Thursday, June 10, 2021
The New Spirituality: Anthroposophy
The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness. Lecture 6 of 14.
Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, Switzerland, October 8, 1917:
If we are to continue in the right way today, we must consider something of the nature of the human being and how human beings are part of historical evolution. First of all we consider the fact that human beings have the power, or the gift, of the intellect. What does this mean? It means that we are able to form ideas. For the moment we need not reflect on where these ideas come from. The life of thought is with us wherever we are in waking consciousness. And we also feel, for instance, that when we walk, stand, or do anything else, we are guided by our thoughts, by something which exists first of all in the mind. Later on we shall discuss if this really is the case. For the moment I merely want to establish what fills the conscious mind in everyday life. It is our thoughts. But when it comes to the world of thought as such, the matter is really quite different. And we shall not understand how human beings really relate to their thoughts unless we first consider the true nature of the world of thought.
In reality we are always, wherever we are — whether sitting, standing, or lying down — not only in the world of air and light and so on, but also in a world of surging thoughts. You will find it easiest to get an idea of this if you look at it like this: When you walk on Earth as an ordinary physical human being you are also a breathing human being, walking in a space filled with air. And in more or less the same way you move in a space filled with thoughts. Thought-substance fills the space around you. It is not a vague ocean of thoughts, nor the kind of nebulous ether people sometimes like to imagine. No, this thought-substance is actually what we call the elemental world. When we speak of entities which are part of the elemental world in the widest sense of the word, they consist of thought-substance, actual thought-substance. There is, however, a difference between the thoughts flitting around out there, which really are living entities, and the thoughts we have in our minds. I have spoken of this difference on a number of occasions. In my book due to be published shortly, and which I mentioned yesterday, [ Note 1 ] you will find further references to this difference.
You may well ask yourself: If there is such an elemental principle out there in thought-space and if I, too, have thoughts in my head — what is the relationship between the two? To get the right idea of how your own thoughts relate to the thought-entities out there you have to visualize the difference between a human corpse which has been left behind when someone has died and a living person who is walking about. The kind of thoughts you have to consider in this respect are the kind you gain from the world you perceive with the senses when in waking consciousness. Our own thoughts are actually thought-corpses. This is the essential point. The thoughts coming from the world we perceive with the senses and drag around with us when in waking consciousness are thought-corpses — thoughts that have been killed. Outside us they are alive, which is the difference.
We are part of the elemental world of thought in so far as we kill its living thoughts when we develop ideas on the basis of what our senses have perceived in the world around us. Our thinking consists in having those corpses of thoughts inside us, and this makes our thoughts abstract. We have abstract thoughts because we kill living thoughts. It is really true that in our state of consciousness we walk around bearing thought corpses which we call our thoughts and ideas. This is the reality.
The living thoughts in the outside world are certainly not unrelated to us; there is a living relationship. I can demonstrate this to you, but do not be frightened by the grotesque nature of this unaccustomed idea. Imagine you are lying in bed and it is morning. You can get up in two different ways. Ordinarily, you are not aware of the difference between them because you are not in the habit of making the distinction, and anyway you do not pay attention to this particular moment of getting up. Nevertheless, you can get up out of habit, without thinking about it, or you can actually produce the thought: I am now going to get up. There are people, however, who get themselves up out of sheer habit, and yet there is just a touch of the idea: I am going to get up now. To repeat, many people do not make the distinction, but it can be made in the abstract, and the difference is enormous. If you get up without giving it a thought, out of sheer habit and training, you are following impulses given by the Spirits of Form, the Elohim, when they created human beings as dwellers on Earth at the beginning of Earth evolution. So you see, if you switch off your own thinking and always get up like a machine, you are not getting up without thought having gone into it, but it is not your own thought. The form of movement involved in getting up involves thoughts — objective, not subjective, inner thoughts; these are not your thoughts but those of the Spirits of Form.
If you were a terribly lazy person who really did not want to get up at all, if it really was not in your nature to get up and you would only get up on reflection, against your nature, out of purely subjective thought, you'd be following ahrimanic tendencies; you would be following only your head, and therefore Ahriman. As I said, the distinction is not made in ordinary life. And everything else we do is really done in the same way as our getting up. Human beings truly are made up of two entities which can be outwardly distinguished as the head and the rest of the body. The human head is an extraordinarily significant instrument, and much older than the rest of the body. The construction of the human head is such — I spoke about this last year [ Note 2 ] — that the basic shape arose during Moon evolution, though the head has, in fact, come down through Saturn, Sun, and Moon evolution. Humans would look quite different if they still had the shape they had during Moon evolution.
In very general terms we might say people would look like specters, with only the form of the head emerging somewhat more clearly, which was the original intent. The rest of the body was not meant to be as visible as it is now. These things have to be considered, otherwise we cannot really understand human evolution on Earth. The rest of the body was meant to be purely elemental by nature. In the head, everything would come into effect which has come down as Moon existence transformed by Earth; let us call it ‘a’. But this inherited Moon existence transformed by Earth is the actual human being, for the human being is really a head with only a very insignificant attachment.
The rest of the human being — let us call it ‘b’ and to begin with let us simply consider it to be this elemental, airy principle — is a manifestation of the higher hierarchies, from the Spirits of Form downwards. The right and only way of seeing the human being is to realize that everything shown here as ‘b’ has been created by the cosmic hierarchies. The human being which has evolved from the time of Saturn emerged against the background of the cosmic hierarchies. If you visualize the essential nature of the parts of the human being which are not head — you must think of it as all spirit, or at least all air — then you have the body of cosmic hierarchies (drawing on the board).
However, luciferic seduction entered into the whole process of evolution. The outcome was that this whole, more elemental, body condensed to become the rest of the human body, which of course also had an effect on the head. This will give you an idea of the true nature of the human being. Apart from the head, which is their own, having come from earlier evolution, human beings would be an outward manifestation of the Elohim if their bodies had not become sensuous flesh. It is entirely due to the temptations of Lucifer that this outward manifestation of the Elohim has condensed to become flesh.
Something very strange has arisen as a result, an important secret to which I have referred a number of times. What has happened is that the human being has become the image of the gods in the very organs which are normally called the organs of his lower nature. This image of the gods has been debased in human beings as they are on Earth. The highest principle in human beings, the spiritual principle coming from the cosmos, has become their lower nature. Please do not forget that this is an important secret of human nature. Our lower nature, which is due to Lucifer's influence, was actually destined to be our higher nature. This is the contradictory element in human nature. Rightly understood, it will solve countless riddles in the world and in life.
We are thus able to say: In the course of human evolution man has, thanks to the luciferic element, made the part of him that should be constantly emerging from the cosmos into his lower nature. Many historical phenomena will find their explanation if you consider that this was known to the leaders of the ancient Mysteries, people who were not as facetious, cynical, and narrow-minded as people are today. Certain symbols taken from the lower nature and used in the past, symbols that today are merely seen as sexual symbols, are explained by the fact that the priests who used them in the ancient Mysteries did so in order to give expression to the higher reality of the lower nature of man.
You can see how sensitive we have to be in dealing with these things if we are not to be facetious. Modern people slip easily into facetiousness, because they cannot even imagine that there is more to human beings than mere sensuality — which, in fact, is the luciferic element in our higher nature. Thus historical symbols are easily given entirely the wrong interpretation. It takes some nobility of spirit not to interpret the old symbols in a lower sense, even though they often can be interpreted in that way.
With this, you will also begin to realize that if thoughts from the elemental world come to us — they are living thoughts, not abstract, dead ones that come from the head — they must be coming out of the whole human being. Mere reflection will not achieve this. Today the idea is that we only arrive at our thoughts by reflection. Today the idea is: If human beings will just reflect, they can think about anything, providing the things they want to think about are accessible. This is nonsense, however. The truth is that the human race is in a process of evolution, and the thoughts developed by Copernicus, for example, or Galileo, at a particular time could not be reached by mere reflection before that time. You see, people fabricate the thoughts they have in their heads. But when a thought which marks a real change arises in world history, this thought is given by the gods and through the whole human being. It flows through the human being, overcoming the luciferic element, and only reaches the head out of the whole human being. I think this is something you can understand. In certain ages, particular thoughts just have to be waited for and expected; then human beings are not merely reflecting, nor is something conveyed through their eyes or ears, but inspiration comes from the world of the hierarchies and it comes through the whole essential human being, which is the image of the hierarchies.
If you consider this, some of the things I said yesterday can also tell you a great deal. In the present age, from the fifth post-Atlantean age, we are living much more inwardly than before — in ancient Greek times, for example, when the outer environment provided much more that was spiritual. This inwardness of life relates to the process in which thoughts come up through the whole human being. In earlier times, in the fourth post-Atlantean age, the relationship between human beings and the gods was much more of an exterior thing; today it has become much more intimate. Human beings are always associating with the gods; their heads do not normally know anything about this, however, because they only hold human thoughts, or rather the corpses of thoughts.
Human beings always associate with the gods as whole human beings, and this association is more intimate today than it was in the past. Even the nature of clairvoyance is such that the relationship to the gods and to disembodied spirits is altogether different from what it was before. When a human soul associates with spirits or with the dead, the association is a very subtle one. It is more or less similar to the way in which our own thoughts associate with our own will in the soul. It is very intimate, and this intimacy belongs to the present age. It corresponds to the essential nature of human beings here on Earth and also to that of the dead, of those who are going through the gate of death to enter the world of the spirit at this time. This intimate association has become possible because in some ways the relationship between man and cosmos has changed. If the relationship which some human beings have to the world of the spirit comes to conscious awareness, it shows itself to be a much more intimate one, today, than it was before.
Certain abilities had to be lost, so that this intimate association with the gods could develop. During the times of ancient Greece and Rome and after, right into the Middle Ages, people still had direct perception of spiritual elements in the world around them; as I said, they did not merely see physical colors in the way we do today, or hear physical sounds, but perceived spiritual elements in colors and sounds. They were also able to use the element which for us has turned into chaotic dreams as a means of entering into the world of the spirit, and they did so in a way that was much less subtle than is possible today. It was relatively easy to approach the spirits and the dead in the past. Today our ordinary dreams no longer have the same quality, though this did continue well into the Middle Ages. Some people still had it for a long time afterwards. Those earlier people also perceived as in a dream all that happened around them in the elemental thought-world of which I have spoken. They were not yet cut off from that surrounding world, and their own essential nature still extended into it. People were aware of this and acted and behaved accordingly.
Today these things are, of course, considered to be an old superstition. Yet when something significant occurs in connection with this ‘old superstition’, modern science does not know what to do with it. Let me give you just one example: Cimon, a well-known historical figure, had a friend called Astyphilos, who knew how to interpret dreams. Astyphilos was able to interpret dreams intellectually. When Cimon had dreamed of a vicious, yapping dog before the Egyptian campaign, Astyphilos forecast his death, saying: ‘You have dreamt of a vicious, yapping dog; you will die in this campaign.’ The story was told by Horace. [ Note 3 ]
A modern sage who has written about dreams, though in materialistic terms, does of course believe that Cimon had an ordinary dream and Astyphilos was a mountebank who interpreted dreams. Yet he also makes a strange comment: ‘Chance willed it, however, that his prophesy came true.’ I could show you books which give irrefutable evidence of prophesies which have come true, [ Note 4 ] but people will say: ‘Chance willed it.’ This is one of many examples. People imagine that the inner life has always been the same as it is today and that there has been no development in the inner life of man.
Thus the outer senses perceived more of the spiritual, and at the same time the relationship with the surrounding elemental thought-world was, in a way, based more on images. Dreams still had the quality of images which pointed to the future. Just as memory relates to the past, so the images pointed to the future, though not in the same way, of course. The constitution of the human soul was therefore entirely different in the past. Blurred dream images came into everyday sensory perception, images which nevertheless related to real happenings in the elemental world. We might put it like this: The physical world of sensory perception had not yet condensed and become solid and mineral in quality. Everywhere color and sound still sparkled with spiritual qualities. At the same time people still had the ability to live in waking dreams, and these were reality in the elemental, objective world of thought. Then humanity was deprived of this relationship with the outside world in order to establish and strengthen human freedom; the inner life became more intimate in the way I have described.
There is something we must consider which is most important. We can use the powers of the normal intellect to reflect on the phenomena belonging to the world of nature, but we cannot use this intellect to reflect on social phenomena. People believe that the way of thinking which enables them to reflect on the events of the physical world can also be used to establish social laws and political impulses. They are actually doing so now, but the laws and impulses are of correspondingly poor quality. The kind of thing you find in Roman history, and you would also find it in later history if it had not all been turned into romance — for instance, that Numa Pompilius took his inspiration from a nymph called Egeria in certain matters of state [ Note 5 ] — indicates that in those days people appealed to the gods when matters of state had to be dealt with. They would not have thought it possible to create political structures merely by thinking about them. Today the idea is that individuals are not able to do this, but if you multiply the individual by so and so many times, then it can be done. So if you have a modern democracy and an enlightened parliament, three hundred heads are able to achieve by reflection what a single head cannot do, of course. This goes against one of Rosegger's statements which I have quoted a number of times: ‘One's a human being; if there are several, you've people; if you have lots of them, they're beasts!’ [ Note 6 ] — but surely it is not what you would do in practice! And just imagine what the whole enlightened modern world would say if news were to get around — not in the old form but in a new one — that Woodrow Wilson had taken his inspiration for some decree or other from a nymph.
These things have changed, even if they are not exactly more intelligent. It will, of course, be difficult to grasp, but it is something we have to realize, that real and appropriate ideas concerning social structures will only come when people appeal again to the spirit. They are not forced to do so, and the form will be different, but this appeal to the spirit must be made again. Otherwise, everything people produce by way of political principles, social structures, and ideas will be mere nothingness. There has to be living awareness of the fact that we live in the world of elemental thought and have to take our inspiration from it.
People are still able to laugh about such things today. But humanity will have to struggle through pain and suffering to gain awareness of inspiration in the creative sphere of the social order. Here we have an even more subtle indication of something that will become more and more necessary for humanity.
People will have to realize that they must now prepare themselves to make a connection again with the world of the spirit, so that they may bring into the kingdom of this world a kingdom which is not of this world but is present everywhere in the kingdom of this world. Only then will salvation come for a social sphere where chaos now reigns.
It will, however, be necessary for people to overcome the unease and reluctance they feel about concerning themselves with the intimate relationship between man and world. In the more important fields of human activity, people will have to go more deeply into the nature of this relationship as it was in the fourth post-Atlantean age. This will give them the necessary orientation so that they can really see how human beings related differently to the world around them than they do now. It is possible to study this, but we must overcome this mythology — mythology in the bad sense — we call the study of history today. We need to consider historical reality, going back at least as far as the Mystery of Golgotha, and this will be possible if the study of external history is enriched by the study of spiritual science. People will simply have to make the effort to enter into a study of spiritual science. The whole way of thinking, of course, is such nowadays that people often feel everything to be utterly grotesque when they begin to enter into the world of the spirit; people instinctively think that things will look just the same there as they do in the physical world. All they are prepared to accept is that they will find a more refined, subtle form of this world, and they fail to understand that they will find it completely different, so much so that even the smallest detail will come as a surprise.
Let us assume a modern philosopher, your normal kind of university professor, were to have some kind of Inspiration [ Note 7 ] — it would be a small miracle, but let us assume such a miracle were to happen — so that for five minutes he were in a position to ask the world of the spirit if he was a true philosopher with a true inner vocation. What do you think the answer would be? He would be given an image; this would be the right answer, only it would need to be correctly interpreted. This is really true; I am telling you something which has happened innumerable times. The answer would be that the philosopher is given ass's ears. And the interpretation of this would be: ‘I am indeed a real philosopher.’ This is not a joke. The point is that some ideas mean one thing in the physical world and exactly the opposite in the spiritual world. In the physical world it is not a distinction to have ass's ears; in the spiritual world, having ass's ears as an image is worth much, much more than the highest distinction ever awarded to a professor of philosophy. But imagine someone who is only used to the physical world and who suddenly — as I said, by a miracle — becomes clairvoyant and sees himself wearing ass's ears. He would think he was being made a fool of, that he was being taken in. And he would immediately call this an illusion. Things are different in the world of the spirit, down to the last detail, and it is necessary to translate everything we meet there, in order to find the right correspondence and interpretation in the physical world. I was not simply telling a joke when I spoke of those ass's ears. If you read the writings of ancient times you will find the dreams dreamt by philosophers to convince them of their inner vocation. The dream I have described is quite typical of that kind of thing. Philosophers had to see themselves with ass's ears to be convinced of their vocation.
People will inevitably be surprised and taken aback when they want to get acquainted again with the specific nature of the spiritual world. Reading The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz Anno 1459, [ Note 8 ] you will sometimes feel that the grotesque things said in it are enough to make you laugh. Yet they are deeply significant, for the path to which the work refers should not be considered in a sentimental way, but with a certain superior humor.
As I have said, later times also have events analogous to Numa Pompilius receiving instruction from Egeria. These things are no longer made known, which is, of course, the reason why history has become mere conventional fiction. Consider, it was as late as the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth century when Jacob Boehme [ Note 9 ] had his profound Intuitions; truly great, tremendous, grand visions which contained Intuitions from an earlier time. His followers included many people who lived in later times. One of the last to be consciously a follower of Jacob Boehme was Saint-Martin. [ Note 10 ] He based himself entirely on Jacob Boehme, especially in his book Des erreurs et de la vrit, though it is a somewhat dematerialized Boehme. Still, he had enough of what had come through from older times to realize: If one wants to have ideas concerning social structures, if one wants to have real, effective political ideas, these must not merely be thought up, they must have come from the spiritual world. In his book, Saint-Martin presents not merely ideas concerning the world of nature and its progress, and of history and its progress, but also quite specific political ideas. Today, when states are the only kind of political structure, one would call them ideas on the political state. His discussions do, however, include one idea of special significance, and it is characteristic that this is in the forefront of his political ideas. Saint-Martin refers to ‘original human adultery’, which he says took place at a time when sexual relations did not yet exist between male and female on Earth. He is therefore not referring to adultery in the usual sense. He means something quite different, something he keeps deeply veiled, and to which the Bible refers with the words: ‘The sons of the gods saw how beautiful these daughters were and they took for themselves such women as they chose.’ [ Note 11 ] This event brought chaos to the world of Atlantis; there is also a mysterious connection between this and the way in which human beings had made their elemental spiritual nature sensual. All one can do is hint at the event which Saint-Martin calls ‘original adultery’; he, too, was merely hinting at it.
It is evident that Saint-Martin realized that to consider politics, one must not merely take account of outer human situations, as people do today, but find a way of going back to earlier times when one had to go beyond the world of the senses and into the world of the spirit if one wanted to know anything about the human being. The principles of political thinking must be evolved out of the world of the spirit. Saint-Martin still knew this at the end of the eighteenth century — he only died in 1804, and what he said in Des erreurs et de la vrit has also been translated into German. It is not without interest to say this, because a certain cleric who is against we who want to serve the life of the spirit here in Dornach — he lives quite near to here [ Note 12 ] — has said that in the face of all this folly people should remember plain, simple Matthias Claudius, and he quoted a verse by Claudius in his support. [ Note 13 ] It was Matthias Claudius, however, who translated Saint-Martin's Des erreurs et de la vrit in order to make the spiritual science of that time accessible to his people. The gentleman in question therefore demonstrated his colossal ignorance where Matthias Claudius is concerned, quite apart from the fact that he quoted only one verse; if he had quoted the preceding verse he would have contradicted himself. Still, he was satisfied with the one verse which he thought suited his purpose, which was to quote something against Anthroposophy.
As late as the eighteenth century, Saint-Martin knew that if we are to have fruitful political ideas there has to be a bridge between human thoughts and the spiritual influences which come from higher worlds. No previous century has been as godforsaken, really, as the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. It is important to realize this. Nor was any earlier century so vain and so proud of being godforsaken. Still, if people were to read about the statesmanship advocated by Saint-Martin — I think all those clever people who now get together and want to guide the destinies of the world would feel their stomachs turn. For it is the tendency today to get to know as little as possible about the real world around us. It is, of course, possible to erase from our minds the thoughts which come from the living spirit, and we can decide to work only with thought-corpses. People's actions do not relate to this, however, but become part of a web of living thought. And when people with thought-corpses refuse to enter into those living thoughts, the outcome will be chaos. This chaos has to be overcome, which calls for the clear insights of which I have spoken before, as well as in these lectures. It does, however, require a complete change of direction from what is considered to be right today and the absolute ideal.
Above all, this change of direction will have to come soon. And it would be best if it were to come right now and be as widespread as possible in the field where educators are appointed for both young and old. There is no other field where humanity has entered as deeply into materialism as it has in education.
Let me conclude by presenting a thought which will be occupying us in the days ahead, for it is very interesting and very important for all humanity. I would like to present it in such a way, however, that you will be able to turn it over in your own inner mind for a few days. You will then be better prepared to consider this thought.
The children who are born today — we must consider them in the knowledge that the outer form is withering and splitting up, as I have shown in these days. But deep inside is the true human being. This no longer comes to outward expression in the way it did until the fifteenth century. We will have to get more and more used to the thought that, especially in the case of children, the inward human being cannot be fully revealed by the way people present themselves, nor by the way they think and the gestures they make. In many respects these children are something quite different from what comes to outward expression. We even know extreme cases. Children may appear to be the worst of rascals and yet there is so much good in them that they will later be the most valuable of human beings. But you will also find many children who are very good and not the least bit bad, never putting a finger in their mouths nor thumbing their noses at people. They will study well, perhaps be good bank managers one day, or good schoolteachers according to present-day ideas, and indeed good lawyers. But — forgive these harsh words — they will not be good people, because they cannot achieve inner harmony between themselves and the true world around them. It is specifically in the field of education and training where the principle must be established that people are very different inside today from what they appear to be. It will therefore be necessary in future to appoint teachers on entirely different principles. To be able to see into something which is inside and does not come to expression on the outside requires something of a prophetic gift. Examinations for prospective teachers must therefore be organized in such a way that candidates with intuitive and prophetic gifts do particularly well. Candidates who do not have such gifts must be made to fail their exams, however great their knowledge.
The last thing we do today is to consider the prophetic gifts of people who are to become teachers. We still have a long way to go with regard to many things that will have to be done. Yet the course of human evolution will eventually force people to accept such principles. Many of the materialists of our age would, of course, consider it a crazy notion to say that teachers should be prophets. But it will not be for ever. Humanity will be forced to recognize these things.