Monday, February 27, 2023
Rudolf Steiner, Stuttgart, February 27, 1923
100 years ago today
I would have liked to follow my usual procedure in lecturing to the kind members of the Anthroposophical Society and to have addressed this gathering on purely anthroposophical matters. The whole course the meetings have taken, however, and the things that have been happening in the past few days have made me decide to confine my comment to questions of immediate interest to this assemblage. I hope there will be other opportunities to speak on more specifically anthroposophical subjects, if not to all of you at once, then at least on several occasions to smaller groups.
The goal of this pair of lectures is to show how anthroposophy can really become wisdom to live by, how it can influence our day-to-day intentions and attitudes. I shall, therefore, devote myself to laying an anthroposophical foundation on which to approach the problems we shall be dealing with here. Yesterday I spoke from that angle about community building in the Anthroposophical Society; today I want to continue and to add something on the subject of the contribution that an anthroposophical view of the world makes to living life in a more adequate way than one could do without it.
In order to show you the opposite side of the matters discussed yesterday, I am taking as my starting point something well-known to everybody familiar with the history of societies built on foundations similar to those on which our own sciety is based. A little later on I will also characterize some of the differences that distinguish the Anthroposophical Society from every other. But for the moment I want to point out that there have been a great many societies that have based their existence on one or another method of attaining insight into the spiritual world, though the level reached was influenced considerably by various historical settings and the particular characteristics and capacities of the groups of people who participated. One finds every shading and level in the wide variety of societies, which covers the whole range from a really serious and significant level down to that of charlatanism.
But one thing is well-known to anyone acquainted with the history of such socities. That is, that a certain moral atmosphere is always created — and indeed, necessarily so — when certain conditions exist. One could describe this atmosphere as being that of a real, genuine striving for brotherliness among the members of such a society. This goal is usually listed among the precepts or in the statutes of these societies, and — as I said — necessarily so, brotherliness being one goal and insight into the spiritual world the other.
Now the thing that people familiar with the history of such societies know is that these societies built on brotherliness and spiritual insight are the worst beset with conflicts. They present the widest opportunities for fighting, for partings-of-the-way, for splitting up into separate factions within the larger group, for group resignations, for sharp attacks on those who stay and those who leave, and so on. In short, human strife is at its most rampant in groups dedicated to brotherhood.
This is a strange phenomenon. But anthroposophical insight enables us to understand it. What I am presenting in these two lectures is also part of the system of anthroposophy, if you will forgive me the pedantic term. So, though this lecture will not be a general discussion, it will still be an anthroposophical one, shaped with special reference to our meetings.
If we return to the matters brought up yesterday, we find three levels of experience among the phenomena of human consciousness. We find people either asleep or dreaming, who, in a state of lowered consciousness, experience a certain world of pictures that they take to be real while they are sleeping. We know that these people are isolated from others inhabiting the physical world in common with them; they are not sharing common experiences. No means exist of conveying what they are experiencing. We know further that a person can go from this state of consciousness to that of everyday awareness, can be awakened to it by external nature, and this includes the natural exterior of other people, as I described yesterday. A certain degree of community feeling is awakened simply as a result of natural drives and the ordinary needs of life, and languages come into being in response to it.
But now let us see what happens when these two states of consciousness get mixed up together. So long as a person continues in completely normal circumstances and is able, by reason of a normal psychic and bodily condition, to keep his isolated dream experience separated from his shared experience with others, he will be living acceptably in his dream world and in the world of reality. But let us assume that, due to some psychological quirk, and it would have to be considered such, a person finds himself in a situation where, though he is in a day-waking state of consciousness involved in a common life with others, he is not having the same feelings and ideas as his companions. Let us assume that the pathological condition he is in causes him to project into his waking consciousness a world of feelings and ideas similar to those of dream life. Instead of developing logically ordered thoughts, he produces a pictorial world like the picture world of dreams. We call such a person mentally ill. But for the moment the thing of chief interest to us is that this person does not understand the others, and unless they are looking at him from a medical pathological angle they cannot understand him either. At the moment when the state of mind prevailing at this lower level of consciousness is carried over to a higher level, a person becomes a crass egotist in his relations with his fellow men. You need only think this over to see that a person of this kind goes entirely by his imaginings. He comes to blows with the others because they cannot follow his reasoning. He can commit the wildest excesses because he does not share a common soul world with other human beings.
Now let us move on from these two states of consciousness to the two others. Let us contrast the everyday state of consciousness, to which we are guided by the natural course of external events, with that higher one that can, as I showed yesterday, awaken through the fact that a person wakes not just in the encounter with the natural aspect of his surrounding but also in the encounter with the inner being of the other person. Though one may not ordinarily be fully and immediately aware of it, one does waken to such a higher level of consciousness. Of course, there are many other ways of entering the higher worlds, as you know from my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds. But for the period of time one is privileged to spend with others in that way, one can find oneself in a position to understand and witness things one would otherwise not understand or witness. One is presented with the possibility of living in the element that those who know the spiritual world describe in terms applicable to that world — the possibility of speaking of the physical, etheric and astral bodies and the ego, of repeated earth lives and their karmic aspects.
Now at this point there is a possibility of the whole state of mind of ordinary consciousness being carried over into the spiritual world one thus enters and applied to it. This is the same thing that happens on another level when the state of soul of a person absorbed in dream pictures is projected into ordinary life: one turns into an egotist in the most natural way. This occurs if one fails to realize that everything in the higher worlds of the spirit has to be looked at in an entirely different way than one looks at the sense world. One must learn to think and feel differently. Just as dreamers have to switch over into a totally different state of consciousness if they want to share a life with others in an ordinary state of waking, so must there be similar awareness of the fact that the content of anthroposophy cannot be approached with the attitude of soul one has toward the things of ordinary experience.
That is the root of the problem of reaching any understanding and agreement between the everyday consciousness, which is also that of ordinary science, and the consciousness anthroposophy makes possible. When people come together and talk back and forth, one with the ordinary consciousness exemplified in the usual scientific approach and the other with a consciousness equal to forming judgments that accord with spiritual reality, then it is exactly as though a person recounting his dreams were trying to reach an understanding with someone telling him about external facts. When a number of people meet in an ordinary state of consciousness and fail to lift themselves and their full life of feeling to the super-sensible level, when they meet to listen in a merely ordinary state of mind to what the spiritual world is saying, there is a great — an immeasurably great — chance of their coming to blows, because all such people become egotists as a natural consequence.
There is, to be sure, a powerful remedy for this, but it is available only if the human soul develops it. I am referring to tolerance of a truly heartfelt kind. But we have to educate ourselves to it. In a state of everyday consciousness a little tolerance suffices most people's needs, and social circumstances put many a situation right again. But where the ordinary everyday state of mind prevails, it often happens that people talking together are not even concerned to hear what the other is saying. We all know this from our own personal experience. It has become a habit nowadays to give only scant attention to somebody else's words. When a person is part way through a sentence, someone else starts talking, because he is not the least interested in what is being said. He is interested only in his own opinion. One may be able, after a fashion, to get by with this in the physical world, but it simply cannot be done in the spiritual realm. There, the soul must be imbued with the most perfect tolerance; one must educate oneself to listen with profound inner calm even to things one cannot in the least agree with, listen not in a spirit of supercilious endurance, but with the most positive inner tolerance as one would to well-founded utterances on the other person's part. In the higher worlds there is little sense in making objections to anything. A person with experience in that realm knows that the most opposite views about the same fact can be expressed there by, let us say, oneself and someone else. When he has made himself capable of listening to the other's opposite view with exactly the same tolerance he feels toward his own — and please notice this ! — then and then only does he have the social attitude required for experiencing what was formerly merely theoretical knowledge of the higher worlds.
This moral basis is vital to a right relationship to the higher realms. The strife that I have described as so characteristic of the societies we are discussing has its root in the fact that when people hear sensational things, such as that man has an etheric and astral body and an ego as well as a physical body, and so on, they listen for sensation's sake but do not undertake to transform their souls as these must be transformed if they are to experience spiritual reality differently than they would a chair or a table in the physical world, and one experiences even these objects differently in the physical world than one does in dreams. When people apply their ordinary soul habits to what they think they are understanding of teachings about the higher worlds, then this inevitably develops strife and egotism.
Thus it is just by grasping the true nature of the higher worlds that one is led to understand how easily societies with a spiritual content can become involved in conflicts and quarreling, and how necessary it is to educate oneself to participation in such groups by learning to tolerate the other person to an immeasurably greater degree than one is used to doing in situations of the physical world. To become an anthroposophist it is not enough to know anthroposophy from the theoretical side: one's whole approach has to be transformed in certain ways. Some people are unwilling to do this. That resulted in my never being understood when I said that there were two ways of occupying oneself with my book, Theosophy, for example. One way is to read or even study it, but with the usual approach and making the judgments that approach engenders. One might just as well be reading a cookbook as Theosophy for all the qualitative difference there is. The value of the experience is identical in both cases, except that reading Theosophy that way means dreaming rather than living on a higher level. When one thus dreams of higher worlds, the impulses one receives from them do not make for the highest degree of unity or the greatest tolerance. Strife and quarreling take the place of the unity that can be the reward of study of the higher worlds, and they keep on spreading. Here you find the cause of the wrangling in societies based on one or another method of gaining insight into the spiritual world.
I said that the various paths described in part in Knowledge of the Higher Worlds lead into the spiritual world. Now when a person has to concern himself intensively with seeking knowledge of those higher worlds, this requires his developing a certain attitude of soul, as you will understand from what I have been explaining in this pair of lectures, though in quite another connection. A true spiritual investigator has to have a certain attitude of soul. One cannot find one's way to truth in the spiritual realm if one is constantly having to give one's attention to what is going on in the physical world in ways quite proper to that sphere, if one has to occupy oneself with matters requring the kind of thinking suited to the physical realm.
Now you will agree that a person who gives his fellowmen a reliable account of things in the spiritual world, a person justified in calling himself a spiritual investigator in the sense in which the other sciences use that term, needs a lot of time for his research. You will therefore find it natural that I, too, need time to do the research that enables me little by little to present anthroposophy or spiritual science in an ever widening perspective in my lectures.
Now if one goes one's way alone, one can of course make time for this within the framework of one's destiny. For a person who is a genuine spiritual investigator and wants to give his fellowmen a trustworthy account of what he discovers in the spiritual world will, as is natural, form the habit of ignoring his opponents. He knows that he has to have opponents, but he is not bothered by their objections to his statements; he could think up the objections himself. So it is natural for him to take the attitude that he is simply going to go his own positive way without paying much attention to anyone's objections, unless there is some special reason to do so.
But this attitude is no longer tenable when one has joined forces with the Anthroposophical Society. For in addition to the responsibility one feels toward the truth, one has a further responsibility in relation to what the Society, of which it is often said that it makes itself an instrument of that truth, is doing. So one has to help carry the Society's responsibilities. This can be combined to a certain extent with the proper attitude toward opponents. Until 1918 that situation obtained with the Society and myself. I paid as little attention as possible to objections, and did so, paradoxical though this may seem, as a consequence of maintaining the tolerance I have been describing. Why, indeed, should I be so intolerant as to be constantly refuting my opponents? In the natural course of human evolution everything eventually gets back on the right track anyhow. So I can say that up until 1918 this question was justified, to some extent at least.
But when the Society proceeds to take on the activities it has included since 1919, it also takes on the responsibility for them. Their destiny becomes involved with that of the Society, and the Society's destiny becomes involved with that of the spiritual investigator. The spiritual investigator must either assume the burden of defending himself against his opponents — in other words, of occupying himself largely with matters that keep him from his spiritual research, since they cannot be combined with it — or else, to get time for his research, turn over the handling of opponents to those who have accepted a certain responsibility for the peripheral institutions. Thus the situation in our Society has undergone fundamental changes since 1919, and this for deeply anthroposophical reasons. Since the Society, as represented by certain of its members, decided to launch these institutions, and since the foundation on which they are all based is anthroposophy, that foundation must now be defended by people who do not have to carry full responsibility for the inner correctness of the material that genuine research has to keep on adding, day by day, to the previous findings of spiritual investigation.
A large proportion of our opponents consists of people in well-defined callings. They may, for example, have studied in certain professional fields where it is customary to think about things in some particular way. Thinking the way he does, such a person simply has to oppose anthroposophy. He doesn't know why, but he has to be an opponent because he is unconsciously on the leash of the profession in which he has had his training and experience.
That is the situation in its inner aspect. From the external standpoint, the question whether what has been established as the Anthroposophical Society is to flourish or decline requires that these opponents be dealt with.
But the real leaders of the opposition know full well what they are about. For there are some among them who are perfectly familiar with the laws that govern spiritual research, even though their view of those laws and that of anthroposophy may differ. They know that their best means of keeping a person who needs peace to pursue his spiritual research from doing his work is constantly to bombard him with hostile writings and objections. They know very well that he cannot give his attention to both refuting them and carrying on his research. They try to put obstacles in his path with their opposition. The mere fact of their putting these attacks in writing is the hostile act. The people who know what they are doing are not so much concerned with the contents of such books as they are with using them as weapons to hurl at the spiritual investigator, and they are particularly intent on tricking and otherwise forcing him into the necessity of defending himself.
These facts must be looked at completely objectively, and everyone who really wants to be a full member of the Anthroposophical Society ought to know them. A good many people are, of course, already familiar with what I have just been saying. The trouble is that some informed members habitually refrain from mentioning any such matters outside their circle.
Experience has long shown that such a course cannot be maintained in the Society. The Society used to publish lecture cycles labeled, “For members only.” Here in Germany, and probably elsewhere too, one can go to public libraries and borrow these same cycles. All the cycles are available to non-members. One can tell from writings of our opponents that they too have them, though it may sometimes have been difficult to get hold of them. But people of this sort are far less apt to shy away from difficulties than is sometimes the case with anthroposophists.
The secrecy that many societies still find it possible to maintain is simply out of the question in the Anthroposophical Society, due to its special character as an institution based on the most modern concept imaginable. For its members are meant to remain free individuals. They are not bound by any promises; they can simply join the Society as honest searchers after knowledge. I have no desire to make secrecy an aim. If that interested me, I would never suggest setting up a loose confederation of groups alongside the old Anthroposophical Society. For I predict, though without implying condemnation, that a great many more escape channels will be opened to the world at large by such a confederation, allowing egress to material that older members believe should be kept in their own cupboards. But the innermost impulse of anthroposophy cannot be grasped by people unwilling to see it put to work in complete accord with the most modern human thinking and feeling. It is, therefore, the more essential to understand what the prerequisites of such a society are.
Now I want to bring up something that I will illustrate with an example taken from my own experience, though not in a spirit of foolish conceit. Last summer I gave a course of lectures at Oxford on the educational methods of the Waldorf School. [Spiritual Ground of Education Oxford, August 16-25, 1922. Rudolf Steiner Press, London.] An article appeared in an English journal that, though I cannot quote it verbatim, made the following point. It began by saying that a person who attended the lectures at the Oxford educational meetings without prior awareness of who Dr. Steiner was and that he had some connection with anthroposophy would not have noticed that a representative of anthroposophy was speaking. Such a person would simply have thought him to be a man speaking about pedagogy from a different angle than the listener's own.
I was exceedingly delighted by this characterization because it showed that there are people who notice something that is always my goal, namely, to speak in a way that is not instantly recognized as anthroposophical. Of course, the content is anthroposophical, but it cannot be properly absorbed unless it is objective. The anthroposophical standpoint should lead, not to onesidedness, but, on the contrary, to presenting things in such a way that each least detail can be judged on its own merits and its truth be freely recognized.
Once, before the Oxford lecture cycle was delivered and the article about it written, I made an experiment that may not seem to you at all significant. In June of this year I attended the Vienna Congress and gave two cycles comprising twelve lectures. [The Tension Between East and West, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1963.] I undertook to keep the word anthroposophy out of all of them, and it is not to be found there. You will also not find any such phrase as “the anthroposophical world view shows us this or that.” Of course, despite this — and indeed, especially because of it — what was presented was pure anthroposophy.
Now I am not making the philistine, pedantic recommendation that anthroposophists should always avoid using the word “anthroposophy.” That is far from my intention. But the spirit that must inspire us in establishing right relations with the rest of the world can be found by looking in that general direction. That spirit should work freely in leaders active in the Society; otherwise I will again be held responsible for unanthroposophical things that are done in its name. Then the world would have some justification for confusing the one agent with the other.
Here too the objective spirit of anthroposophy needs to be properly grasped and, above all, manifested in what is done. We will first have to undertake some degree of self-education to that end. But self-education is needed in anthroposophical circles; countless mistakes have been made in the past few years for want of it, with the launching of the peripheral institutions contributing to the problem. I state this simply as an objective fact, without meaning to accuse anyone personally.
If the Anthroposophical Society is to flourish, every single one of its members is going to have to become fully aware of these facts. But this cannot happen under present day social conditions unless an effort is made to set up a lively exchange, even if only in the form of some such medium as a news sheet conceived as a link between the Society's various centers of activity. But again, that would require every such circle, even if not every individual member, to develop a living interest in the concerns of the whole Society, and particularly in its ongoing evolution. There has been too little of this. If the Anthroposophical Society did not exist, there would presumably still be a certain number of books on anthroposophy. But one would not have to be concerned, as a society is, with the people who read them. These people would be scattered all over the world, singly or in groups, according to their karma, but one would not have to have any external contact with them. The spiritual investigator is not in any fundamentally different situation, even in a society such as ours was up to 1918. But the situation changed at the moment when the Anthroposophical Society assumed responsibility for things that existed on the physical plane.
I am putting all this in a much more plain spoken way than I have on other occasions. But say them I did, in one form or another, when the peripheral institutions were being launched. I couldn't, of course, whisper them in every member's ear, and I don't know whether it would have helped if I had done that. But the Society existed and had leaders. They should have seen to it that conditions in the Society were such that it could include the various institutions without jeopardizing spiritual research.
I will call this the negative aspect of community building in contrast to the positive aspect I presented yesterday. I would like to add that everyone interested in creating community of the positive kind that I described from the standpoint of the prerequisites of its existence must be aware of the matters discussed today in relation to the Anthroposophical Society's life and progress. They must all be taken into consideration as affecting the various areas of anthroposophical life.
In this connection let me cite the following instructive example. I come back again to the tragic subject of the ruined Goetheanum. In September and October 1920 we held a three week course there, the first of the so-called High School courses. Yesterday, I described how the Goetheanum was built in a definite artistic style that was the product of an anthroposophical approach. How did this style originate? It came into being as a result of the fact that persons to whom we cannot be grateful enough undertook, in 1913, to build a home base for what existed at that time in the way of anthroposophical works in a narrower sense, and what, again in that narrower sense, was still to issue from anthroposophy. They wanted to create a home for the staging of mystery plays, for the still germinal but nevertheless promising art of eurythmy, and, above all, for presentations of anthroposophy itself as these projected cosmic pictures derived from spiritual-scientific research. That was my intention when these persons asked me to take initiatives in this connection. I saw it as my task to erect a building designed in a style artistically consonant with the work that was to go on in it. The Goetheanum was the outcome.
At that time there were no scholars or scientists in our midst. Anthroposophy had indeed taken some steps in a scientific direction. But the development that was to include activity in the various professional fields among the Society's functions had not yet begun. What developed later came into being as a direct outgrowth of anthroposophy, exactly as did the Waldorf School pedagogy, the prime example of such a process.
Now an artistic style had to be found to suit each such development. It was found, as I believe, in the Goetheanum. The war caused some delay in building. Then, in 1920, I gave the course of lectures just referred to. It was given at the behest of the professionals who had meanwhile joined the Society and were such a welcome addition to it. They arranged a program and submitted it to me.
In my belief, complete freedom reigns in the Anthroposophical Society. Many outsiders think that Steiner is the one who decides what is to go on in it. The things that go on most of the time, however, are such as Steiner would never have thought up. But the Society does not exist for my sake; it exists for the members.
Well, I sat there, all attentiveness, at this lecture series of September and October 1920 — this is just an aperçu, not a criticism — and let my eyes range over the interior of the Goetheanum. In the Goetheanum Weekly I described how, in eurythmy for example, the lines of the Goetheanum continued over into the eurythmists' motions. But according to the original intention, this should have been the case with everything done there. So I let my inner eye test whether the interior decoration, the architecture, the sculptured forms, the painting, harmonized with what the speakers were saying from the podium. I discovered something that people did not at that time have to be faced with, namely, that everything I may call in the best sense a projection of the anthroposophical outlook, everything that had its origin in pure anthroposophy, harmonized marvellously with the Goetheanum. But in the case of a whole series of lectures, one felt that they should have been delivered only when the Goetheanum reached the point of adding a number of further buildings, each so designed that its style would harmonize with the special studies and activities being carried on inside it. In its destiny of almost ten years, the Goetheanum really shared the destiny of the Anthroposophical Society, and one could readily become aware, by feeling out the way the architectural style harmonized or failed to harmonize with what went on in the building, that an inorganic element had indeed insinuated itself into the pure ongoing stream of the anthroposophical spiritual movement.
Now this is not said to blame anybody or to suggest that things should have been done differently; everything had to happen as it did, naturally. But that brought another necessity with it: The necessity of bringing about a complete rebirth of chemistry, physics, mathematics, and so on, through anthroposophy, to give consciousness the quick forward thrust I described it as needing. For the ordinary way of looking at things simply does not provide a basis for anthroposophical presentations. But that forward thrust was not always in evidence. Its lack could be felt in the testing that the artistic style of the Goetheanum gave it; in the Anthroposophical Society it manifests itself in the phenomenon of the clouds that have gathered and hung over us these past days. Now that a most welcome destiny has brought science into the anthroposophical stream, we face the immediate and future task of bringing it to rebirth through anthroposophy. No purpose is served by losing ourselves in all kinds of meaningless polemics; the urgent task is rather to see to it that the various disciplines are reborn out of anthroposophy.
We had to make do somehow during the period when substitutes were the order of the day. I was often called upon, in response to a need somewhere, to deliver cycles of lectures to this or that group on subjects which, had anthroposophical life been progressing at a normal tempo, might better have waited for future developing. Then these cycles became available. They should have been put to use in the first place as a means of helping the various sciences to rebirth through anthroposophy. That lay in the real interests of anthroposophy, and its interests would have coincided fruitfully indeed with those of the Anthroposophical Society.
People have to know all these facts. You see, my dear friends, in the course of the various seminars held here and there under the auspices of the High School, I repeatedly assigned problems that needed solving. At the last address I gave in the Small Auditorium of the Goetheanum during the scientific course, which was held at the end of 1922 and was to have continued there into 1923, I gave the mathematical physicists an assignment. I discussed how necessary it was to solve the problem of finding a mathematical formula to express the difference between tactual and visual space. There were many other occasions when similar matters were brought up. We were confronted with many urgent problems of the time, but they all needed to be worked out in such a thoroughly anthroposophical way as to have value for every single group of anthroposophists, regardless of whether tactual and visual space and the like meant anything to them. For there are ways in which something that perhaps only one person can actually do can be made fruitful for a great many others when it is clothed in some quite different form.
Thus, the difficulties that have proliferated are a consequence of what I must call the exceedingly premature steps taken since 1919, and, in particular, of the circumstance that people founded all sorts of institutions and then didn't continue sharing responsibility for them — a fact that must be stressed again and again. These difficulties have given rise to the problematical situation now confronting us.
But none of them can be laid at the door of anthroposophy itself. What my kind listeners should be aware of is that it is possible to be quite specific as to how each such difficulty originated. And it must be emphasized that it is most unjust to dismiss anthroposophy on account of the troubles that have arisen.
I would, therefore, like to append to the discussion of just such deeper matters as these a correction of something that was said from this platform yesterday; it disturbed me because of my awareness of the things we have been talking about here. It was stated that people were not aware that the Anthroposophical Movement could be destroyed by our opponents. It cannot be. Our opponents could come to present the gravest danger to the Anthroposophical Society or to me personally, and so on. But the Anthroposophical Movement cannot be harmed; the worst that could happen is that its opponents might slow its progress. I have often pointed out in this and similar connections that we must distinguish between the Anthroposophical Movement and the Anthroposophical Society. My reason for saying this was not that the Society no longer needed to be taken into account, but that the Society is the vessel and the Movement its content. This holds true for the single member as well as for the Society. Here too, full clarity and awareness should reign. Anthroposophy is not to be confused with the Anthroposophical Society. Nor should the fact go unrecognized that developments of the past three or four years have meant, for members, a close interweaving of the unfolding destiny of anthroposophy with the Society's destiny. The two have come to seem almost identical, but they must nevertheless be sharply differentiated.
There could, theoretically, have been a Waldorf School even if the Society had not existed. But that could not have happened in reality, for there would have been no one to found and steer and look after the school. Real logic, the logic of reality, is quite a different thing than abstract logical reasoning. It is important that members of the Society understand this. A member ought to have some rudimentary realization, even if only on the feeling level, that insight into higher worlds has to be built on an awareness that super-sensible experience differs greatly from experience of the ordinary physical world. Something in the physical world can seem just as right as a dream content does to the dreaming person. But the carrying over of things of one's dream life into situations of everyday waking consciousness nevertheless remains an abnormal and harmful phenomenon. It is similarly harmful to carry over into the consciousness needed for understanding the spiritual world convictions and attitudes quite properly adopted in ordinary waking consciousness.
I can give you an instructive example. As a result of the way modern man has become so terribly caught up in intellectuality and a wholly external empiricism, even those people who are not especially at home in the sciences have taken up the slogan: Prove what you are saying! What they are stressing is a certain special way of using thought as a mediator. They know nothing of the immediate relationship the soul of man can have to truth, wherein truth is immediately apprehended in just the way the eye perceives the color red, that is, seeing it, not proving it. But in the realm of reason and intellect, each further conceptual step is developed out of the preceding one. Where the physical plane is concerned, one is well advised to become a bright fellow who can prove everything, and to develop such a good technique in this that it works like greased lightning. That is a good thing where the physical plane is concerned, and a good thing for the sciences that deal with it. It is good for the spiritual investigator to have developed a certain facility in proving matters of the physical world. Those who acquaint themselves closely with the intentions underlying the work of our Research Institute will see that wherever this technique is applicable, we, too, apply it. But if you will permit me the grotesque expression, one becomes stupid in relation to the spiritual world if one approaches it in a proof-oriented state of mind, just as one becomes stupid when one projects a dreamer's orientation into ordinary waking consciousness. For the proving method is as out of place in the spiritual world as is an intrusion of the dream state into the reality of waking consciousness. But in modern times things have reached the point where proving everything is taken as a matter of course. The paralyzing effect this trend has had in some areas is really terrifying.
Religion, which grew out of direct vision, and in neither its modern nor its older forms was founded on anything susceptible of intellectual-rational proof, has now become proof-addicted rationalistic theory, and it is proving, in the persons of its extremer exponents, that everything about it is false. For just as it is inevitable that a person become abnormal when he introduces dream concerns into his waking consciousness, so does a person necessarily become abnormal in his relationship to higher worlds if he approaches them in a way suited to the physical plane. Theology has become either an applied science that just deals practically with whatever confronts it or a proof-minded discipline, better adapted to destroying religion than to establishing it.
These, my dear friends, are the things that must become matters of clear and conscious experience in the Anthroposophical Society. If that is not the case, one takes one's place in life and in human society simply as a person of many-sided interests who functions sensibly at all the various levels, whereas from the moment one concerns oneself with the material contained in innumerable cycles, one cannot exist as a human being without spiritual development.
The spiritual investigator does not need to rely on proof in meeting his opponents. Every objection that they might make to something I have said can be taken from my own writings, for wherever it is indicated I call attention to how things stand with physical proof as applied to super-sensible fact. Somewhere in my books one can always find an approximation of the opponents' comments in my own statements, so that, for the most part, all an opponent need do to refute me is to copy passages out of my writings. But the point is that all these details should become part of the awareness of the members. Then they will find firm footing in the Society. To occupy oneself with the anthroposophical outlook will mean finding firm footing, not only in the physical world but in all the worlds there are.
Then anthroposophical impulses will also be a fountainhead of the capacity to love one's fellowmen and of everything else that leads to social harmony and a truly social way of life. There will no longer be conflict and quarreling, divisions and secedings among anthroposophists; true human unity will reign and overcome all external isolation. Though one accept observations made in higher worlds as truth, one will not wander about like a dreamer in the physical world; one will relate to it as a person with both feet set firmly on the ground. For one will have trained oneself to keep the two things separate, just as dream experience and physical reality must be kept separate in ordinary life.
The key need is for everyone who intends to join with others in really full, genuine participation in the Anthroposophical Movement within the Society to develop a certain attitude of soul, a certain state of consciousness. If we really permeate ourselves with that attitude and that consciousness, we will establish true anthroposophical community. Then the Anthroposophical Society, too, will flourish and bear fruit and live up to its promise.
Source: February 27, 1923 GA 257
Awakening to Community. Lecture 6
Saturday, February 25, 2023
And he said, "The one is like a wise fisher who cast his net into the sea and drew it up from the sea full of small fish. Among them the wise fisher discovered a fine large fish. He threw all the small fish back into the sea, and with no hesitation picked the great good fish. Whoever has ears, listen!"
The Gospel of Thomas, Saying 8:
Here's a thought experiment: If you could send a message to your 12-year-old self, and you were limited to 2 words, what would your message be?
For me the answer's easy: "Rudolf Steiner"
Steiner! Steiner! and more Steiner! always more Steiner!
The name of him whom Providence has chosen
That wondrous things on Earth he should achieve,
Whom I may often praise, though ne'er sufficing,
Whose destiny we scarcely can believe,
His name — it is Humanus, Saint and wise one,
The best of men whom I did e'er perceive:
--from "The Mysteries" by Goethe
The literal meaning of the word "Swami" is "master of self"
"Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the Earth."
— Matthew 5:5
Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, September 17, 1920:
After a relatively long period of time I am able to speak to you again today. It came about because of the importance of the General Meeting convening today, and the opportunity of my current brief presence in Germany. It has certainly already occurred to you that there must be a connection between my long absence and the nature of the time in which we find ourselves. The relationship between the events of the times and the very slight activity — if it is even possible to speak of such — that I can afford, particularly for the Berlin Branch, must be obvious to you.
Before entering into the order of business for today's session I would like to make a few preliminary remarks. First I wish to remind you of certain words I spoke in the early spring of 1914 in a lecture cycle in Vienna, which were intended to point to what then ensued. It was then that I spoke words which have since been printed. The words I uttered at the time indicated that civilized humanity lives in a kind of social sickness, in a sort of social carcinoma or cancer; that the whole way in which cultural, political, and economic matters are handled is such that it will undoubtedly lead to an outbreak of this creeping cancer, and that it will be bound to change from a chronic condition into an acute one. Of course many clever people at that time took this statement, which I made out of a grief-stricken heart with regard to the immediate future, to be mere fantasy, an empty paraphrase of a pessimistic mood. At that time the majority of people the world over naturally preferred listening to the sound of voices like the one, for example, of an official personage in the German Reichstag a short time after, who said that the relationships of the Central European governments to those of the other European countries were absolutely satisfactory, and that one could count on a general lessening of tension in the near future. You may remember another remark made here in Berlin at a public session of the Reichstag — that the friendly, neighborly relations with the court at Petersburg were becoming more and more favorable, and that good relations with London existed as well, and so on. These were the words of “practical men,” while those who spoke of the spiritual world had to speak of a sickness, of a slowly growing carcinoma. Actually those who claim to be practical men still speak the same way today, in absolutely the same way, although the results of their practicality have brought about the events of the most recent years. Such speaking continues, while what is brought forth from spiritual research and from social insight is either thrown to the winds or, as is the case in Germany, attacked. Furthermore, the worst is that what comes from spiritual research is being secretly persecuted and defamed, defamed in the worst way possible. Thus anthroposophical spiritual science and everything connected with it today belongs among the most defamed matters in the world. Nevertheless it can be assumed that today there already are a great number of souls who, out of the totality of the principles of spiritual science, have gained a feeling that only out of this science can arise what can save us from general disaster. One must say this today, even if foolish or malevolent people accuse one of vanity or ambition for saying such things.
I can say — and I wish to keep these introductory words brief — that the whole attitude, the whole manner of discussions, that I had to take part in during the actual wartime has not been understood. With the year 1914 a time came when considerations in the ordinary sense had to cease and what was supposed to occur through words had to turn into actions. Humanity, however, is used to taking words in the sense of the journalistic style, not in the style that should enter into mankind particularly through spiritual science. Thus many things have been misunderstood during the so-called war years. Something that was of eminent importance to me was overlooked. It was probably known to most of you that before the first year of the war was over I had a small book published, Gedanken waehrend der Zeit des Krieges (Thoughts During the Time of War). [ Translator's Note A ] It sold out rather quickly. If one would have considered the matter from the viewpoint from which, unfortunately, things are still considered today, despite the fact that the distress has become so great, it would have been a matter of course to publish a new edition. I opposed the printing of a new edition for the simple reason that the pamphlet had not fulfilled its task. This pamphlet — you can get hold of it again insofar as it is still available — was a question addressed to the German nation. It was not intended to be received in such a way as to lead one to assume the same tone which a great many members of the Central European countries had adopted during the war, and which is common today where surreptitious, poisonous defamations are leveled against anthroposophy. Nothing at all materialized of the expectation that I had concerning this pamphlet, the understanding that I had expected. A new edition would have been meaningful only if my expectation had been realized. So, it did not appear, but disappeared from public life, and in my opinion had to disappear. The proof of the lack of understanding given by this fact had to be taken very, very seriously. This was misunderstood in the same way many other utterances have been thoroughly misunderstood, utterances that were meant to elevate and ignite people's spirit in order to bring about what should have been made to prevail directly in Central Europe, namely, a re-enlivening of the spiritual life that had been manifest around the turn of the eighteenth century. Spiritual science is basically the revitalization of this spiritual life in the form it must take in modern humanity.
Take everything that is written in the different kinds of newspapers today, in popular literature and even scientific popular writings; take what is written in Koenigsberg or in Berlin, in Vienna or in Graz, in Munich or in Stuttgart, and compare it with what is written today in Paris, Rome, London, Chicago, or New York — you will find a great similarity. You will find the same keynote in it, the same spirit that must be overcome. On the other hand, if we seek another similarity and compare what is written today in Berlin, Vienna, Dresden, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg, or Bremen with what such great minds as Herder, Goethe, Fichte, and Schiller once proclaimed, then we must say that it is fundamentally different. All the declamations using quotations of sentences by Fichte or even Goethe that have taken effect, all that has been produced in this manner, resembles more what has been written in Chicago, New York, London, Paris, and Rome than the spirit of Herder, Fichte, Schiller, and Goethe. The tidal wave that has flooded Central European life from the West has also swept away what should have lived on in us. Nothing of the old spirit could be detected in what was prevalent in the last decades. This had to be shown to the world when the catastrophe fell upon Central Europe, and wrenched itself from my soul in the form of my “Appeal to the German Nation and the Civilized World” which I wrote then. What was connected with this could not simply be continued, as it was in the earlier form familiar to you, up till 1914.
At that time I could not appeal on the basis of something which one had to believe one could appeal to after 1918. One could not appeal to what is the proof of the decline of the general civilization: distress. Since 1918, one has had to believe that the distress which had come over Central Europe would awaken the souls and make them receptive to the language intended in my “Appeal to the German People and the Civilized World.” Certainly the fostering of the Anthroposophical Movement could not go on as before. Earlier, one had to render the service which, naturally, always has to be rendered in the Anthroposophical Movement, and which has to be rendered today as well as in all future time: to foster the eternal in the human soul, the eternal which goes beyond birth and death and points beyond the merely sensory world into the supersensory world. Now one had to wait and see whether, from among the sleeping souls of the new civilization, souls would emerge here and there who really would have some understanding of what is meant by spiritual science. One could not yet appeal on the basis of circumstances brought about by the distress. Now, however, after 1918, the time had come when a quite different prerequisite had to be placed before the spiritual eye. Mankind could have realized where it had been led by the prevalence of materialism. For what we have experienced, what we continue to experience and will experience with more impact in the future, is the external karma of materialism in the cultural, political, and economic field. It is the consequence of neglect, because people do not wish to discover in themselves the active strength to foster the spiritual life in their souls. After the publication of the Appeal to the German People, the time came when it was, above all, important to work in a positive manner toward something factual. This arose purely out of the possibilities of life. I had to grasp the first hands reaching out to me, for each moment was precious. The first to reach out to me were from Stuttgart. It was a question of protecting and nurturing what could be fostered based on the initiative of some friends there. If mankind had understood at that time what was at stake, had it not failed even under the lesson taught by distress, it would have been enough to do something like this from one center, for it could have had an exemplary effect. But what happened?
In order that you can see how these matters must be understood, I would like to touch upon something else. Before I traveled in the spring of 1919 from Switzerland to Stuttgart for the first lecture tour, a well known pacifist came to me. Although he was willing to sign my Appeal to the German People, he hesitated and asked for more information about it. He asked me “What are you counting on in Germany?” I believe he put it like this: “You are counting on the second revolution.” This was in the spring of 1919 and people in many quarters in Germany reckoned with a second revolution after the first one in the autumn of 1918. He believed that what was supposed to come into being in the world through the Threefold Social Organism was only a kind of vehicle, a stepping stone, for the impulses of the second revolution. I said, “No! This is not at all my opinion. First, because I do not believe that those people who might bring about a second revolution in Germany will be able to develop the slightest understanding for the true meaning of the Threefold Social Organism, as long as the old leaders are still active. Secondly, because I do not at all believe in a second revolution. Rather, I believe that this second revolution will consist of a kind of chronic infirmity and will not reach an acute outbreak. What I am simply and solely counting upon is that as many souls as possible will associate themselves with what is born out of spiritual depths, souls who will accept it impartially out of the necessity of the times, quite part from the intentions of the old leaders.” So I did not reckon with those things that many people thought I was counting on. When I then arrived in Stuttgart, it stood to reason in a certain sense that the broad masses of people were addressed first. The broad masses of the people, though also partly paralyzed by the events of the war, were those who initially wished to hear something. In my innermost soul I knew how matters stood. For I knew that as long as the leaders who remain from the old days have the party leadership and the people firmly in hand — be they leaders of the parties to the right or the left, even those of the extreme left — nothing can be done with the people. But imagine what would have happened if I would have said that I was not in favor of addressing the masses. Nobody had to believe me, but if I had not addressed them, one would have said afterwards: “If only Steiner would have turned to the broad masses, everything would have turned out differently!” When one is dealing with realities, one must also give proof by means of realities. It had first to be proven by realities that out of all the left-wing parties, defamers and phrase-mongers would rise up against what was just beginning by means of the concept of threefoldness to be comprehended by the masses of the people. We were well on the way. One could say that within a few days we had won thousands of people. But it was just this comprehension of threefoldness by the great masses of people that drove the old leaders to their defamations and phrase-mongering. So it came about that from this side, seemingly at first, the ground was pulled from under our feet.
What could be hoped for from the other side? Well, it serves no purpose in regard to these matters to cling to illusions; the one and only thing that can help us in the present is to speak the truth. A leading personality who had come up in the party that called itself, by a strange interpretation of the words, "German Democratic Party," a person who had appeared at one of the meetings held at that time, said to me “You know, if we were in a position to let more people capable of explaining matters in this manner speak to the broad masses, then well and good — one could go along with it. But one pair of hands is not enough and we therefore rely temporarily more on firearms, on force. For the next fifteen to twenty years it will still be necessary to keep the masses down.” This was essentially the predominant attitude of the bourgeoisie; the other was the activity of the proletariat.
So there really remains nothing else but to take what can be drawn out of the spiritual foundations and to represent it in such a way that more and more people can be found who will receive it into their minds. Back of this, we must have something that was born out of this insight and should have been fostered. Before the war, this building was set up on the border of Switzerland, France, and Germany in order to look out from Central Europe into the wide world, in particular toward the West, and received the name it must rightfully have, the name Goetheanum. For, in regard to spiritual matters, we are facing worldwide tasks! Today we cannot face spiritual matters as we would merely personal matters. To do that would lead us into ruin. This is the reason I had to limit my activity during recent times to southern Germany and Switzerland. Truly, I am longing for times when the horizon of my activity can widen again, but this does not depend on myself alone. It depends, above all, on the understanding that people will show toward this activity. I may perhaps find the opportunity in the next few days to point to a number of things which pretend to be “understanding” and which proceed from certain quarters, which work more in an underground manner by means of counterfeiting of letters, falsifying interviews, by defamations and lies.
For the moment what I have said was merely mentioned in order to point out the reasons why it was necessary for us to abandon our activity in Berlin temporarily; to indicate the circumstances that made it necessary to appeal also in regard to Berlin to what must be appealed to in this age. Have we not been active anthroposophically for almost two decades over a large territory? Were we not justified in hoping that people would be found that could carry on the work independently? Well, they were found. They were found here in Berlin too. And with the help of these friends the attempt must be made, first of all, to continue the work in Berlin. For this purpose we have gathered together here. In the General Meeting, we shall have to decide how to continue the work here in Berlin.
A. Contained in Aufsaetze ueber die Dreigliederung des Sozialen Organismus und zur Zeitlage; GA #24, Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach.
Source: September 17, 1920 GA 199
Friday, February 24, 2023