly), but into their joint activity, into what they do together, as a community. Only our own Folk-Soul is excluded from this connection during the night.
We cannot escape entering into connection also with all the Folk-Souls that pertain to the other nations in which we are not incarnated during one particular incarnation. Whereas during the day, in our waking state, we belong to our own Folk-Soul, we belong during our sleeping state to the other Folk-Souls — but only in so far as they work together. When we are awake, we follow the intentions of the individual Folk-Soul into whose sphere we were born in a definite incarnation.
But it is possible to penetrate, even during the sleeping state, into the being of an individual Folk-Spirit that is not our own. Whereas in our normal condition we live, when awake, within our own Folk-Soul, i.e. within his activity, and during sleep in the joint activity of the other Folk-Souls, we can dive down into an individual Folk-Soul when we are asleep, if during our life we are filled with glowing hatred for the activities of this other Folk-Soul. Though it may sound absurd, it is nevertheless true — and in our movement, we must learn to bear such truths calmly — it is nevertheless true that when a person is filled with glowing hatred for another nation, he condemns himself thereby to sleep with the Folk-Soul of that nation during the night, to live together with him.
Here we touch upon truths which show us that behind that veil which conceals the spiritual worlds to the ordinary observation, life begins to acquire a deeply earnest character, and that it is uncomfortable, in a certain way, to be an adherent of spiritual science. For from certain aspects spiritual science begins to treat certain matters earnestly which in ordinary life are looked upon as uncomfortable and which are mercifully withdrawn from us through the fact that in ordinary life the truth is not revealed to us. Although as followers of spiritual science we must stand with both feet upon the ground which external life provides, we must nevertheless deal quite earnestly with such a fundamental principle when we rise up to realms where other characteristics of life begin to reveal themselves.
You see, my book “A WAY OF INITIATION” speaks of that moment when we rise up to the spiritual world (indeed, every human being is in the spiritual world, it is simply a question of his being able to recognize a world which always exists round about him) — when that easy union, that unity of our being in which we live here in the physical world, ceases to exist. Divisions arise; but in addition to the division mentioned in that book, the one which may be observed after the encounter with the Guardian of the Threshold, there are other divisions, one for example, which is of deepest significance for our whole life of feeling. We should recognize that although we must do our duty fully toward the nation to which we belong in one particular incarnation and give it our love unstintingly, this nation stands within the whole process of evolution of the earth. We should realize that in view of the fact that through our ego and our astral body we are also SPIRITUAL beings, we belong to the whole of humanity and should therefore have impulses which we share with the whole of mankind. Spiritual science does net admit that we should live in the world in a one-sided manner; these two sides of our being must be harmonized. We should realize that in our present incarnation we can love the nation to which we belong even though we are spiritual scientists, we can love it as deeply as any patriot, but at the same time we must bring this love in harmony with the feelings which unite us with the WHOLE of mankind.
Spiritual science above all unites us with the whole of mankind because it reveals to us that through our ego and our astral body we are connected with humanity as a whole. To establish harmony between contrasts — this is what spiritual science more and more demands from those who dedicate themselves to it with earnestness and with worthy feelings. And it is harmful to mistake spiritual science for that unclear mysticism which always seeks to mix up the demands of external physical life with the truths to which we should ascend when we penetrate into the spiritual world. For that unclear mysticism which seeks to bring into ordinary life the things which spiritual science reveals in a true light, that unclear mysticism will, for example, never be able to harmonize the love for one's own nation with the love for the whole of mankind, and it will lead instead to a vague mystical cosmopolitanism.
This may be compared, as I have done, with that equality which is always advanced by vague theosophists, the equality of all religions on Earth. In an abstract way it is possible to say that the truth is, of course, contained in every religion. But this is the same as saying: On the table there are pepper, salt, cayenne, and many other spices; they are all the same, for they are condiments. So, I may put cayenne into my coffee or sugar into my soup, this does not matter, for all condiments are the same. Exactly the same logic is applied by people who vaguely talk in a mystical way of the equal essence in all religions, instead of penetrating into the true essence of everything that appears in the evolution of the Earth. The essential thing is to avoid emphasizing again and again that all nations are, as it were, expressions of the universally human; it is instead essential to recognize the specific task of each nation, as given by the folk-soul. Fundamental points for this may be found in the lectures published long ago, which were given several years before the war, so that they were not influenced by the present events and consequently it cannot be said that they are the result of war influences! I mean the lectures comprised in the cycle “THE MISSION OF THE SINGLE FOLK-SOULS IN CONNECTION WITH THE NORTHERN GERMANIC MYTHOLOGY.”
In the present time above all it is important to reflect over such earnest things, so that the harmony between universal love and the love for one's nation may be found. We need not recoil from describing the characteristics of each single nation, in so far as it is a nation, for the individual human being always rises above his nation, but you will see from the remarks which I made that it is necessary to give such a description without any hatred. Even as we cannot recognize the true nature of a plant if we hate that plant — for in that case we would describe our hatred — so it is not possible to recognize the characteristics of a nation if we describe the qualities which we dislike in that nation, or if our description includes things inspired by our feelings of antipathy.
Those who are able to rise to the standpoints of spiritual science should ceaselessly endeavor to gain insight not only into the uniform essence of the world, but into the harmony of its manifold characteristics. We should be able to feel warmest love for the nation to which we belong — in this warmth of feeling we need not be behind any other person — yet at the same time we should be able to unite this with everything which unites us with humanity as a whole, with our feelings for the whole of mankind, as a great all-encompassing being
As stated, we shall deal more fully with these things the day after tomorrow. Now let me explain that when we pass over from the waking to the sleeping condition, when we are taken in and received by the beings of the higher hierarchies, we really cast off the physical body and the etheric body which connect us with one particular incarnation. We therefore cast off our national character when we are asleep. When we are asleep, we are simply “human beings,” endowed with all the qualities which we must have through all the experiences gained as human beings. But at the same time, when we observe from the spiritual-scientific standpoint what takes place with man both in his waking and sleeping conditions, we perceive that when he is asleep, when he lives in the spiritual world with his ego and his astral body, and also his physical body and his etheric body belong to the great cosmos, then the single life which takes its course, as it were, within the compass of the skin, ceases, for our narrow individual self becomes extended to the great Self.
Consider now that, as a rule, in the course of twenty-four hours we always pass through a summer and a winter condition. Also, the Earth passes through these conditions of summer and winter, but in the course of one year. Why does the. Earth pass through these states during the course of one year? Because the Earth is, like man, a living being, but upon another stage of the world of the hierarchies. If we observe the whole Earth physically, such as it exists round about us, it is only the body of the Earth, and even as man bears within him soul and spirit, so the Earth also has its soul and its spirit. Our sleeping and waking conditions alternate in the course of twenty-four hours, whereas the Earth sleeps and wakes during the course of one year. The Earth is awake from autumn to spring, and it is asleep in the summer. We may therefore say that in the summer we are embedded in a sleeping Earth. It is not true that the Earth is awake in the summer and asleep in the winter; this trivial comparison taken from ordinary life is not correct. It is instead correct to say that with the approach of autumn the Earth begins to wake up as a soul-spiritual being, and that it is most wide awake in the middle of winter. The Spirit of the Earth is most deeply engrossed in thought in the middle of the winter, and with. the approach of spring, his thoughts gradually begin to ebb away, and in the summer the Spirit of the Earth is sound asleep; when life outside is budding and growing, it is sound asleep.
As human beings, we are not only connected through our physical body with the body of the Earth, but we are also connected with the Spirit of the Earth. Many lectures have shown you that through the Mystery of Golgotha the Spirit Whom we designate as the Christian Spirit, as the Spirit of Christ, united Himself with the Spirit of the Earth. Ever since the Mystery of Golgotha, the Spirit of Christ lives in the Spirit of the Earth. Consequently, if people wish to celebrate a festival expressing the fact that the Spirit of Christ lives in the Spirit of the Earth, what should be the right season for it? — Not summer, but winter would be the right season for such a festival, the very heart of winter. This festival is the Christmas Festival.
For this reason, the Christmas Festival and everything that develops from it is celebrated in the middle of winter. This proceeded from the real knowledge of the people who in the past fixed the Christian festivals of the year. The Christmas festival was fixed in accordance with occult truths, not with historical facts, because in regard to what now constitutes humanity, man is in the winter time united with that condition of earthly existence which is most wide awake, because his own soul-spiritual part is embedded in the soul-spiritual part of the Earth. In the winter, he lives together with the waking Earth.
And what do we find in the case of past races of whom we know that they built up their service to the world and their knowledge of the world upon a kind of dreamlike clairvoyance? They must above all have based themselves upon that which lives in the SLEEPING Spirit of the Earth. In contrast to the men of more modern times, these ancient peoples must have risen to the truths received in unconscious inspirations in the form most suited to them, when the Spirit of the Earth was immersed in deepest sleep, when it withdrew almost completely in sleep. We therefore find among these peoples whose cults and knowledge were drawn out of a more sleeping, dreaming state, the MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL, in contrast to the Christmas Festival which is suited to a more modern human race.
What was continued in an external way, and what our materialistic age did not understand at all, has its truly deep foundation in a spiritual reality. Now we live in an age in which people should again begin to think and to feel in a different way from that of past epochs. The task of the past epoch was to make us familiar with the sphere of materialistic thinking and feeling. And the past centuries had to bring human souls in contact with materialistic thought and feeling. Indeed, the development of the Earth had to pass through this materialistic epoch. And it is wrong if we only criticize materialism, for materialism had to enter the evolution of the Earth. But now we live in an epoch in which materialism must be overcome, an epoch in which a SPIRITUAL conception must enter human souls. This is the more or less distinct or unclear feeling of all those who feel attracted by our spiritual-scientific goals, by our spiritual-scientific world conception. These souls feel that the time has approached in which the spiritual world should be grasped consciously, whereas in the past it had to be perceived in a dreamlike way. Spiritual science exists for the purpose of understanding the world in a conscious way.
The past epoch was therefore the epoch of materialism. You see, because humanity had to dive down, as it were, into materialism, the strong impulse which leads it up again had to be active above all during the age of materialism. This is the Christ Impulse. The preparation began when the Christ Impulse entered the development of the Earth. During the 14th/15th century it was in its most active stage, but when the Christ Impulse approached humanity was already preparing itself for its dive into materialism. The Christ Impulse existed in the evolution of the world as an objective fact, yet the people who lived in the time when it appeared were least of all able and ready to grasp it. Now we live in an epoch in which we must begin to understand what took place.
What do we see? We may study the strange course followed by the Christ Impulse in the historical development up to the present time. We see that when the Christ Impulse entered the evolution of humanity through the Mystery of Golgotha it was not grasped at all by those who lived at that time. Let us try to form a picture of what people did in their cleverness! We find that all kinds of theological systems arose during the first Christian centuries which immediately followed the Christ Impulse. People began to dispute as to the way in which they were to think of the Trinity, and so forth. Throughout these centuries there were endless theological disputes, and it would be the worst possible mistake to study the influence of the Christ Impulse by studying these theological disputes, which lasted for so many centuries. The people who were disputing over the Christ Impulse did not understand anything of the way in which the Christ Impulse stands at the very center of evolution.
Let us try to understand how the Christ Impulse really worked. Let me indicate a few facts as an illustration. Let us take an event which took place in the 4th century, in the year 312 A.D. on the 26th of October, an event which changed, as it were, the future map of Europe completely. It took place when Constantine, called the Great, the son of Constantius Chlorus, moved against Maxentius, the ruler of Rome, and gained a victory over him, whereby Christianity also became victorious in an external way in the Occident. For Constantine raised Christianity to the rank of official religion of the State. But was it his own cleverness which inspired all these deeds? Were the events which then took place the outcome of his cleverness? We cannot say that this was the case. For what occurred? Maxentius, the emperor of Rome, on hearing that Constantine was approaching, first consulted the Sibylline Books, so that he tried to grasp the world's events in a dreamlike way. What these Books revealed to him was interpreted as follows: The right “deed would be done” by the one who being the ruler of Rome would leave the city and wage battle outside the walls of Rome. This was the most unusual advice which could be imagined. For Constantine had a far, far stronger army than Maxentius; nevertheless, he could not have won had Maxentius remained within the walls of Rome. But Maxentius followed the advice of the Sybilline Books and moved out of Rome. Also, in Constantine's army, the victory was not gained by the generals, but Constantine had a dream in which he saw the symbol of Christ, and in obedience to this dream he ordered that the Cross, the symbol of Christ, should be carried in front of his armies. He made his subsequent deeds depend on the revelations of that dream.
This battle, which gave a decisive aspect to the whole map of Europe of that time, was not waged by generals, nor determined by human cleverness, but by dreams and prophecies. If the events had followed the course dictated by human consciousness, and not influences coming from subconscious depths, everything in Europe would have taken on a different aspect.
Theologians were quarrelling over the true essence of Christ — whether He was born in Eternity together with the Father or whether he was born in Time, whether He was of equal rank with the Father, and so forth. But their thoughts did not contain anything of the Christ Impulse! The Christ Impulse worked in the subconsciousness of human beings. It did not work through the ego, but through the astral body. The Christ Impulse was a reality, and it worked in such a way that people did not need to understand it. This is the important and essential fact. The way in which the Christ Impulse worked is as independent of the way in which people grasped it as a thunderstorm is independent of what people learn in a laboratory concerning the electrical machine, and so forth.
This time has now come in which we must immerse ourselves CONSCIOUSLY into the influence of the Christ Impulse. In the historical events, however, the Christ Impulse is active as a force.
Let us pass over from this example to one which belongs to a later epoch. Here we must consider something which I already explained to you. It is important to know, in connection with the materialistic epoch, that when people wished to immerse themselves in the spiritual world, they could do this best of all in the winter. In that epoch we therefore come across the conception that during the Thirteen Nights in the middle of winter specially gifted natures could obtain the gift of inspirations from the spiritual world. Every nation has legends which tell us how specially gifted people, who do not pass through an Initiation, but obtain inspirations through their own nature, through elemental forces which work in them, become inspired during the nights from Christmas Eve to the Three Kings' Day (Epiphany), during the Thirteen Holy Nights. Recently, a Very beautiful legend was discovered in Norway, the legend of “OLAF ASTESON,” who went to a church on Christmas Eve and began to sleep. He slept until the 6th of January, and when he woke up, he was able to relate in pictures the events which took place in the soul-realm — the Spirit-realm as we call it. He expressed them in pictures, but he had experienced all this during the Thirteen Nights. Such legends may be found everywhere. They are not simply legends, for in fact there always existed specially gifted people who passed through a kind of Nature Initiation. Elemental forces were active within them in this natural initiation, which we can only attain through the will, by faithfully following the indications given for the path leading to initiation.
We may therefore say: During the materialistic epoch we can always come across people who were able to unite themselves with the Spirit of the Earth in the middle of winter, when the Spirit of the Earth is most wide awake, and they were thus able to receive inspirations. This was the epoch in which the Christ Impulse, which had united itself with the Earth, could not work through human consciousness. We must think of specially receptive souls who could receive inspirations from the spiritual world. And we find that such souls receive the impulses which inspire their deeds, they receive their inspirations from the spiritual world, in the Thirteen Holy Nights, until the 6th of January. This was necessary, and it appeared again and again in small and great events that in the course of history there were people with such a spiritual disposition that when the right moment arrived for them, when they could live through these Thirteen Winter Nights, a spiritual impulse entered into them, and in that epoch this was above all the Christ Impulse. During the materialistic epoch, natural initiations which did not depend on conscious human activity took place most easily of all in these Thirteen Holy Nights. And whenever such initiations appear, we find that they took place during these Thirteen Nights.
There is one event which induces even those who are least inclined to recognize the spiritual world (and today very few people are inclined to do so) to admit that in the 15th century Spiritual Powers really entered the course of history through the medium of a young girl, the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. It can be proved historically that also in this case the whole map of Europe took on a different aspect because the Maid of Orleans aided the French in the war against the English. People who reflect over such things will discover that in accordance with human plans, everything would have followed a different course if the shepherd maiden had hot interfered — and through her, the forces of the spiritual world. The Maid of Orleans was only an instrument for the forces which were then at work. The influence which worked through her was the Christ Impulse.
But a natural initiation was required for this, and such an initiation could only have taken place, as it were, during the Thirteen Nights until the 6th of January. The Maid of Orleans must therefore have been in a kind of sleeping condition from the 24th of December to the 6th of January, and been specially open to the spiritual influences which are active just in that period. We must therefore assume that the Maid of Orleans must have lived through the period from the 24th of December to the 6th of January in a not fully conscious state and received the Christ Impulse. And the Maid of Orleans indeed passed through such a condition in a very marked way! It cannot be experienced more markedly than during the sleeping condition which precedes birth, during the last days in which a child lives in the mother's body, just before birth. External human consciousness is then not able to take in anything, for it lives in a sleeping state, and when the child within the mother's body reaches the end of its time and approaches birth, this is the best condition of sleep: this last period in the mother's body. The Maid of Orleans was actually born on the 6th of January, and this is the great mystery connected with her: that she passed through a Nature Initiation during the thirteen days which preceded her birth. Specially sensitive people, assembled in the village on the 6th of January on which the Maid of Orleans was born, said that something special must have happened; they felt that something special had occurred in their village: The Maid of Orleans was born, she passed through a natural initiation during that sleep in her mother's body, that sleep which was so significant to her, the sleeping condition just before her birth.
This shows us that spiritual beings are really at work below the threshold of consciousness, behind the events which are accessible to human consciousness. It shows us the meaning of a history that only reckons with information gained by documents and external reports! But the Gods work along different paths and use other means: They place a Maid of Orleans into the world; through her special karma in that particular incarnation she is able to take in the Christ Impulse and work through it. At the right moment, the Gods allow the Christ Impulse to flow into the development of humanity. Of course, both factors had to be there: for we must consider the special individual karma of the Maid of Orleans. This must be added. Not every child born on the 6th of January could fulfill the same deeds.
We can therefore really say: The Christ Impulse worked through forces in man which did not rise up into human consciousness. Only now we again live in an age in which we should take in consciously the Impulses which sought to enter the historical development by other ways than the conscious one.
I wished to call up in you a feeling of how the subconscious powers really work, and that external history, studied upon the foundation of documents and external records, is really quite superficial. In the present time it is good to study history. For now above all we can see that great, mighty, and heroic events are taking place, joined to deeds of sacrifice. But at the same time we can see that the events of our time are accompanied, as it were, by the effects of the crassest materialism, by that consistent form of materialism which seeks to explain everything which is now taking place as the result of merely external conditions. This is evident through the fact that one nation makes the other responsible for the present events. People wish to judge everything from outside, and they seek in others the guilt for what is taking place. But also in the present time the true cause and reasons for what is taking place should be sought in the depths of subconscious events. But we shall speak of this the day after tomorrow.
The present epoch can more than any other admonish people to follow spiritual impulses of knowledge, also in view of the blood which is shed on the battlefields. When peace will spread out its wings over the countries now at war, people will make a discovery: they will discover that such tremendous conflagrations in the history of the world cannot be explained by drawing in external causes! They will discover that it is not possible to explain them. Today people still say — particularly the cleverest people: “It is not right to speak of the things which gave rise to this war; let history speak of this.” And they think that they are particularly clever when they say: “In 50 or in 100 years' time, history will reveal the true causes of this war.”
But what we now designate as history will never be able to explain the causes of the present events. People will see that a historical survey cannot grasp the true cause. Other aids will have to be drawn in. This is particularly evident through an occult observation of the present time.
What is one of the most evident facts in the present time, which is so fraught with destiny? Oh, one of its most obvious facts is undoubtedly the one that so many young people are passing through the portal of death! We know what takes place with them when they pass through the portal of death. We know that a human being first goes out of his physical body with his etheric body, his astral body, and his ego, and that after a relatively short time he sheds his etheric body and continues his pilgrimage with an extract of the etheric body. But can you not imagine that there must be a difference between an etheric body shed between the 20th and 30th year of life, an etheric body which might still have continued its functions in life for many decades, and an etheric body cast off at a later age? Yes, there is a great difference! When a person dies as a result of illness or old age, the etheric body has fulfilled its task. But, in the case of a young person — and countless young people are now passing through the portal of death — the etheric body has not yet been able to fulfill all that it might have fulfilled.
Let me now give you a concrete example of what takes place with an etheric body torn away violently, as it were, from its physical body. Of course many examples could be given. But let me give you an example which we actually experienced here at Dornach last autumn. We experienced it at the site where the Goetheanum stands. A family that lives near the Goetheanum had a little son aged seven, really a wonderful little boy. He was so good that when his father had to leave for the front, little seven-year-old Theo told his mother: “Now I must work specially hard, for I must help you in things where father used to help you.” One evening after a lecture a person belonging to our circle came and told us that little Theo was missing since that evening. One could only suppose that there must have been an accident. On that evening, through circumstances which in ordinary life are designated as a “coincidence,” a furniture van had passed through a lane through which no van had passed for years, and through which no van has passed since. At a certain spot, it overturned. Little Theo was in the small house called the Canteen, where the friends who work on the building get their meals. He would have left sooner, but by a strange coincidence he was held up by someone and instead of going out by the usual door which would have led him down a certain path, he went out through another door and passed by the furniture van at the very moment when it fell over. The van fell on top of him. This is an example which clearly shows how karma works.
I have often used a simple comparison in order to show how frequently people mix up cause and effect: A man is seen walking along the banks of a river. Suddenly he falls into the water. A stone is found at the place where the man fell into the river. The man is drawn out of the water but he is already dead. On investigating matters, people will give the following account of the accident in the full belief that they are telling the truth: The man stumbled over the stone, fell into the river and was drowned. Yet it would have sufficed to examine things more carefully and one would have discovered that death was not due to the fact that the man fell into the water, but he fell into the river because he was dead, for he had had a stroke. Consequently the case was quite different from what people imagined it to be. Thus we see how easy it is to mistake cause and effect, and particularly in ordinary science cause and effect are always mixed up.
In Theo's case, Theo himself was the cause of the accident; it was he who caused the van to pass by at a certain moment and he attracted the van so that it fell on top of him. This should he borne in mind as the secret of the whole case.
But let us now consider the continuation; A human being who dies accidentally in the very prime of life! if one's heart is intimately united with the whole work on the building at Dornach and if at the same time one has the possibility to observe the influences which work in this building, it is possible to say: The etheric body so violently torn away from little Theo now lives in the atmosphere of the Goetheanum building, and the most beautiful forces of inspiration for the work connected with it can be gained by uniting one's soul with the enlarged etheric body, extended as it were, to a small world, which lives in the atmosphere of the Goetheanum. I shall never hesitate to admit unreservedly that many things which I was able to discover at that time in connection with our building I owe to the fact that I turned my own soul to the etheric body of little Theo that was active in the atmosphere of the building. Of such kind are the connections in the world. The real individuality of the human being passes on, but the etheric body that might still have sustained life for many decades, remains behind.
Consider now how many etheric bodies soar above us in the spiritual atmosphere and will also soar above those who come after us! They are the etheric bodies that remained behind, the etheric bodies of those who passed early in life through the portal of death in the present epoch so heavily laden with destiny. We do not speak here of the paths trodden by the INDIVIDUALITIES, but of a special spiritual atmosphere created by the etheric bodies that remained behind. The human beings here on Earth will live in this atmosphere. They will be submerged in an atmosphere which is filled by these etheric bodies whose life-forces were sacrificed, in order that humanity may progress through the tragic events which are taking place particularly in the present time.
It will be necessary however to feel what these etheric bodies desire, for these etheric bodies will be the best inspirers of mankind in future. A beautiful age of spirituality might dawn if true understanding, an inner understanding of the heart, is brought toward these etheric bodies, if people listen to what they wish to say. All these etheric bodies can in future aid humanity to rise up to spiritual heights. For this reason it is so important that there should be souls on Earth who are able to feel what is penetrating into the atmosphere of the future through the medium of these etheric bodies. You learn something concerning the nature of these etheric bodies not only by recounting that man consists of a physical body, of an etheric body, of an astral body, and of an ego, but also by learning to know the secret of the influence exercised by these etheric bodies and of how this influence will work in the future.
Those who are already now followers of spiritual science prepare their souls so that they become receptive for the messages of these etheric bodies. Let us therefore turn our souls to the spiritual world, for in so doing we prepare ourselves and those who come after us to feel the heritage of the dead, to feel what the dead demand from mankind in the future. If spiritual science can stimulate human souls in such a way that they can turn their spiritual sense toward the spiritual worlds, the effect which grows out of the blood, courage, suffering, and sacrifice will be great and powerful indeed. Let me therefore recapitulate at the end of this lecture the feelings which can animate us when our souls, which follow spiritual science, are directed toward the great events of our time: