Rudolf Steiner, Bern, November 29, 1917:
Today I would like to return to the subject of an earlier lecture given here in Bern and to pursue it further along the lines of what I am convinced must now be discussed among us. It is clear to me that definite things demanded by the signs of our difficult times must be said in public anthroposophical lectures, so that they will penetrate human ears. I am also convinced that definite spiritual scientific truths must now be spoken of among us.
In the previous lecture to which I refer, I described the participation in earthly life of souls who have gone through the portal of death. We undertook to study the type and manner of the impulses of the so-called dead, who continue to participate in what is done by human beings here on earth, and how connections are made between the forces of the so-called dead and those of the living. Today I wish to say more about this.
It must first be made clear that above all it is necessary for life between death and a new birth to be presented in a certain sense with images that have been taken from physical, sensible life on this earth and from mental pictures we acquire within this physical life on earth. Life in the sphere of the dead is such, however, that it can be understood only with great difficulty through earthly concepts and mental pictures. One must try, therefore, to approach this life from various sides.
I would like to say that one such attempt was made just before the outbreak of this world catastrophe in the Vienna lecture cycle, (see Note 10 ) in which I spoke about life between death and a new birth in relation to the inner forces of the soul. Today I would like to draw your attention above all to a domain that in a certain respect is and must be the primary concern for the human being in his earthly life. It must be a primary concern that this very domain is closed to the experience of souls who have gone through the portal of death. Think how much we have, as earthly human beings, through mental pictures that come to us from the mineral and plant realms. To these mental pictures must be added all the impressions and mental pictures that come to us from heavenly space: the starry sky above us, the sun, the moon. Since they enable us during our earthly life to have physical images as perceptions, they belong precisely to what I am now calling mineral nature. This mineral nature, and essentially — I say, essentially — the plant nature as nature, are excluded from what souls will perceive between death and a new birth.
In this connection there is something especially characteristic regarding the experiences of the so-called dead. When we human beings here on earth confront the mineral or plant natures, we have a quite definite consciousness. I have said on another occasion, it is true, that it is an illusion to speak of the absence of pain or the absence of pleasure in the mineral and plant realms. Through what we human beings perform with our actions, however, we make impressions on the mineral realm and also on the plant realm; we can say with a certain justification that these realms remain without such impressions, without such activities as are spread by pain or pleasure, sorrow or joy. You know that if we as human beings smash a rock, certain elemental beings will indeed experience pleasure or sorrow, but this does not enter our ordinary, everyday consciousness. It can therefore be said that within the experience of an ordinary human being on earth, he must have the feeling that, if he breaks rocks, if he undertakes any action within what is the mineral or essentially plant nature, he thereby causes neither pleasure nor pain in his environment.
This is not at all the case in the realm man enters when he has gone through the portal of death. One must be clear above all that there the slightest deed that man does, even if he only barely touches something (we must bring into service words from earthly language), is bound in this spiritual realm to arouse either pleasure or sorrow; it arouses some sort of sympathy or antipathy. You must therefore picture this realm of the dead in such a way that one cannot barely touch something, cannot make even the slightest contact, without causing whatever has been touched to experience pleasure or sorrow, that is, without calling forth sympathy or antipathy.
This has already been pointed out in my book, Theosophy, (see Note 11 ) in which the realm of the soul is described and in which the most important forces in that realm are sought precisely in the forces of sympathy and antipathy. Such facts must become living ideas, however. As one becomes conscious of the working together, in a certain sense, of the realm of the dead and the realm of the so-called living, one must also picture how the dead operate, so to speak, in their own realm. They operate in such a way that they must always be conscious that everything they do will call forth sympathy or antipathy, joy or sorrow; everything they do induces, if I may so express it, a resonance of living sensation. What one could call insensitivity in the sense of our plant and animal realms is not there at all on the other side of the portal of death.
In a sense, this characterizes the lowest realm that man enters when he has gone through the portal of death. Here, when he comes through the portal of birth into the physical realm, he enters the lowest domain, the mineral realm. When he enters the spiritual world, he finds himself in a realm with a universal faculty for sensations, in a realm where sympathy and antipathy hold sway. Within this realm he unfolds his forces; he works within this realm. When we picture him as being active there, we must also picture the sensation-bearing forces constantly proceeding from his actions, forces carrying sympathy and antipathy.
What is the significance of these forces in the entire web of relationships of the universe? You see, we have arrived at an issue that can be unraveled for our physical, earthly life only through spiritual science. You will realize its importance if you consider all the implications. So much has occurred in the present time that the person who will only find an explanation of the world within the physical renounces any explanation that he does not conceive of as an explanation.
Something that in modern times is regarded as such an explanation is the principle of evolution for the animal beings inhabiting the earth with us. I need only draw your attention to all that has appeared recently to support what is called the theory of evolution. One speaks today of the evolution of the animal world with a certain justification, in that it is believed that the animal world has evolved upward from imperfect beings to more perfect ones. A better way to express it would be to say that the animal world has evolved from undifferentiated beings to more and more differentiation, finally to human nature, in so far as man is a physical being. This theory of evolution has already entered popular consciousness to a great extent. It has even become in a certain sense a component of the secular religion of humanity. The various religious faiths make an effort to reckon with this theory of evolution. They no longer — at least in their more important representatives — have the courage that was still theirs only a short time ago to testify against this theory of evolution. To a certain extent they have accepted it themselves and have come to terms with it.
One could now ask, however, what is actually at work in this evolution of the animal beings, if they evolve from imperfect to more perfect beings. What is at work in all that one can observe in the animal world, not only in its evolution but in the overall existence of the animal world? Strange as it may sound to a modern person, one discovers upon entering the realm inhabited by the dead, through clairvoyant consciousness, that the forces prevailing over a large part of the animal world are coming from the dead. Man is called upon to be a co-ruler of the impulses in the cosmos. In the mineral realm he has only to do with what he constructs as machines and the like through his technology, in obedience to the laws of the mineral realm. In the plant realm, it is a matter of what he sows and cultivates as a gardener or farmer. In these two realms he can at most take only second place during his life between birth and death. With the realm that is mirrored here on earth in animal existence, however, he is much involved, in that after death certain forces immediately awaken in him, in that he immediately enters and works within a domain of forces that rule this animal realm. It is in a certain sense the basis, the foundation for his activity there, precisely as here the mineral world is our foundation; it is the very ground, the soil, on which he stands.
In our existence in the physical world we have the plant realm rising from a ground provided by the mineral realm. Similarly for the dead, the realm in which rule sympathies and antipathies — which then extend into the life of the animal realm on earth — provides the foundation for a second realm. In this second realm the same things are not so much at work in the dead, the mere experiences of pleasure or sorrow, the transmission of merely sensation-bearing impulses that then continue, that then are active in the world. This second realm works essentially with what can be called the strengthening and weakening of the will forces belonging to a human being after death. If you wish to know more about these will forces, refer to the Vienna lectures, (see Note 10 ) in which I pointed out that the will that is characteristic of the human soul between death and a new birth is not exactly like what we call will here in physical life. We can speak of it as will, however, although it is entirely different there; it is permeated there by elements of feeling and by yet another element that does not exist here on earth. This will in the life of the human soul after death is in a constant ebb and flow. When one is in communication with a dead human being, his soul life is experienced such that at one moment he feels strengthened in his will impulses, stronger in himself; at another moment his will is somewhat lamed; it sleeps. His will fluctuates between becoming stronger and becoming weaker. This is an essential aspect in the life of the dead.
This strengthening and weakening of the will are impulses, however, that flow not only into the basis for the realm of the dead but also into the human realm here on earth, not, to be sure, into our thoughts in ordinary consciousness but indeed into all that we experience here as will impulses and also as feeling impulses.
It is, of course, a strange fact that man, in his ordinary consciousness as a physical, earthly person, experiences clearly only his sense perceptions and his thoughts. Waking consciousness only exists in this perception and thinking. Feelings are actually only dreamt, and the will is generally slept through. No person knows what happens when he just raises a hand, that is, when the will plays into his bodily organism, in the same way that he knows his thoughts. There is also the rule of the feelings; although this is somewhat clearer in consciousness than the rule of the will, it is still dark; it is no brighter than the pictures we have in our dreams. Passions, emotions, feelings are in truth only dreamt; they are not experienced in the light of consciousness that lives in the sense perceptions and mental pictures, and our will is not experienced consciously at all.
In all that plays into waking life as dream or sleep, the dead are living. They live with souls who are incarnated in physical bodies on the earth. They live in them just as we live within the plant world, except that we are not inwardly bound to the plant world as the dead are to our feelings, emotions, and will impulses. They live continually in all of that. This is their second realm. While here we unfold our feelings and sensations in human life, the dead live in this life continually, and indeed in such a way that the fluctuating, which I have just been describing as the strengthening and weakening of the will, as the increasing or declining of the will of the dead, has a certain relation to what here on earth the so-called living are dreaming and sleeping through as feelings and will impulses.
You can see, therefore, how little the realm of the dead is separated from our earthly realm and what an inner bond there is between these two realms. As I have said, under normal conditions (with certain exceptions that I will mention later), the dead have nothing to do with the mineral and plant realms, but they have very much to do with what goes on in the animal realm. That is in a sense the ground on which they stand. They also have much to do with what goes on in the realm of human feeling and human will. In these realms we are not separated from the dead at all, but it is like this: when one goes through the portal of death and experiences the strengthening and weakening of the will, one can live with the so-called living in their physical bodies, though not with everyone. There a definite law holds sway: one can live only with those to whom one is to some degree karmically related. Someone living here who is karmically a total stranger is not even perceptible to a dead person; he simply does not exist. The world that the dead person experiences has boundaries that were made by his own karma that had harnessed him here in life. This world is not limited only to souls who are still on earth; it extends also to souls who themselves have gone through the portal of death.
This second realm thus embraces all the relationships a person has made karmically with those who are still on earth and other souls who like himself have already gone through the portal of death. This realm rises out of another realm that is common to the dead, a realm of animal existence, by which we must not picture earthly animals! I explicitly said earlier that our animals on earth reflect what exists in the spiritual world, that is, the group-souls of the animals. In relation to the dead, we must think of the spiritual being of the animals. From this common soil, then, there arises for each and every dead person, in an entirely different sense from what is the case in our earthly realm, an individual karmic realm. One person has made this relationship, another has made that one. Only that by which karmic relationships are balanced is there from the human realm.
Yet another law rules there; it shows us how this second realm is actually constituted. At first, whatever works on a dead person in this realm in such a way that it strengthens or weakens his will forces is limited to the circle of human beings in which he moved during his last earthly life, perhaps at first even during just a part of it. The individuals who were especially close to him, to whom he was especially related who have passed through the portal of death, are now still the ones with whom he lives particularly intensely. The circle widens only gradually to include persons with whom he had had only distant karmic relationships.
For some this lasts but a short time, for others longer. One can scarcely tell from the way an earthly life has taken its course how it will be after death. Many personalities, many souls whom one would not have expected, appear in the sphere of the dead person, because from the physical life one can easily make a wrong assessment. There is a fundamental law, however, that the karmic circle gradually widens, and the whole process of becoming acquainted in this circle takes place exactly as I described it in the Vienna lecture cycle, (see Note 10 ) where I dealt with life between death and a new birth. What I described there as an important element in the life of the dead is precisely this expanding life of will impulses. The will impulses are now for the dead what mental pictures are for the living, through which the dead person knows, through which he has his consciousness. It is extraordinarily difficult to explain to earthly human beings that a dead person knows essentially through the will, while the earthly human being knows through forming mental pictures. Obviously, this also makes it difficult to come to an understanding with the dead.
One can thus say that this realm entered by the dead as their second realm gradually widens. Later (this is always relative: for one it happens sooner, for another later) more distant karmic relationships are added to immediate ones. I mean this in the following way. When a dead person has spent a certain time in his life between death and a new birth, the circle of his experiences has widened and stretched beyond those souls — be they on earth or over yonder — with whom he had had particularly close karmic relationships. These souls now have karmic relationships apart from those of the dead person. It is like this: person A has a certain relationship with person B but not with person C. One sees how the dead person A lives with B as I have described and expands his experiences beyond B. Later it comes about that B becomes a go-between to person C. Previously A had had no relationship to C, but now he acquires that relationship directly through B's having a karmic relationship to C. Through this, the second realm slowly, gradually expands over an extremely large area. One becomes ever richer, as it were, in such inner experiences, experiences of strengthening or weakening the will, experiences that gradually accustom us to the realm of the dead — or living souls — after we ourselves have gone through the portal of death.
An essential aspect of life between death and a new birth is precisely that as souls we — if I may express myself trivially — increasingly widen our circle of acquaintances. Just as here in earthly existence we widen our experiences between birth and death, just as here we acquaint ourselves with more and more of the world around us, so there we undergo more and more experiences that relate us to the fact that one senses the existence of other souls, that one knows that through some of the souls one experiences a strengthening of the will, through others a weakening. This is an essential part of our experience there.
You can realize the actual significance of this for all existence, for all cosmic existence. It means that actually, in a certain relation between death and a new birth, a spiritual circle of acquaintances is being formed among a great portion of humanity around the earth, not just that faded ribbon the pantheists and mystics dream and thrill about. Really, if we look at what we experience between death and a new birth, we do not live all so far from human beings on earth. This is not an abstract bond but a really concrete one.
just as here on earth the animal realm stands as a third realm above the mineral and plant realms, so across the threshold we perceive as a third realm the realm of certain hierarchies, a realm with beings who never experience earthly incarnations but with whom we come into relation between death and a new birth. This realm of the hierarchies is across the threshold the same thing as what gives us between death and a new birth the fully intense experiences of our I. Through the first two realms we experience “the other”; through the hierarchies we experience ourselves. One can even say that as a spiritual being within the hierarchies man experiences himself as a son, as a child of the hierarchies. He knows himself as be is related to the other human souls as I have described it; he knows himself at the same time as a child of the hierarchies. As he feels himself here, when he perceives himself in the cosmos, as a fusion of the outer, natural forces and the surrounding cosmos, so across the threshold he feels himself organized, as it were, as a spiritual being through participation of the different hierarchies.
Here, if we observe ourselves as human beings — this should certainly not engender any pride in us — we see the so-called lower realm of nature and ourselves placed at the peak of these realms of nature. We go through the portal of death and find over there that we are on the lowest level of the realms of the hierarchies but as the fusion of impulses from the hierarchies. There, however, the fusion comes from above, while here it ascends from below. Whereas here our I is sunk into the physical organism so that it is an extract of the rest of nature, there our spirituality is sunk into the hierarchies and is an extract of them. One can also say that there it is our spirituality with which we clothe ourselves, while here it is our bodily nature in which we are clothed when we come through the portal of birth.
An imaginative perception can already picture the general course of life between death and a new birth. Indeed, it would be extremely sad for a person if he were not able to create such mental pictures. Just think! We are not separated from the dead at all in our life of feeling or of will. What is removed from our gaze is only hidden from our sense perceptions and our mental pictures. It will be a giant step forward in the evolution of the human race on earth, in that part of human evolution that we still must live through, if some day people become conscious of the fact that in their impulses of feeling and will they are one with the dead. Death can indeed rob us of our physical view of the dead and of our thoughts of them. There is nothing that we feel, however, without the dead being there with us in the sphere in which we feel; likewise, there is nothing that we will without the dead being there with us in the sphere in which we will.
I spoke earlier of exceptions regarding the mineral and animal realms. Such exceptions are especially valid for our present epoch. They did not carry much weight formerly, but we do not need to speak of this now. In our time, in which a certain materialistic conviction is of necessity spreading over the earth, human beings can easily miss the chance to acquire spiritual mental pictures during their earthly lives. In yesterday's public lecture I even went so far as to draw attention to how a person, if he fails to acquire spiritual mental pictures during his earthly life, chains himself to this earthly life; in a sense, he cannot escape from it, and he becomes therefore a source of disturbance. Many of the destructive forces working in the earthly sphere come from these dead individuals imprisoned in it. One must have compassion for such human souls rather than judge them critically, because it is not particularly easy to have to remain after death within a realm that is actually not suited to the dead. The realms in this case are the mineral and plant realms, actually that mineral realm that the animals bear within them, that man himself bears within him. These beings are permeated by the mineral realm. For individuals who have not absorbed spiritual mental pictures, the situation is such that they shrink from this experience after death; feelings are aroused at all times, warning them that they cannot enter the realms that govern animal and human spirituality and that they can enter only what is mineral and plant nature. I can scarcely depict this, because language has no words for it. One can only approach slowly and gradually what lies actually at the foundation, because the approach is at first something too frightful.
One must not imagine that such dead souls are then permanently banished from the life I described earlier. They draw near to this life with a certain dismay and fear, however, and rush back again and again into the plant and mineral realms, because the mental pictures they had constructed only have a certain significance in the mineral realm, in the realm of dead objects, the realm of physical mechanisms.
I consider it my main task today, through such mental pictures as these, to arouse in the consciousness an understanding of how the dead are participating in human evolution. One would really like to say these things today in public lectures, but one cannot, because people do not allow themselves such mental pictures unless they have already gone through something that has been communicated in our groups. By describing life between death and a new birth, particularly in its relation to earthly life, one satisfies or, said better, one is fulfilling the demand of our age. For a relatively long time our age has discarded the ancient, instinctive mental pictures concerning the realm of the dead, and now humanity must receive new mental pictures. Humanity must free itself from abstractions about the higher worlds and not merely speak of a kind of general spirituality; it must come truly to perceive what is at work as spirituality. We must be clear that the dead have not died; the dead are still living on and working in the historical process of human evolution. We must be clear that the forces that spiritually surround us are forces of the higher hierarchies but also forces of the dead. The greatest illusion that future humanity could entertain would be to believe that the social life on earth that people develop among themselves through their feelings and their will happens merely through earthly arrangements, with the exclusion of the dead. This simply is not possible, because the dead are already participating within feeling and willing.
It may be asked how it will be possible in the midst of impulses of the new age to develop consciousness in the right way to perceive this kind of gathering with the spiritual world. The evolution of humanity is proceeding in such a way that man in his physical body with his ordinary consciousness is increasingly cut off from the spiritual world. It was in order that man shall once again, as physical man, find the right access to the spiritual world that the Mystery of Golgotha took place in earthly evolution.
The Mystery of Golgotha is not only a one-time event and, as such, the greatest single event in all of earthly evolution. It is also a continuing event, an impulse that continues to be active. Humanity must do something to allow this force to work on it in the right way. For a long time I have been emphasizing that the task of our spiritual science is connected with the impulse of Golgotha, that spiritual science must exist in a certain way for the impulse of Golgotha to be understood in the right way in our age and in the immediate future. You can be sure that, as an earthly science that has become at the same time the world religion, natural science will gain greater and greater influence. I am often reproached for seeming to be unfriendly to the natural sciences, even in their radical developments, a reproach that belongs to the most old-fashioned prejudices imaginable, because whoever understands the course of the evolution of the earth understands that the natural sciences cannot be proved wrong and that, on the contrary, they will spread further and further. A kind of religious belief in them that now sweeps through the world is not to be halted in any way. It will come. It advances confidently, and it comes “for the blessing of humanity!” The time will not be long, perhaps only a few decades, before all the religious faiths will find themselves unable to save even the most simple, primitive human beings from consciousness of a purely natural existence such as natural science cultivates. This is inevitable.
Something else is also certain, however. Just as the purely natural scientific world conception gradually seizes human feeling (Gemuet), it will be less and less possible for the spiritual element itself to be cultivated by natural science. The spiritual element will have to be brought in just as strictly scientific a way, while natural science will still be recognizing the natural existence. Knowledge of natural existence will become more and more necessary for the fulfillment of those tasks that man in the future will have to undertake between birth and death. Whatever will lift him toward the spiritual world, however, will have to come to him from a spiritual science.
There is now a fundamental impulse in the widest circles to grasp the Mystery of Golgotha. This could be seen in earlier epochs, but it is especially apparent in our own time. Today one can already say that the greatest enemies to grasping the Christ impulse are the priests and clergy of the various religious faiths, no matter how strange this may sound. What keeps humanity furthest from the Christ impulse is the way in which the clergy and the theologians interpret this Christ impulse, because they are far from understanding what it actually is.
It is not my intention today to say essential things regarding the Christ impulse. We have already compiled a great deal about it in the course of time and will continue to do so. I would like to bring one aspect before you now, because it seems especially important at the present time, namely, that human beings need to perceive that the Christ impulse must, in the most profound sense, be dealt with differently from other historical impulses. People see that this is so, but they constantly make all kinds of compromises. They speak half-truths; they do not have the courage for the whole truth. What one must perceive is that it is impossible to speak about the Christ impulse with the same methods with which one speaks of ordinary history. Significant theologians say that it is foolish to speak of the Gospels being true in an ordinary historical sense, because all that can be offered as historical proof that Christ lived can be written down on a couple of sheets of paper. Well-known contemporary theologians thus acknowledge that it is useless to look to the Gospels if one wishes to deal with them only as historical sources. There is no way of proving that they are presenting historical facts. This is considered to be self-evident today. All that can be produced as historical proof similar to authentic documents concerning other personalities of world history can be written, according to the famous theologians, on a couple of sheets of paper. The real significance of this is, however, that even what stands written on those few sheets of paper is not true in the ordinary historical sense.
Humanity will have to acknowledge the fact that historical sources, such as there are for Socrates or Caesar, are simply not there for the existence on earth of Christ Jesus.
His existence must be grasped spiritually. This is the essence of the matter. Humanity will have to receive in the Mystery of Golgotha something for which there are no physical proofs but which must be grasped in a spiritual way.
Concerning everything else, humanity can always keep searching for historical proofs, but for the Mystery of Golgotha these will never, in the most profound sense, be of any use. Humanity should be urged not to grasp this important event on earth in a physical-historical way but to try to approach it with a spiritual understanding. He who will not grasp the Mystery of Golgotha through spiritual understanding of earthly evolution, without historical documents, will never be able to grasp it. This is the will of the gods, one can say. Regarding the most important event on earth, humanity must exert spiritual activity. The Mystery of Golgotha can always be refuted historically; humanity can understand it only if it rises to a spiritual comprehension of the world.
Only spiritual science as such can speak of the reality of the Mystery of Golgotha. One could say that everything else is out of date. Read the recent book by a theologian, a book remarkable in spite of everything, which develops all the Jesus theories of the new age, from Lessing to Wrede. You will find proof in such a presentation that in this field, history really must take second place, that there must be a new kind of comprehension. This can be found only on the spiritual scientific path.
We must understand this, my dear friends, and now in our time the moment has come when human beings will really be able to experience in a spiritual way the further activity of the Mystery of Golgotha. This is the reason that I have spoken of the spiritual, etheric reappearance of Christ in the twentieth century and that I presented it in my first Mystery Drama. It will be a spiritual experience, however, a spiritual, clairvoyant experience.
There is thus an inner relationship between the Mystery of Golgotha and the necessary ascent of humanity, starting from our time, to spirituality. Truly, from this time on, human beings must rise to a certain spirituality. They must grasp in this coming time that the Mystery of Golgotha can be comprehended further only by spiritual activity, that Christianity must have an essentially spiritual continuation, not just an outer continuation through historical traditions or more historical research. I hope that what I have just said will not be taken in an abstract sense, so that someone will think, if he picks up one or two concepts about the significance of the Mystery of Golgotha, that he has done everything that needs to be done. It so often happens that way. No, one must approach these things fully concretely. One must not only build mental pictures about the Christ and His activity, but one must also be able to find in a certain way the realm of Christ within the earthly realm. Christ descended into the earthly realm, and one must be able to find His domain.
Natural science, if it has someday developed to its highest level of perfection, will offer a picture of the world as it could come to be without the help of the Mystery of Golgotha. Natural science will never of itself come so far during earthly evolution that a physicist or biologist will be able to speak of the Mystery of Golgotha from his presuppositions. All science, however, will gradually, in so far as it deals with what goes on around us between birth and death, become more and more a natural science. Beside this, spiritual science will be drawing its content from the spiritual kingdom.
The question now, however, is to find not just a science but a way to stand within the spiritual realm, so that we do not find only nature. In nature we will never find the Christ impulse. How are we to find a way actually to place ourselves within the spiritual realm, not merely to have knowledge of it? You recognize from what I have been saying that the consciousness of modern and particularly of future humanity will become a merely natural consciousness, a consciousness of entirely natural facts, but that in addition to this another consciousness must be added. An entirely different consciousness must be added. For this new consciousness, the necessity of comprehending the Mystery of Golgotha as a spiritual fact will be, as it were, only the highest peak. The same approach as is needed for the Mystery of Golgotha, a readiness to penetrate through to the spiritual element in things, will have to extend through the rest of life. This means nothing other than that, beyond a purely natural view of things, there must enter human consciousness an entirely different view of things.
This view of things will come and must come when man learns, just as he now beholds the world of the senses through his sense perceptions, to observe just as consciously the course of his destiny in the world, in great events and small. What do I mean by this? Today man pays little attention to the course of his destiny. Consider some extreme cases, however. I will relate just one to you, which will show you what I mean, and it is only one case out of thousands. One could relate thousands of such cases, countless thousands.
A man leaves his house to go for a walk along a path he knows quite well. It takes him up a mountain slope to a rocky place from which there is a beautiful view. He has often gone to enjoy this view; it is his usual walk. On this day, while he is walking, a thought suddenly strikes him as if out of the blue, “Watch out! Look out!” He hears an inner voice, not as a hallucination but in the spirit, saying, “Why are you going this way? Can you not miss this pleasure just once?” He hears this in the spirit. It makes him hesitate, and he steps off the path to think for a moment. At once a tremendous mass of rock plunges down over the very spot where he would have been had he not stepped aside; it would obviously have killed him.
Now I ask you to consider for a moment what role destiny was playing there. Certainly something was active. The man is still alive. The lives of many human beings on this earth are connected with his life. All of them would have been changed if the rock had killed him. Something was accomplished there. If you try to explain it by natural laws, you will never arrive naturally at the act of destiny that took place there. Certainly you can explain by natural laws how the mass of rock came to be loosened, how the man could have been killed when the rock suddenly fell across his path, and so on. In all that can be said about the matter, however, from the standpoint of natural laws, the laws of destiny are nowhere to be found; it has nothing to do with them.
I have related to you an extreme case, but our lives are composed of just such things, in so far as our lives are a matter of destiny. It is just that man does not notice it; he pays no attention to these things. He does not notice these things as he notices what is conveyed to him through his senses as natural facts. From day to day, from hour to hour, from moment to moment, things happen of which only one example has been given, the extreme case I have just described. Think how often, for instance, you are about to leave your house and are delayed half an hour (one must study even the small things). Such things and similar ones happen thousands of times during our lives. You only see what happens when you have been delayed that half hour; you do not consider what would have happened completely differently if you had gone out as scheduled half an hour earlier!
Quite another realm is thus continually reaching into our lives, the realm of destiny, a realm to which as yet modern man pays no attention, because he casts his gaze only at what has happened and has no interest in what is constantly being prevented from happening in his life. None of you sitting here this evening can possibly know whether three hours ago you may have undertaken something that was then prevented from happening, something that would have kept you from sitting here tonight, perhaps even from still being alive tonight. You see only the thing for which spiritual impulses were already gathered in manifold ways, through which the thing did occur. You do not usually consider with ordinary consciousness that what you do in life is a result of participating spiritual impulses. Once you begin to grasp this fact, once you realize that there is a realm of destiny just as there is a realm of nature, you will find that this realm of destiny is no poorer in content than the realm of nature. Into this realm of destiny, however, which reveals itself, I should like to say, with particular clarity when some extreme incident occurs such as I have just related — becoming obvious to the human intellect — into this realm of destiny works what I was describing earlier this evening. Into the feelings and into the will impulses through which destiny moves are working the impulses of the dead. In spite of the fact that a man who says such things today is still looked upon by the entire “intelligentsia” as a superstitious fool, it is nevertheless true that, with the same exactness with which one expresses a natural law today, one can also make the following assertion: when someone has heard such a voice, it is this or that dead person who has spoken at the behest of one or another hierarchy; furthermore, from morning till evening, and especially from evening till morning, during our sleep, the impulses of the dead are constantly working into us, together with the impulses of the spiritual hierarchies who work in our destiny.
I would like to mention something here. You know already about the daimon of Socrates and what Socrates, that wise Greek, said about it, that everything he did, he did under the influence of his daimon. I spoke of this Socratic daimon in my small book, The Spiritual Guidance of Man and Mankind. In my recent book, Riddles of the Soul (see Note 12 ) the second chapter speaks of that learned individual, Dessoir, and you can see what he had to say about such things. I drew attention there to Socrates’ daimon. It was a matter of Socrates' coming to consciousness of something that is active in all human beings. Before the Mystery of Golgotha, certain beings directed what the dead were to carry into human life. These beings lost their power at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, and the Christ impulse took their place. Now you have the Christ impulse bound to human destiny in the way described by spiritual science. The forces, the impulses of the dead work as I have described into the sphere of our will and feeling. The dead are active, but they also experience strengthening or weakening of their own will. This whole realm is an earthly realm, an earthly realm just like the realm of nature. Since the Mystery of Golgotha, however, the Christ impulse is living within it. Christ is the directing power in this realm that I have described.
One will therefore have to found a science of the Mystery of Golgotha. It will have to be known in the future that, just as the world of natural facts permeates our world, so also a realm of destiny permeates it as the opposite pole. This realm of destiny is still scarcely noticed today. It will have to be studied in the future just as fully as the realm of nature. When one does so, one will know that in this realm of destiny one is bound up with the dead. One will know that this realm, which we have in common with the dead, is at the same time the realm of Christ. Christ descended to earth to unfold his influence through the Mystery of Golgotha in order to share with human beings on earth what we have in common with the dead, in so far as the dead are active in the earthly sphere. (I refer now not to exceptional incidents but to normal cases.)
This must not remain merely an abstract truth, merely a conceptual truth, or perhaps just a “Sunday truth,” to be recalled occasionally “because, after all, something of the sort might possibly be true.” Man should walk through this realm of destiny as consciously as he walks through the realm of his sense perceptions; he should be able to go through the world making use of his eyes and yet also feeling himself to be woven right into this realm of destiny; he should be able to feel that in this realm the forces of Christ are always united with the forces of the dead. If these things were the case, dear friends, humanity would develop in itself a real, concrete, and sensitive life with the dead. One would experience, if one felt this or that or engaged in this or that, that one is united with loved ones who have already passed on. Life would become endlessly enriched.
At the present time we do not altogether forget our departed ones. We hold them in our memory. An intense life — and that will be the only true life, because otherwise life will be slept through in so far as destiny is concerned — will take hold of humanity and will lead one not only to hold the dead in the memory but to the knowledge that when you do this, when you work toward that, when you undertake this, when you succeed in that, this or that dead soul is participating. Our bonds with the dead are by no means severed by death; they continue. This enrichment of life is the prospect for humanity in the future of the earth. In this fifth post-Atlantean epoch, humanity is actually evolving in the direction I have been describing, and truly, humanity will not be able to survive the sixth epoch if people do not begin to feel these things in the right way, unless they take the reality of destiny into their consciousness just as completely as they now absorb the reality of natural occurrences.
We must perceive concretely the connection of the Mystery of Golgotha with the problem of death. This is what I wished to point out today. This is something that is intimately related to what must now enter the consciousness of humanity, because among the many things lost by humanity is the possibility of still experiencing true reality in the feeling and will impulses. Human beings have gradually been lulled into a great illusion, namely, that they can shape this earthly life according to earthly laws. This is the greatest illusion to which humanity can succumb. We find its radical extreme, for example, in the purely materialistic socialism, which arranges everything according to economic laws, in other words, according to purely physical laws. Obviously, materialistic socialism would never accept the idea that when we human beings do the smallest deed among ourselves, the dead are participating. Socialism is the extreme in one direction. At the opposite pole is the extreme of which all so-called idealists now dream, to create, without regard to anything spiritual, purely programmatic organizations throughout the world, both domestic and international, to promote programs through which supposedly all war will be abolished. It is impossible to convince people who cherish such an illusion that they do not thereby destroy what they wish to destroy but rather are burdening themselves all the more with the monster they had wished to destroy. There is plenty of good will in these things. It is simply what must emerge from the materialistic consciousness of this time, what results — I would like to say — as the political peak of the whole essence of the world.
It will lead to the exact opposite of the desired goal. The important development that must spread over the earth is an understanding of destiny. It is this that must take hold in the making of laws and the forming of political organizations, because it must provide the foundation for the structure of social conditions. Whatever is incompatible with the spiritual evolution of humanity will simply dissolve; it will break down or wear out. This is all closely connected with what the signs of the times are proclaiming today. We have no need here to do political campaigning, if I may express it so crudely; naturally, we would not do that. The demands of the times, however, must be observed carefully by persons who wish to concern themselves with the spiritual evolution of humanity. It must be understood that on the path most commonly traveled today, the Christ will only be lost. He can be won as the rightful king and lord of the earth only through humanity's ascent to spirituality. Of this you may be sure: Christ must not be sought as the various faiths seek Him today, faiths that in a remarkable way have already acceded to every possible compromise in interpreting Christ — here and there they have even agreed on how to celebrate the Christ as a god of slaughter. Christ must be sought where He is to be found in reality, through human beings coming to understand the realm of destiny as a reality in which Christ will be found, as we have suggested today. Only then will an international organization have been created that will signify the spread of real Christianity over the earth.
You have only to reflect for a moment to realize that we have not yet approached this goal. Think what would happen if you were to offer all the people who now talk about wishing to establish peace around the world — and who does not talk about it! — a program to make Christ available to humanity. Then peace would come, lasting peace, in so far as it is at all possible on earth. Imagine what all those organizations (created, I grant you, out of sincere good will) would say if you presented them with such a program! We have even experienced a “peace program” going out from “Christ's representative on earth.” You will not have found within it, however, much of Christ. I know that these things are not taken seriously enough at the present time. Unless they are taken seriously, humanity will not be able to follow a healthy path. Just as it is a necessity that the Mystery of Golgotha be grasped on a spiritual level, so it is also a necessity that human beings understand clearly the signs of the times, that they see in spiritual science something without which even the outer social structure of the future cannot emerge.
In closing, I am obliged to say something to you that I have also had to say to the other groups. It is an unpleasant task. This matter is known to most of our friends; even so, I must make formal statements for the sake of completeness. I do not know whether you are all aware that the most unbelievable slanders are being circulated in the world, tales of a character that one wonders how such a monstrous impulse could invade people's minds. Our spiritual scientific movement must be protected from such — one has to say it — vicious slanders. It is necessary, therefore, for the immediate future, regardless of the fact that help ought to be available to our friends for problems relating to esoteric development, that what have been private conferences in the ordinary sense can no longer take place. It is precisely these private conferences that have given rise to the slanders. This statement in itself would be incomplete, however; a second must follow it, namely, that whoever wishes to — obviously, only whoever wishes to! — may relate quite frankly and fully everything that has been said or done at any time in these conferences. There is nothing in our movement that needs to be hidden, if one speaks the truth.
I am obliged to take these two steps. Give me a little time, however, and I am sure other ways and means will be found by which to allow everyone their spiritual scientific rights. The spiritual scientific movement must not be interrupted, however, by things that have nothing whatever to do with it. It is therefore particularly those who belong most truly and honestly to our movement who must understand that these conferences in the ordinary sense can no longer take place and that I also release everyone from any kind of obligation. Anyone anywhere may make known what he wishes; no one must, of course, but as far as I am concerned there is no restriction, for there is nothing that cannot be told if one reports the reality, the truth. In order that the truth may be established, however, both requirements must be fulfilled. It gives me much sorrow to have to take these measures. I know, however, that the friends who stand closest to our movement will fully perceive its necessity and will be in complete agreement with it.
We need to be conscious now of the seriousness of our present situation. For this reason, such a gathering as this is for me a particularly important, serious event. Especially now, in this catastrophic time, I hope we can be truly permeated by the consciousness that we need to stand together in support of our anthroposophical cause, to stand together in the spirit. Even if for the time being we find we are not able to meet together in space, let us remain together in spirit. This is the wish I would express as I part from you: we have been together in space; now perhaps for a time we must be together only in the spirit.
Source: November 29, 1917
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