Friday, August 26, 2022

Connecting our present suffering with cosmic wisdom: idealists and martyrs give the Earth its value



"The Sacrificial Altar of Life: The Consonance That Lies Behind Life's Otherwise Unbearable Dissonances"
Lecture 3
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, November 20, 1915:

These days in which we have been able to meet together we have devoted to throwing light from one point of view or another on the connection between the life of man here on the physical plane and the life he leads between death and rebirth, as well as on the connection between the individual successive earth-lives through which man passes. We have seen that when the attempt is made to go deeper into these relations the investigation becomes very complicated; but, in reality, only then does it become fruitful for us, for it can then give many conclusions concerning the details of the riddles and questions of Life. We wish to go further into these considerations; in order to do this, we must to-day begin by penetrating a little into the structure of man, with which we are already acquainted, but which we must go over once again with reference to certain qualities necessary for the following considerations.
Now you will have seen from the various cycles, lectures and books, that we live here on earth as human beings in a quite definite epoch of the earth's evolution; and from the whole spirit of our consideration we have been able to gather that there is an inner purpose, a certain inner significance in the fact that we carry our souls through all these different epochs of the earth's evolution. From the descriptions which have been given, you will already have seen that not merely the external life, but the whole life of man here on earth is naturally different in the various epochs. We shall for the present only consider the life of the soul. The life of the soul was different — if we consider only the Post-Atlantean epochs — in the old Indian, old Persian, Egypto-Chaldean or the Greco-Latin age, and it is again different in our time. We carried our souls through all these epochs. In all of these epochs our souls sought bodies (most of us more than once in the same epoch) which gave them the possibility of taking up the world in the way best adapted to the forces of that particular epoch. If you remember what has been said about the peculiarities of the soul-life in the various epochs, you will be able to acquire a still more accurate insight. For example: when we regard the life of the first Post-Atlantean epoch, we find that the human soul during its life on earth was then chiefly occupied in working out the interaction of its own being with the etheric body; thus, as it were, experiencing in the right manner that which can be experienced here in the earth-life by a soul interacting chiefly with the etheric body. Then in the second Post-Atlantean period the soul went through everything which can be experienced through the interchange with the astral body. In the third Post-Atlantean epoch of civilisation the soul lived through everything that can be experienced through interaction with the sentient soul; in the fourth epoch of civilisation it experienced the interaction with the rational or intellectual soul, and we in our time go through everything which can be experienced by means of the interaction with the conscious or spiritual soul. The soul, according to its experience while working in the different epochs on the various principles of human nature, makes a greater or less individual progress in the general development of the world. Man has completely different experiences during these different epochs; as regards the relation of his soul to the entire Cosmos, he changes absolutely. We must already have some idea of this, from what has previously been said. Thus we, in our epoch, are living in the conscious or spiritual soul, and the whole civilisation of our fifth epoch is devoted to teaching the whole human soul, the entire human Ego, to form such connections with the world as are possible with a self-conscious soul. In our epoch we gain our experience through adapting our forces to the conscious or spiritual soul.
Now, it is possible to look at the whole matter from another point of view. By what means does it come about in the general cosmic relations that one lives in the conscious or spirit-soul? As man, one naturally lives, not only in the spiritual soul, but also in the other principles of the human nature. In a narrower sense, in our age we build chiefly those capacities which humanity is at present acquiring — by our life in the spiritual soul — for through the medium of that principle we live in our Ego, in the physical life between birth and death. The Greek in the fourth Post-Atlantean period was not so entirely dependent on his physical body as we are. The Greek lived still more of an inner life in his body. This caused him to work in the rational or intellectual or mind-soul, (*Mind-soul in the old English sense: ‘I have a mind to do this.’) and he was thus in a position to fill out his physical body in quite a different manner than is possible to us. Each movement of the hand, for instance, produced a much stronger inner feeling in the Greek than in the body of to-day. External science cannot enter into these things, but they exist nevertheless. When he bent his arm the Greek felt the swelling of each single muscle, he felt the angle it formed. That is why the Greek as a sculptor was in a position to create quite differently. The present-day sculptor works from a model. He beholds the model and works accordingly. Not so the Greek. He had an inner feeling of the form of the arm, of the physiognomy, etc., and this to him was inner experience. But man when he lives in the consciousness soul is now torn out of that which can be experienced in the physical body. He has, as it were, penetrated more deeply into his physical body, he has become more closely united with it than the Greek could be, but he has, through this, become insensible to all that the physical body gives. He makes use of the organs of the physical body in a higher sense than did the Greek. The Greek could not see certain shades of colour, as we see them to-day, because he was not so much within the physical body as we are to-day. If you re-read Homer you will be able to notice that he mentions few colours. Everything is changed in like manner. Man allies himself more closely with his physical body, but he does not experience so much his own inner being in this physical body. Rather must one say that instead of perceiving his inner being in the physical body, he contacts the external world more. In short, there is a struggle for the capacities of the physical body, whereas in Greece there was rather a struggle for form. Thus we can say: we build up the consciousness soul because with our Ego we bring about a certain inner relation with our physical body, because we work our way so deeply into the physical body. In this way the time has come in which we no longer know very much of spiritual processes and things; the time of materialism, because man has urged himself so deeply into his physical body.
Now, within the physical body there naturally lies the etheric body. The Greek still knew much more of his etheric body. He dimly perceived, even though only as a reminiscence, that the etheric body always echoes the movements of the physical body. He still felt that it is not merely the physical hand which moves, but that the etheric hand moves with it, and lies at the basis of the physical movement. All this is now forgotten, but man, while he lived in the Greek age, so experienced it all that he felt himself much more intensely in this etheric body than he does now, and that knowledge is not utterly lost. As soul-beings, we have all gone through it, and it remains in our etheric body. It all remains there as preserved thoughts, and when we leave the world in which we dwell between death and rebirth, we leave behind, as if forgotten, everything which we were previously very well able to dominate in our etheric body. We now thrust ourselves so deeply into our physical body that we leave behind all we acquired in the Grecian epoch. From this you see that man's etheric body really contains much more than he now realises. At present he evolves his consciousness chiefly within his physical body, and in so doing he covers up what is in his etheric body. If he only possessed all the knowledge of the inner human organisation which is concealed in his etheric body, he could know infinitely more than he does now. For this etheric body has acquired a certain perfection, greater than man is at present aware of. In regard to it especially, much is driven back because it cannot be brought to consciousness in a suitable manner. Man knows very little of his etheric body.
Among other things in the etheric body — the astral body, as you know, is also at work there. Everything which the etheric body accomplishes must naturally be thought of as permeated by the astral body. If we could suddenly bring to the surface all that the etheric body contains we should be infinitely cleverer than we are at the present epoch, in which we have to struggle on with nothing but the physical body. For this etheric body contains much (naturally the astral body also shares in this), it contains infinite treasures of wisdom. These lie in the depths of our soul, within the etheric body. There we find a host of dexterities, a mass of information. For instance, in reference to Geometry. I have once before mentioned how much we all unconsciously know of Geometry. This is actually a fact. For when we learn Geometry we do not learn it from outside things, it is reached by bringing that which is in the etheric body to consciousness. If we draw external figures, they merely serve as an inducement. If I draw a triangle, of which I know that the angles = 180o, I have the knowledge of this through the etheric body. We only draw figures in consequence of human laziness. In reality we know everything that can be learnt of Geometry. We know it unconsciously, it rests below in the depths of the unconscious soul-life. We have no idea how clever we are in the subconscious depths of the soul. Could we but know it! The evil in human evolution does not lie in man having little wisdom within him, but in his powerlessness to extract that wisdom out of his own soul. All educational development consists in bringing out the concealed wisdom lying in the depths of the soul. Now, if we were not obliged to bring up these things in this difficult way, we could not properly advance our evolution. Just think! If we were not to acquire such a relation to our physical body as we now have, we should really be born as terribly clever children, and it would not take much to bring out at a relatively early age that which lies within the etheric body. But man would then take far too little trouble to acquire wisdom, and it would thereby be too little his own, he would be too much a mere copy of wisdom. A personal assimilation arises through our having such a relation to the physical body as is ordained for this fifth epoch of culture. This personal assimilation causes knowledge to become our very own possession. When we delve for it in this fashion, our knowledge is then our own: we have it for ourselves. This holds good with reference to the etheric body.
With reference to the astral body something quite different holds good, and that is as follows: If we were able to draw forth everything lying in the astral body, everything which the astral body knows, in all its details, that would be of no advantage for our present life. For we should then really live among our fellow-men as automatons. Indeed, our astral body knows, though our consciousness does not, the relation in which, as astral body, it stands to all the individual persons it contacts in life. Our astral body has such a consciousness. So that if we could make use of everything the astral body knows, we should be absolutely aware for instance, that with this or that person we shall have trouble; and this person or the other will be a kind friend. Such knowledge would naturally change life utterly, but for our present earthly relations, not in a good sense. Now, I could relate still more concerning what the astral body knows (and unconsciously it does already use its knowledge), but it is a knowledge that really is very little noticed in the connections of human life. Suppose a man perishes through an accident. In ordinary human life it appears to us as if the accident had overtaken the man, for according to our present consciousness, man does not seek an accident. But if we investigate the astral body, we shall find no single accident which man, in so far as he is in the astral body, has not sought. That which is necessary for ordinary consciousness, is sought by the astral body out of a free inner choice. It is thus willed, actually willed by the astral body. Even if a man is run over by a railway train, that is brought about by the astral body, with regard to the whole connections of his life. It is not something which merely happens by accident. Thus we not only have our connection with our fellow-men as wisdom in our astral body, but in reality our connection also with the entire outer life, with that which runs its course as natural events, or other social happenings in which we are implicated. It is good that all this is purposely hidden from us, otherwise we should learn nothing for our further evolution: but there exists in the astral body a true thought, I mean a kind of knowledge of everything, which shows our connection with the events and human elements in which we are involved. Man takes little heed of this in ordinary life. For when anything happens to us, we say, ‘This has just occurred,’ and, as a rule, that is the only thing observed. We do not really consider what would have happened if that particular event had not occurred. I will bring forward a striking instance. At a particular time in his life a man is wounded. In ordinary life one merely thinks: Yes, he has been wounded, and that ends the matter. What would have happened if he had not been wounded? To this, one pays no attention, but through a wound the whole life may be altered, everything that follows may be different. Now, the astral body beholds the entire connection, before the wounding of the man. One may say the astral body is clairvoyant.
And the true Ego, which rests still deeper in the subconsciousness, and which dwells in the inner depths of our being, is much more clairvoyant still. As you already know, we built up our physical body on old Saturn, our etheric body on the Sun, and our astral body on the old Moon. Our Ego is the baby among the human principles, it is the youngest. Not till the Vulcan period, after the Jupiter and Venus evolutions are completed, will the Ego be formed, as the physical body is fashioned now — but this Ego rests the whole time in the bosom of the spiritual world. Then, during the Vulcan epoch, an inconceivable knowledge of the connections of life will stream out of the Ego. But this knowledge is already now within us and the evolution on Jupiter and Venus will consist in drawing out the capacity for using it.
Thus, while we regard these depths of the soul's life, we see in a wonderful manner our connection with the spiritual world. We men in ordinary human life are only given what we are able to receive, because the Ego is reflected in the physical body: but behind this rests a widely extended earthly knowledge, which is in the etheric body. Behind this again rests a clairvoyant knowledge which is already in the astral body, and a still more clairvoyant knowledge which is in the true Ego. It is good to place these things before the mind, before going on to what I now have to say. Let us consider the case which at the present time is speaking so deeply to the soul in such manifold ways, of a man who in early youth is led through the gates of death from the battle-field. It then happens that the more deeply-lying principles of human nature (etheric body, astral body, and Ego), are torn out of their connection with the physical body, in quite a different way from what occurs when one becomes old and slowly dies in bed. A quicker separation from the physical body often takes place — I have already spoken of the prophetic nature of the etheric body. We have said that even in dreams if we were able in a sense to interpret the pictures we see, we should know that in our etheric body, through the dream which arises because the astral body turns to the etheric body, which then receives as a reflection what the astral body is experiencing — that in these pictures there is something which indicates our future life, something of a prophetic nature.
Now for the spiritual investigator who has to investigate those things, an important question arises out of such considerations. He has first to place this question before himself. And the posing of the question is then a kind of introduction to the answer which must then arise from the clairvoyant observation. For example; one must say: Here on earth, according to the normal course of life Man is destined to reach old age and to use up his life slowly. To this end his etheric body, astral body, and Ego are adjusted. This would occur, if the course of life were normal: but now, through a shell that suddenly strikes a man, the whole connection is disturbed. Through this, a certain faculty of the etheric body (I will for the present limit our consideration to the individual man), that force which would have been able to work as if prophetically through the entire life, which would have been able to lead him through many other relations in life — that force is torn out of life; it is separated from the physical plane. Just suppose that the shell had not struck the man. (We can put this hypothesis and not consider the fact that all this is of course karmic). Well, he would then have gradually used up that force in his etheric body, perhaps during many years. That force is nevertheless in the inner part of his soul. It does not cease to exist, and it may be perceived when the man, who has been killed by a shell, gazes on his life-tableau, looks back in the etheric body. I have already indicated that this life-picture has a quite special characteristic. It has the characteristic of seeming to come from the outer world, rather than of having to be produced from within.
In short, that energy, that force, which is then cut off, remains in the man. Observation reveals the fact that the force is there and transforms the entire life following after death. It is just the same with the force in the astral body. This, too, would have been used during the whole life. This also is still there. In short, a man goes in quite a different way through the gates of death, if he is violently torn out of physical life. If he has perhaps been struck by a shell, and loses his life in that manner, it is not the same as if he dies slowly in his bed. Now for the spiritual investigator there arises a great question: What is the actual significance of this? What does it mean for his epoch when a man, as in the case quoted, really brings something quite different into the spiritual world from what he would have brought if he had lived his life out? For such an epoch as the one in which we live, this question is of infinite importance, for much of what has just been described is being carried up into the spiritual world. What does this signify for the spiritual world? This is a tremendously significant question! When one studies a little the relation of the spiritual world to the physical world (as one can in the Vienna cycle: ‘Inner Being of Man and Life Between Death and Rebirth’), something becomes important which for a long time has not been believed, but which reveals itself clearly to spiritual investigation. It is the following. In reality all our conceptions and ideas change on entering the spiritual world; not only on entering the spiritual world through initiation, but also on entering it through the gates of death. You see, here on earth, man really evolves more and more in a definite direction. One might call it that of the so-called ‘concept of being.’ And to-day people are already greatly taken with this idea of ‘the concept of being.’ What do I really mean by this? Nowadays hardly anything is regarded as of value unless it is conceived as actually existing. When anyone comes who does not speak of something palpable, he is considered a dreamer. Men go about speaking of ‘reality,’ and compared to this, mere thought is nothing. Countless men do not value thought to-day because they cannot lay hold of it. ‘Existence’ means the forcible realisation of that which is perceived; one has nothing to do with bringing about the existence of a thing, its existence is obvious. And anything which cannot in this way be proved to exist, is held by man in ever decreasing regard.
In the evolution of the spiritual world the reverse is the case. There, that which exists and makes an impression, such as a physical object, is for the man in the spiritual world something inimical, something disturbing, something of which he knows that it pertains to the ‘nothingness,’ and that it is destined to disappear into nothing. And if one enters without further ado into a spiritual region in which there are perhaps rather undeveloped souls (souls who to the spiritual world are just as simple as many souls appear to be in the earthly world), then one finds the opposite opinion prevailing even there. Anything to which these dead souls attach value should not exist, as one speaks of existence here on the earth. Existence here, as such, is of no value to these souls. In the spiritual life it really is the case that one confronts pure spiritual beings. They affect one. But one must first acquire perception for them. It is thus: one stands in the spiritual world; behind one stand souls belonging to the spiritual hierarchies, Angels, Archangels, and so on. One knows they are there. But if a man is to perceive them, he must first arouse them into that which one here calls ‘existence.’ That which in the spiritual world works on one, must be brought into an ‘Imagination.’ That which is ‘non-awakened being,’ to which man does nothing, which simply exists of itself, that is of no value in the spiritual world. Here man stands on the earth, and is surrounded by nature. But the spiritual world demands that man should raise himself up to it, for it is not there without further ado. To have nature around one requires no special trouble. It exists, as it were, of itself. Therefore the materialistic love to have nature around them. But in the spiritual world nature is no longer there. For man, there only exists in the spiritual world that which he himself continuously works at. There he has to be continually active. That which is there, is the other world, that world which man has forsaken, to which he continually looks back, as though to a world of existence. The world, which carries the transitory within itself, continually battles with the non-existent. If for one moment the world so beloved by the materialists were to disappear, if men were to know nothing of their bodies, but first had to create the ‘imagination’ of them, if they were to know nothing of the table until they had created it for themselves in thought, but could instead see the spiritual world — then they would have in this life here below what they have there in the spiritual world. Those in the spiritual world can only bring it to perception by their own activity. The ‘other world’ — our own world here below — is always present. Whereas here the heaven is hidden and only the world which is round us is always present, there the surrounding world is hidden unless we ourselves bring it into vision by our own efforts. For one who can have immediate cognisance of it, it is easy there to believe in the ‘world beyond,’ which is our present one. But consider from the standpoint of the spiritual that which makes this world of ours, I might almost say, disagreeable, is its permeation with existence. It is a disturbing fact that it is permeated with existence — that really is disturbing. Many say: ‘A spiritual world indeed! — I would willingly believe in one if I could only see it! If I could see it while here!’ We may compare that remark with what the souls in the spiritual world say: ‘We might endure that physical world continually existing down there if only it was not permanently present. If only it were not so permeated with being. We cannot look down on to the earth without seeing in every part of it this terrible existence.’
And if here someone is a practical materialist and does not believe in idealism, then he loves existence only. But in order that this conviction of the merely obvious existence may not spread, there continually arise from time to time the Idealists, who lead humanity to believe in ideals and their efficacy, in the power of Idealism in the progress of history. These ideals of the ethical, the beautiful, the religious, are carried into the world. Certainly the absolute materialists will have nothing to do with them; at most they dispose of them in a few words. But just that which in the material sense does not seem to exist, is carried into the physical plane as the most precious thing in life. And if the evolution of humanity on the earth be considered from a higher human point of view, then one may say: Certainly nature is there, great and significant. But what would this whole human life be if existing nature alone were there, be it ever so beautiful: if man were not capable of having ideals, if he could not be spurred forward, not by that which does not exist, but by that which ought to exist, the ethical, religious, artistic, and educational life. It is the non-existing, we might say, that presses in on us from a spiritual world, as the ideals of humanity, that which does not exist but that ought to exist, that alone makes life valuable. Everyone who is not utterly submerged in the swamp of materialism feels this very strongly. And so those who in the course of history are in a special sense the bringers of ideals appear as those who alone give value to the life of existence, out of that which ought to exist. And now to the spiritual investigator the following appears. From the spiritual world one looks back in like manner at the earthly life, but in such a way that, as a higher soul, one longs that everything on the earth should not merely exist; but that among the things on the earth there should be something which is not earthly, in the strictest sense of the words. Something else must be mingled with the earth-existence, which in the earth-sense has no existence. This appears as something infinitely significant, when the spiritual investigator perceives it in connection with those people who were destined for a long life, and were forcibly cut off. So that there is a portion of their life which from the spiritual standpoint was really destined for existence, and which has not lived it out. Let us take the case of a man who has lived in the world only to his twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth year instead of to his seventieth or eightieth, for which he had the necessary life forces. Then, let us say, he is struck by a shell. The principles of his human nature are suddenly sundered from one another. The etheric body, astral body and Ego would still have been able for a long time to develop the faculty of maintaining the physical body. That which would have been able to continue but for the shot, was intended for the earth existence. It has not passed into existence. From the spiritual this appears so that one can say, ‘Down there is something which does not merely exist.’ Something else is mingled with the earth existence, something that was destined for existence, but which has not lived through it. It is existence, but merely in germ. Yet in a sense it is something that ought to exist. Therefore those whose life is thus ended at an early stage through an external happening, are to the spiritual world, when they go through the gates of death, in a similar yet not the same sense, spiritual messengers, as are the Idealists who come here on the earth, to mix with the existing that which ought to exist. Those who go early through the gates of death, ascend in order to announce to the heavens that on the earth there is not only mere existence, but also that which ought to exist.
An infinitely deep and significant discovery can be made on coming to this chapter of spiritual investigation, when one learns to know these idealists impelled to the heavens, who become what they are, by going through the gates of death in the manner indicated here. And in the present time it is very fitting that we really unite such a thought with our souls.
On entering the domain of spiritual life it is necessary that besides those who, as it were, accomplish their task in the spiritual life, there should be also those who point to the earth, who have really woven something into the earth evolution, but have taken it out earlier than should have been done according to plan. Thus we may say that those who go early through the gates of death become in many respects for the human souls in the spiritual world just those who make it possible to believe in the heights of earth-life. They make it possible for those yonder to believe that earth-life really contains something spiritual which is of value; for these souls adopt a similar position there to the idealists here on earth.
We must always bear in mind that we should not imagine men living on in the spiritual world as they last were, when here. The trivial ideas that people hold, as, for instance, that those who die as children continue to live on as children, are naturally incorrect. The imagination may picture the dead as we last saw them here, but that is not their true form; it is rather the expression of it. A child may die, but the human entity incarnated in the child may be a highly evolved soul, and continue its life after death as a highly evolved soul. I have often mentioned this. Thus we see something is carried up into the spiritual world which, being bound up with earth existence and nevertheless not consumed by it, should, in a sense not ‘be’ there. That works in the evolution which the human soul passes through between death and rebirth. Those men who have thus gone through death so pass through the intervening stage, between death and rebirth, that they there represent the humanity of the earth in a much richer and more comprehensive sense than one can do who has gone through a normal earth life. That has nothing to do with what is laid down for man through Karma. If one lives to be old, that is Karma. If one dies young, that is Karma. But just as on earth a man cannot make himself arbitrarily into this or that individuality which his consciousness on this side of the veil might select, neither can he determine from the earth-consciousness how the life between death and rebirth is to be fashioned. If one is taken forcibly from physical existence into the spiritual world, he then has a much more intense imaginative vision of everything human than one who enters the spiritual world in a different fashion. We say that those who pass thus through the gates of death, stand especially near, during their life between death and rebirth, to that which happens on the earth, as far as humanity is concerned. That can be seen by investigating the lives of persons who have accomplished something of a very special importance at a particular time of their life, something which could perhaps only be done by them. Suppose a man accomplishes something of great importance in a certain direction, at a definite epoch of his life, for example, in his forty-ninth year. (Naturally this can only be investigated occultly). If one traces this back, one finds that in an earlier incarnation, and perhaps just in his forty-ninth year, this man died a more or less violent death. He acquires this strong tendency towards the ideal evolution of the earth by having carried up ‘that which should exist’ into the spiritual world. Thereby he incorporated into his whole physical being the strong force wherewith to accomplish something definite in a definite year. We can again see from this, as I pointed out in the last lecture, that men who have to effect many things, especially through their will, and who thus live more for universal humanity, have carried up in some form, from some earlier incarnation, such life ‘which ought to exist.’
It is indeed specially difficult, while one only wishes to conceive of life in the spiritual as a somewhat more refined earthly life, to reconcile oneself to acquiring the following idea of the spiritual: Here on earth, physical life is always known of itself; while over there is the life which is unknown; and that in the spiritual, things are reversed. People do not take the trouble to understand that actually, unless one does something oneself, everything is dark and gloomy in the spiritual life; that one must first bring everything to light. Everything which is visible is on this side (the physical), but seen from that side. Also the most significant thing that is intermingled there consists in ‘something that should exist.’ This is a conception which one has to acquire if one wants to perceive aright the connection of physical life with the spiritual life.
In our time it is really a good plan to acquaint ourselves with such conceptions for, as I have said, suffering souls so frequently ask themselves to-day: Why must so many men be called into the spiritual world in the flower of their age? Why cannot they complete their life here? And wonderful as it sounds (though, as I have said, the spiritual truths may sometimes seem cruel) it is nevertheless true, that there must be carried into the spiritual world the possibility of so looking at the earth that this earth itself can be permeated by the spirit. If all men reached old age normally, if there were no martyrs, no men able to sacrifice themselves in youth, then would the earth, regarded from above, lapse into worthless existence. That which is here mingled with the earth as Ideal, is at the same time that which continually brings from out of the past something better for the future. That is connected with what is here sacrificed. Suppose a man at the age of twenty-six sacrifices his whole future life, which he otherwise would have employed in his external work, and would have devoted it to the progress of humanity. This lives further. In the forces of progress there live the lives that men have sacrificed, the lives which they would have been able to live here. The evolution of the earth needs this sacrifice of life. We can thus see how that which is otherwise merely an abstract idea in our materialistic age, becomes extremely concrete. In yet another sense than I developed it here in July, we can say, ‘Not only do these etheric bodies work in the entire connection of human progress, but the work of those who have gone early through death also lives on.’
The work of these individualities is such that we can ask: Who then are those who principally labour for the good of humanity in general, and who set themselves universal tasks in later incarnations? They are those who in earlier incarnations, have in some way or other died a death of sacrifice. The devotional natures, those given up to the spiritual here on the earth, owe this to their life of martyrdom in a previous incarnation. The earth could not progress unless people sacrificed themselves.
When we think of this, we can look away from the present into the future. Such an immense number are now being sacrificed and are sacrificing themselves. Painful as this is considered from many a personal standpoint, yet if we look at it from the standpoint of the wisdom of the Cosmos we may console ourselves. For in proportion to what is now sacrificed will the forces of progress be given to the future. Humanity requires such forces of progress. This is not considered deeply enough today, but it will be, when a sufficient number not of centuries but of decades, have come and gone in the present materialistic evolution. The consequence of materialism will follow with incredible rapidity. The zenith of materialism was really attained in the Nineteenth Century, and man would be swamped by it unless something occurred to arrest it. This conversion should be brought about by Spiritual Science. And this can only be done by strong forces, working for the ideal to be really worked into earth life. Many who are now called away will help to prevent the earth from falling a prey to materialism and being dominated by it.
Just read the course of lectures on the Apocalypse, in which this is indicated in broad outlines. You can then form some idea how great is the fruit of the sacrificial deaths that will be required by the earth in the future, to redeem it as far as possible from sinking into materialism, and the strife, hate and enmity, connected with it; so that it can pursue its further course in the Cosmos. Such a time as ours demands, more than other epochs that we should think, not only on what is taking place, but on the fruits of these happenings. And we can only recognise these fruits if we bear in mind the two sides of Cosmic existence, which shows us that we really experience two completely different poles of life: one here between birth and death and the other there between death and rebirth. Here, we are, in a certain sense, passive in our innermost being, and if we wish to raise ourselves to the perception of the spiritual world, we have to work so hard that many find it impossible. There, it is necessary to be active in order to have with us our vision of the immediately present spiritual world in which we find ourselves; on the other hand we always have, as a reminder, the existing world beneath. Here in this earthly world, the Idealists bear ‘that which should exist,’ which makes existence of value. Into that world to which men pass through the gates of death, which those enter whose life has run its regular earth course, come those who die more or less early as martyrs. And there they are: the witnesses, that below on earth, not merely the material exists, not merely that which is given over to the nothingness, to the transitory, and decaying — but that on this earth is also intermingled that which is retained by those who did not complete their life, whose life was indeed forcibly taken from them.
We must take such things not only intellectually but unite them deeply with our feeling, then may things become comprehensible. Certainly our present epoch contains many riddles, but some of them can be solved if we connect the present suffering with the great wisdom of the Cosmos. And this again is a chapter which if we apply what has now been said to our own times, may be embodied in the great truth:
From the fighters' courage,
From the blood of battles,
From the mourners' suffering,
From the people's sacrifice,
There will ripen fruits of Spirit
If with consciousness the soul
Turns her thought to Spirit Realms.

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