Monday, April 15, 2024

The latest cross is the Facebook logo, aka the "Torch Cross"


Torch Cross

C. S. Lewis: "Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man's life than the discovery that there do exist people very, very like himself."

"The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship"  — William Blake

"A noiseless patient spider" by Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood, isolated,
Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding, 

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself, 

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them. 

And you O my Soul where you stand

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my Soul.

"What is life without the radiance of love?"
— Friedrich Schiller

Rudolf Steiner:  "Let this Christmas tree, therefore, be a pledge that emblems of the most exalted and mighty may arise anew. Such symbols can emerge in our souls particularly when we feel the spiritual truths of the awakening I within our human souls, that intrinsic I which senses the spiritual bond from soul to soul and feels this to a heightened degree when human beings of noble intent work together."


Washed in the Blood of the Lamb are We
Awash in a Sonburst Sea
You—Love—and I—Love—and Love Divine:
We are the Trinity

You—Love—and I—We are One-Two-Three
Twining Eternally
Two—Yes—and One—Yes—and also Three:
One Dual Trinity
Radiant Calvary
Ultimate Mystery

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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Johannes Tauler: Johnny Christmastree


Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, December 21, 1909:

On this day when we meet to celebrate our Christmas festival, it may be seasonable to depart from what has been our customary routine and, instead of seeking after knowledge and truth, to withdraw inwardly, foregathering for a time with that world of feeling and sensations which we are endeavouring to awaken by the aid of the light we receive through Anthroposophy.

This festival now approaching, and which for countless persons presents a time of joyousness—joyousness in the best sense of that word—is, nevertheless, when accepted in the way in which it must be accepted in accordance with our anthroposophical conception of the universe, by no means a very old one.

What is known as the ‘Christian Christmas’ is not coeval with the dawn of Christianity in the world—the earliest Christians, indeed, had no such festival. They did not celebrate the Birth of Christ Jesus. Nearly three hundred years went by before the feast of His Nativity began to be kept by Christianity.

During the first centuries, when the Christian belief was spreading throughout the world, there was a feeling within such souls as had responded to the Christ Impulse inclining persons to withdraw themselves more and more from contact with the external aspects of life prevalent in their day—from what had grown forth from archaic times, as well as from what was extant at the inception of the Christ-Impulse. For a vague instinctive feeling possessed these early Christians—a feeling which seemed to tell them that this Impulse should indeed be so fostered as to form anew the things of this earth—so forming them that new feelings, new sensations, and, above all things, fresh hopes and a new confidence in the development of humanity should permeate all, in contradistinction to the feelings which had before held sway—and that what was to dawn over the horizon of the vast world-life should take its point of departure from a spiritual germ—a spiritual germ which, literally speaking, might be considered as within this Earth.

Oft-times, as you will be aware, have we in the spirit transported ourselves to those Roman catacombs where, removed from the life of the time, the early Christians were wont to rejoice their hearts and souls. In the spirit have we sought admittance to these places of devotion. The earlier celebrations kept here were not in honour of His Birth. At most was the Sunday of each week set apart in order that once in every seven days the great event of Golgotha might he pondered; and beyond this, there were others the anniversaries of whose death were kept during that first century. These dead were those who had transmitted with special enthusiasm the account of that event—men whose impressive participation in the trend thus given to the development of humanity had led to their persecution by a world grown old. Thus it came to pass that the days upon which these Martyrs had entered into glory were kept as the birthdays of humanity by these early Christians. As yet there was no such thing as a celebration of the Birth of Christ. Indeed we may say that it is the coming—the introduction—of this Christ-Birth Festival, that can show how we in the present day have the full right to say: ‘Christianity is not the outcome of this or that dogma, it is not dependent upon this or that institution—dogmas and institutions which have been perpetuated from one generation to another—but we have the right to take Christ’s own words for our justification, when He says that He is with us always, and that He fills us with His Spirit all our days.’ And when we feel this Spirit within us we may deem ourselves called to an increasing, never-ceasing development of the Christian Spirit. The anthroposophical development of the Spirit bids us not foster a Christianity which is frozen and dead, but a new and living Christianity—one ever quickening with new wisdom and fresh knowledge, an evolution from within, stretching forward into the development of the future.

Never do we speak of a Christ Who was, but rather of an eternal and a living Christ. And more especially are we permitted to speak of this living and ever-active Christ—this Christ Who works within us—when the time is at hand for dwelling on the Birth-festival of Christ Jesus, for the Christians of the first centuries were alive to the fact that it was given to them to imbue what was, as it were, the organism of the Christian development with a ‘new thing’—that it was given to them to add thereunto that which was actually streaming into them from the Spirit of Christ.

We must therefore regard the Christmas Festival as one which was not known prior to the fourth century; indeed, we may place the date of the first ‘Christ-Birth’ Festival in Rome as having taken place in the year 354, and it should, moreover, be particularly borne in mind that at a time less critical than is the present, those who confessed themselves Christians were, imbued with the true feeling—a feeling which impelled them to be ever seeking and garnering new fruits from the great Christian Tree of Life.

This perhaps is the reason why we too feel that at such a season we may do well to rejoice in an outward symbol of the Christ’s Birth—in the symbol of the Christmas-tree now before us and around which through the coming days countless people will gather, a symbol whose true meaning it is the mission of Anthroposophy with ever deepening seriousness to impress upon the hearts and souls of men.

We should indeed almost be coming to loggerheads with the evolution of the times were we to take our stand by this symbol—for it is a mistake to imagine it to be an old one. It would be, however, quite easy to imagine that some such poetic belief giving credence to the Christmas-tree being a venerable institution, might arise in the soul of present-day humanity.

There exists a picture which presents the Christmas-tree in Luther’s family parlour. This picture, which was of course painted during the nineteenth century, perpetuates an error, for not only in Germany during Luther’s days, but also amid the surrounding European countries, there were as yet no such trees at Christmas.

May we perhaps not say, that the Christmas-tree of to-day is something which should be taken rather as the prophetic sign of times to come?—that this Tree may, as the years roll on, be regarded ever more and more as the symbol of something stupendous in its meaning—in its importance? Then, indeed, being trammelled by no illusions as regards its historical age, we may let our eyes rest on this Christmas-tree the while we call before our souls an oft-repeated memory—that of the so-called ‘Sacred Legend.’ It runs as follows: When Adam was driven forth from Paradise (this Legend, I should add, is told after many fashions, and I shall here only put the matter as shortly as possible)—when therefore Adam was driven forth from Paradise, he took with him three seeds belonging to the Tree of Life—the tree of which man had been forbidden to eat after he had once eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And when Adam died, Seth took the three seeds, and placed them in Adam’s grave, and thus there grew from out the grave a tree. The wood of this tree—so runs the legend—has served many purposes: From it Moses is said to have fashioned his staff; while later on, it is said, this wood was taken to form the Cross which was raised upon Golgotha.

In this way does a legend significantly remind us of that other Tree of Paradise, the one which stood second. Man had tasted of the Tree of Knowledge: enjoyment of the Tree of Life was withheld from him.

Yet within the heart of man has remained for evermore a longing, a desire for that Tree.

Driven forth from the Spiritual Worlds—which are signified by ‘Paradise’—into an external world of appearances, men have felt within their hearts that yearning for the Tree of Life.

But what man was denied unearned and in his undeveloped state, was nevertheless to be his through the struggle of attainment when with the aid of cognition he should in the course of time and through his work upon the physical plane, have made himself ripe to receive and capable of using the fruits of the Tree of Life. In those three seeds we have presented to us man’s longing for the Tree of Life.

The Legend tells us that in the wood of the Cross was contained that which came from the Tree of Life, and through the entire development there has been a feeling, a consciousness that the dry wood of the Cross did nevertheless contain the germ of the new spiritual life—that there had been ordained to grow forth from it that which, provided man enjoyed it in the right way, would enable him to unite his soul with the fruit of the Tree of Life—that fruit which should bestow upon him immortality, in the truer sense of the word, giving light to the soul, illumining it in such manner as to enable it to find the way from the dark depths of this physical world to the translucent heights of spiritual existence, there to feel itself as indeed participator in a deathless life.

Without, therefore, giving way to any illusion, we—as beings filled with emotion (rather than as historians)—may well stand before the tree which represents to us the tree of Christmas-tide, and feel the while we do so, something in it symbolical of that light which should dawn in our innermost souls, in order to gain for us immortality in the spiritual existence; and turning our gaze within we feel how the spiritual tendency of anthroposophical thought permeates us with a force which permits of our raising our eyes to behold the World of the Spirit. Therefore, in looking upon this outward symbol—the tree of Christmas-tide—we may indeed say: ‘May it be a symbol to us for that which is destined to illumine and burn within our souls, in order to raise us thither—even to the realms of the Spirit.’

For this tree, too, has, so to speak, sprouted forth from the depths of darkness, and only such persons might be inclined to cavil at so unhistorical a view, who are unaware that the thing which external physical knowledge does not recognise has nevertheless its deep spiritual foundations. To the physical eye it may not be apparent how gradually this Christmas-tree grows, as it were, to be a part of the outward life of humanity. In a comparatively short time, indeed, it has come to be a custom that brings happiness to man, one which has come to affect the world’s intercourse in general. This, as I have said, may pass unrecognised, yet those who know that external events are but impressions of a spiritual process, are bound to fee? that there may possibly have been some very deep meaning at work, responsible for the appearance of the Christmas-tree upon the external physical plane; that its appearance has emanated from out the depths of some great spiritual impulse—an impulse leading men invisibly onward—that indeed this lighted tree may have been the means of sending to some specially sensitive souls that inspiration of the inward light whereof it furnishes so beautiful an external symbol. And when such cognition awakens to wisdom, then indeed does this tree—by reason of our will—also become an external symbol for that which is Divine.

If Anthroposophy is to be knowledge, then it must be knowledge in an active sense and permeated with wisdom—that is to say, it must ‘gild’—external customs and impressions. And so even as Anthroposophy warms and illumines the hearts and souls of men, present and future, so too must the Christmas-tree which has become so ‘material’ a custom recover its ‘golden glint,’ and in the. light of this true knowledge rise once more to illustrate its true symbolical meaning in life, after having spent so long a time amid the darkened depths of men’s souls in these latter days.

And if we delve down even a little further and presuppose a deep spiritual guidance to have placed this impulse within the human heart, does this not also prove that thoughts bestowed upon man by the aid of the Spirit can attain to even greater depths of feeling when brought into connection with this luminant tree?

It used to be ancient custom common in many parts of Europe to go ou into the woods some time before Christmas and collect sprigs from all kinds o plants, but more especially from foliage trees, and then seek to make these twigs bear leaf in time for Christmas Eve. And to many a soul the dim belief in ‘Life unconquerable’—in that life which shall be the vanquisher of all death—would thrill exultantly at the sight of all this sprouting greenery, branches artificially forced to unfold their tender leaves over-night at a time of year when the sun stands at its lowest. This was a very old custom—our Christmas-tree is of far more recent date. Where, then, have we in the first place to look for this custom?

We know how earnest was the language used by the great German mystics, more especially the impression created by the words of Johannes Tauler, who laboured so assiduously in Alsace; and anyone who allows the sermons of Johannes Tauler to ‘work upon him’ with the sincerity so peculiar to them will understand how at that time—a time when Tauler was more especially concerned in deepening the feeling of men for all that lay hidden within the Christian Belief—a peculiar, unique spirit must have prevailed, a spirit which of a truth was suffused with the Mystery of Golgotha. In those days when Johannes Tauler was preaching his sermons in Strasbourg, the passionate sincerity with which he delivered his ‘words of fire’ may well have sunk into the soul of many a listener, leaving there a lasting impression, and many such impressions may well have been caused by what Tauler was wont to say in his wondrously beautiful Christmas sermons. ‘Three times,’ said Tauler, ‘is God bom unto men: Firstly, when He descends from the Father—from the Great All-World; again, when having reached humanity He descends into flesh; and thirdly, when the Christ is born within the human soul, and enables it to attain to the possibility of uniting itself to that which is the Wisdom of God—enabling it thus to give birth to the higher man.’

At all such seasons when the gracious habit of celebrating the Festivals prevailed, Johannes Tauler might be found round about the neighbourhood of Strasbourg dwelling earnestly upon the meaning of these deep verities, and more especially did he do this at the Christmas season. Indeed the words sinking at such times into receptive souls may have echoed on—for feelings, too, have their traditions—and what was felt within some soul’s depths in the hush of such an hour may—who knows?—still stir responsive chords from one century to the other. And so the feeling once possessing souls passed to the eye, and gave to this a capability of perceiving in that external symbol the resurrection—the birth of man’s spiritual light.

Taken from the point of view of material thought the coincidence may be deemed a pretty one: but for those who know the manner in which spiritual guidance permeates all that is physical it becomes far more than a coincidence to learn that the first record of a Christmas-tree having stood in a German room comes from Alsace, and indeed from Strasbourg in Alsace, while the date may be given as 1642.

How ill German Mysticism has fared at the hands of a Christianity wedded to outward forms may be seen in what happened to the memory of Master Eckhard, the great forerunner of Johannes Tauler, since posterity branded him a heretic after death—having omitted to do so while he lived!

Nor did the burning words of Johannes Tauler, words which flamed up from a heart fired with Christian passion, meet with much response; the outward Christianity of the times lacked the spiritual depth of the teachings proclaimed by these men, and this may fully account for the fact that in recording the news of this first Christmas-tree the ‘eye-witness’ alludes to it as ‘child’s play,’ and observes that ‘people would do better by going to places where the right Christian teachings could be proclaimed to them.’

The further progress of the Christmas-tree was a slow one. We see it figuring here and there about Middle Germany during the eighteenth century, but not till the nineteenth century did it become practically a regular ‘spiritual’ decoration intimately associated with the Christmas season—a new symbol of something that had survived throughout the centuries of time.

In such hearts, therefore, where the glory of all things can he truly felt—not in the sense implied by a Christianity ‘made up of words,’ but by the force of a true, a spiritual Christianity—sentiments of the highest human kind were ever prone to kindle in the tree’s illumined presence.

Another reason for placing the advent of the Christmas-tree at so recent a date may be seen in the fact that Germany’s greatest poets had left it unsung: had it been known in earlier times we may be sure that Klopstock, to mention only one, would have chosen this symbol for poetic treatment. And we may, therefore, gather additional certainty from this omission to strengthen our statement as to its being a comparative innovation.

More especially might we then dwell upon this symbol when the feeling of the spiritual truth of the awakening Ego wells up within our souls—that Ego which senses the spiritual bond ’twixt soul and soul, feeling it with intensified strength where noble human beings are striving in a common cause. And I will but mention one instance of how the fight of the Christmas-tree has streamed in to illumine the soul of one of humanity’s great leaders.

It was in the year 1821 that Goethe (whom we so often meet wherever we regard the life of the spirit in the light of Anthroposophy) was bringing his Faust to its close, and in so doing he came to find how essential the Christian symbols were in order to present his poetic intentions—that, in fact, they became the only possible ones. Goethe, indeed, experienced at this time most intensely the way in which Christianity weaves the noblest bond for joining soul to soul; and how this bond has to lay the foundations of a brotherly love not dependent upon the tie of blood, but on that of souls united in the spirit. And when we dwell on the close of the Gospels we are able to feel the impulse yet dormant within Christianity.

Gazing downward from the Cross upon Golgotha, Christ beholds the mother—beholds the son; and in that moment did He found that community which hitherto had only existed through the blood.

Up to that time no mother had had a son, no son a mother, without the tie being that of blood relationship. Nor were blood ties to be eliminated by Christianity; but to these were to be added spiritual ties, diffusing with their spiritual light those ties created by the blood.

It was to these ends, then, that Christ Jesus on the Cross spoke the words: ‘Woman! behold thy son !’, and to the disciple: ‘Behold thy mother!’ What had been instituted as a blood-tie became through the mediation of the Cross a bond of the spirit.

Wherever Goethe perceived a noble effort in furtherance of this spiritual union being made, he was moved to turn towards the true Christian spirit, and what possessed the heart soon yearned for outward expression. The year 1821 gave him a special opportunity for giving utterance to this desire. The residents of the little Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, to the interests of which Goethe dedicated so great a measure of his powers, had united forces in order to found a ‘Bürger-schule’. The undertaking was, in fact, to be a ‘gift,’ as it were, to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and Goethe, desirous of celebrating in some suitable manner the spiritual impulse that had led to so progressive a step, called upon various members to give poetic expression to thoughts respecting this undertaking they all had at heart. These verses Goethe then collected in a volume for which he himself wrote an introductory poem which was recited by Prince (later Grand Duke) Karl Alexander, then three years old, who presented the book to his father, Grand Duke Karl August—this little ceremony taking place beneath the Christmas-tree. So we see that the tree was, by the year 1821, already a customary symbol of the season and by this act did Goethe indicate the Christmas-tree as being the symbol of a feeling and sentiment for spiritual progress in things both great and small. His introductory poem written for this little volume is still preserved in the Weimar Library and runs as follows:

‘Bäume leuchtend, Bäume blendend,
Uberall das Süsse spendend,
In dem Glanze sich bewegend,
Alt—und junges Herz erregend—
Solch ein Fest ist uns bescheret,
Mancher Gaben Schmuck verehret;
Staunend schaun wir auf und nieder,
Hin und her und immer wieder.
Aber, Furst, wenn dir’s begegnet,
Und ein Abend so dich segnet,
Dass als Lichter, dass als Flammen
Vor dir glänzten allzusammen
Alles, was du ausgerichtet,
Alle, die sich dir verpflichtet:
Mit erhöhten Geistesblicken
Fühltest herrliches Entzücken.’1

The above verses of Goethe are the first of what we might call Christmas poems, and when in connection with Anthroposophy we speak of ‘symbols’ we may well say that such symbols, which in the course of time surge up involuntarily within men’s souls, are indeed gilded over with the gold of wisdom.

We have seen that the first Christian Christmas was celebrated during the fourth century in Rome. It would seem, furthermore, a matter of divine dispensation that this Feast of Christ’s Birth has—as far as Middle and Northern Europe are concerned—been introduced at the very time when a most ancient feast—that of the Winter Sun, when the shortest days are chronicled—was also wont to be celebrated.

Now it must not be imagined that this change of the old time-honoured Festival into the new Feast, the Christmas Festival, was brought about in order, as it were, to conciliate the nations. Christmas was born purely and simply out of Christianity, and we may say that the way in which it became accepted by the more Northern lands was a proof of the deeply spiritual relationship connecting these peoples as well as their symbols with Christianity.

In Armenia, for instance, the Christmas Festival has never become customary, and even in Palestine the Christians were for a long time averse to its celebration, and yet it soon found a home in Europe.

And now we will try to understand in the right way the Christmas Feast itself when taken from the anthroposophical view—doing so in order that we may also be enabled to apprehend the Christmas-tree in its symbolic sense.

When, during the course of the year, we meet together, we allow those words—which should not be mere words, but rather forces—to permeate our soul in order that the soul may become a citizen of eternity. Throughout the year do we thus assemble allowing these words—this Logos—to sound upon our ears in the most varied manner, telling us that Christ is with us always, and that when we are thus assembled together the Spirit of Christ works in upon us, so that our words become impregnated with the Spirit of Christ. If only we enunciate these things being conscious that the word becomes a ‘carrier on wings,’ bearing revelations to humanity, then indeed do we let that flow in upon our souls which is the Word of the Spirit. Yet we know that the Word of the Spirit cannot entirely be taken up by us—cannot become all it should be to us if we have only received it as an outward and abstract form of knowledge. We know that it can only become to us that which it should be if it gives rise to that inner warmth through which the soul becomes expanded—through which it senses itself as gushing forth amid all the phenomena of world-existence—in which it feels itself one with the Spirit—that Spirit which itself permeates all that is outwardly apparent.

Let us, therefore, feel the Word of the Spirit must become to us a power—a life-force—so that when the season is at hand at which we place that symbol before us, it may proclaim to our souls: ‘Let a new thing be born within you. Let that which giving warmth can spread the Light—even the Word—rising from those spiritual sources, those spiritual depths—be born within you—born as Spirit-Man!’

Then shall we feel what is the meaning of that which passes over to us as the Word of the Spirit. Let us earnestly feel, at such a moment as the present, what Anthroposophy gives to us as warmth, as light for the soul, and let us try to feel it somewhat in.the following manner:

Look at the material world of to-day with all its perpetual activity, consider the way in which men hurry and worry from morning till evening, and the way in which they judge everything from the materialistic standpoint, according to the measure laid down by this outward physical plane—how utterly oblivious they are that behind all there lives and works the Spirit. At night people sink to sleep oblivious of aught else than that ‘unconsciousness’ enwraps them, and in the morning they similarly return to a sense of the consciousness of this physical plane. Thoughtlessly, ignorantly, man sinks to sleep after all his labours and worries of the day—never even seeking enlightenment as to the meaning of life.

When the anthroposophist has become imbued with the Words of the Spirit he knows that which is no mere theory or dogma: he then knows what can give warmth as well as light to his soul. He knows that were he day by day to take up naught but the presentments of the physical life, he would inevitably wither—his life would be empty and void. All he came by would die away were he to have no other presentments than such as the physical plane is able to place before him. For when of an evening you lie down to sleep you pass over to a world of the Spirit—the forces of your soul rise to a world of higher spiritual entities, to whose level you must gradually raise your own being. And when of a morning you wake again, you do so newly strengthened from out that spiritual world, and thus do you shed spiritual life over all that approaches you upon this physical plane, be it done consciously or unconsciously. From the Eternal do you yourself rejuvenate your temporal existence each morning.

What we should do is to change into feeling this Word of the Spirit, so that we may when evening comes be able to say: ‘I shall not merely pass over to unconsciousness, but I shall dip into a world where dwell the beings of eternity—entities whom my own entity is to resemble. I therefore fall asleep with the feeling, ‘Away to the Spirit !’, and I awaken with the feeling, ‘Back—from the Spirit!’ In doing this we become permeated with that feeling into which the Word of the Spirit is to transform itself, that Word which from day to day, from week to week, has been taken up by us here. Let us feel ourselves connected with the Spirit of the Universe—let us feel that we are missionaries of the World-Spirit which permeates and interweaves all outward existence—for then we also feel when the sun stands high in summer and directs its life-giving rays earthward that then too is the Spirit active, manifesting itself in an outward manner, and how—in that we then perceive His external mien, His outward countenance, mirrored by the external rays of the sun—His inner Being may be said to have retired beyond these outer phenomena.

Where do we behold this Spirit of the Universe—this Spirit whom Zoroaster already proclaimed—when only the outward and physical rays of the sun stream in upon us? We behold this Spirit when we are able to recognise where it is He beholds Himself. Verily does this Spirit of the Universe create during summer-time those organs through which He may behold Himself. He creates external sense organs I Let us learn to understand what it is that from Springtime forward decks the earth with its carpet of verdant plants giving to it a renewed countenance. What is it?’Tis a mirror for the World-Spirit of the sun! For when the sun pours forth its rays upon us, it is the World-Spirit Who is gazing down on earth. All plant-life—bud, blossom and leaf—are but images which present the pure World-Spirit, reflected in His works as they shoot forth upon this earth:—this carpet of plants contains the sense-organs of the World-Spirit.

When in the autumn the external power of the sun declines, we see how this plant life disappears—how the countenance of the World-Spirit is withdrawn—and if we have been prepared in the right manner we may then feel how the Spirit which pulsates throughout the universe is now within ourselves. So that we can follow the World-Spirit even when He is withdrawn from external sight, for we then feel that though our gaze no longer rests upon that verdant cover, yet has the Spirit been roused in us to so great a measure that He withdraws Himself from the external presentments of the world. And so the awakening Spirit becomes our guide to those depths whither Spirit life retires and to where we deliver over to the keeping of the Spirit germs for the coming Spring. There do we learn to see with our spiritual sight, learning to say to ourselves:

‘When external life begins gradually to become invisible for the external senses, when the melancholy of Autumn creeps in upon our soul, then does the soul follow the Spirit—even amid the lifeless stones, in order that it may draw thence those forces which in the Spring will once more furnish new sense organs for the Spirit of the World.’

It is thus that those who having in their spirit conceived the Spirit come to feel that they too can follow this World-Spirit down to where the grains of seed repose in winter-time.

When the power of the sun is weakest and when its rays are at their faintest—when outer darkness is at its strongest—it is then that the Spirit within us united to the Spirit of the Universe feels and proclaims that union in greatest clearness, by filling the grains of seed with a new life. In this way we may indeed say quite literally that by the power of the seed we also live within and permeate—as it were—the Earth. In Summer-time we turn to the bright atmosphere about us, to the budding fruits of the earth, but now we turn to the lifeless stones, yet knowing that beneath them reposes that which shall in its turn again enjoy external life, and our soul follows in the spirit those budding germinating forces which, withdrawing themselves from outward view, lie dormant amid the stones in Winter-time.

And when Winter-time has reached its central point—when the darkness is deepest—then is the time at hand when we may feel that the exterior world is nevertheless not capable of counteracting our union with the Spirit—when within those depths to which we have withdrawn we feel the flashes of the Spirit-light—that light of the Spirit for which the greatest Impulse received by humanity was given by Christ Jesus. In this way we are enabled to sense what the Ancients felt when they spoke of descending to where the grain of seed lay dormant in Winter-time in order that they might learn to know the hidden powers of the Spirit.

We then come to feel that Christ has to be sought for amid that which is hidden—there where all is dark and obscure, unless we ourselves kindle the light in the Soul—that Soul which becomes clear and illumined when penetrated by the Light of Christ. At Christmas-tide, therefore, we may well feel an ever-increasing sense of strength—strength due to that Impulse which, grace to the Mystery enacted on Golgotha, has permeated the human race. If truly experienced in this way the Christ Impulse becomes for us indeed the most powerful incentive, strengthening year by year this life which is leading us into the Spiritual Worlds where death—as known in the physical world—does not exist.

It is in this way that we are enabled to spiritualise a symbol which to present-day materialistic-thinking persons is no more than a token of material joy and pleasure, and we thus may also feel within our hearts what Johannes Tauler really meant when he spoke of Christ having to be born three times: once as God the Father Who permeates the world—once as Man, at the time when Christianity was founded—and since then again and again, within the souls of those who can awaken the Word of the Spirit within their innermost being. For without this last birth Christianity would not be complete, nor would Anthroposophy be capable of grasping the Christian Spirit did it not understand that the Word brought home to us year after year is not intended to remain theory and dogma, but is to become both Light and Life—a force, indeed, by which we may contribute spirituality to life in this world as well as gather spirituality for ourselves—and so be one with the other—incorporated with the Spirit for all Eternity.

No matter the step of evolution upon which we stand—we can nevertheless feel what was felt at all times by those who had been initiated and who therefore really did in this Holy Night descend at the midnight hour to gaze upon the spiritual Sun in the darkness of the Christmas Night—when that spiritual Sun could call forth from apparently dead surroundings and waken into life all budding nature, bidding it burst forth and proclaim a new Springtide.

This is the Christ Sun we should feel behind the physical sun: to it we ourselves must rise—rise to experience and see that which, by grace of those new forces man may develop, shall unite him with the Spirit—then shall it also be for us to

See the Sun
About the midnight hour,
And build with stones
Amid the lifeless clay,
Finding that as we pass
To the dark night of Death
Creations new come forth—
Young morns arise to power—
The heights above reveal
The Gods’ eternal Word,
And depths below shall guard
The peaceful Place of Rest.

Dwelling in Darkness,
Oh! create a Sun!
And while ye weave the web,
Oh I recognise
The blissfulness of Spirit.

Source: December 21, 1909

Anthroposophy: gilding life with a golden glint

"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Rudolf Steiner, December 21, 1909:  "If anthroposophy is to be wisdom, it should be active wisdom, should suffuse all life with wisdom, gilding eternal impressions and customs. In this way anthroposophy may perhaps gild the tradition of the Christmas tree, which has become so materialistic and superficial, gradually warming and enlightening hearts and souls by spreading its gold across humanity of the present and the future."

Source: The Tree of Life : The Christmas Tree. Life is an open book — read it and weep for joy!

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Mission of Anthroposophy


Rudolf Steiner, December 4, 1909:

My Dear Friends,

Today we shall occupy ourselves with a general theme, and indeed with the question of the significance and the tasks of anthroposophically orientated spiritual science in the present, and then, on Tuesday, with a more individual theme concerning individual destiny and being.

We have indeed often emphasized that Anthroposophy has a special task and significance for mankind in the present age. Whoever occupies himself with anthroposophy as a thinking human being must put this question again and again to himself: What aims does this spiritual movement pursue, and how are they related to the other tasks of our age? These tasks can be illuminated from the most diverse points of view, as we have often done. Today we will try to grasp the evolutionary path of mankind at that point on which we ourselves stand, to look a little into the future, and then ask ourselves: What task has anthroposophy with especial reference to the evolutionary stage of mankind at which we stand at present?

We know that since the great Atlantean Catastrophe, which entirely transformed the Earth as man's dwelling-place, up to our own time, five great epochs of civilization are to be distinguished. We have often designated these five epochs of culture as the old Indian, old Persian, the Chaldaic-Egyptian, the Greco-Latin epoch, and then the epoch in which we ourselves stand, the fifth, which prepared itself in — let us say — the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, and in the middle of which we now are. We must be clear that such divisions are naturally not meant as if any one epoch of evolution sharply came to an end, and then a new one began, but that the one gradually and slowly passes over into the other, and long before one such epoch has run its course, the new one already prepares itself within it.

Thus we can say of our own epoch of culture, of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch: there is already now being prepared, and indeed in a very significant way, that which will constitute the real characteristic of the sixth epoch of civilization. And in general, human beings of our present age will separate themselves into two parts: those who today form no idea of all this, who know nothing of the preparation of the sixth epoch, who live as it were blindly, for the day, and those who form ideas for themselves that something new is preparing, and who also know that what is being prepared is fundamentally something which must be accomplished through human beings, must be prepared by mankind. We can in a certain connection place ourselves in the time as a human being and say we are doing what is generally the custom, what the others do, what our parents have educated us for, or we can so place ourselves that we know consciously the following: “If you will consciously be a link in the chain of humanity, then you must do something — either in yourself or in your environment — which contributes to what must come, i.e., to prepare the sixth period of culture as much as in you lies.” The possibility of thus making preparations for the sixth period of culture can only be understood by entering a little into the character of our own epoch. For this, the comparative method offers itself as the best.

We know that these epochs of time are essentially different from each other, and in the course of years, in our anthroposophical movement, we have brought forward various characteristics whereby they are distinguished. We have pointed to the old Indian period of civilization, and have shown that the soul-qualities of man then were different from what they later were, how man then was still endowed to a high degree with clairvoyant consciousness. And we have shown that evolution through the following epochs consisted in man losing this clairvoyance ever more and more, and having to limit his power of perception and understanding more and more to the physical world. We have seen how the fourth epoch of civilization was slowly prepared, in which man, as it were, appeared entirely in the physical world, so that that Being Whom we call Christ Jesus could incarnate in the physical world as a being, as a human being of the physical world. We have then seen how since that time, through a certain stream, the following appeared: how all human powers strengthened themselves still further in the physical world, how indeed the materialistic tendency of our age, the whole urge of man only to hold as valid what offers itself in the physical surrounding world, is connected with a further descent of man into the physical world. But by no means should things remain thus in evolution. Humanity must ascend again into the spiritual world, ascend with all the attainments men have acquired, with all the fruits of the physical world. And Anthroposophy should be just that which can bring to people the possibility of again ascending into the spiritual world.

Now we can say: “Immediately after the great Atlantean catastrophe there were numerous human beings who knew through their direct powers of perception: Around us is a spiritual world. We live in a spiritual world.” Fewer and fewer became the human beings who knew this; more and more were the powers of man limited to the perception of the senses. But if, on the one hand, today, the power of perception for the spiritual world is the least conceivable, yet, on the other hand, something is preparing in our age which is so significant that already for a great number of people quite different faculties will exist in that incarnation which follows the present one. As the faculties of man have changed during the five epochs of culture, so they will also change into the sixth, and a great number of people today will clearly show already in their next incarnation through their whole mood of soul that their faculties have essentially changed. Today we will make clear to ourselves how different these souls of human beings will be in the future, with a great number already in the next incarnation, with others, in the incarnation following.

We could also look back in another way into past epochs of human evolution. Then we would see that the farther we go back to the ancient clairvoyance, at the same time the more we have united with the human soul what one can call the character of group-soulness [Gruppenseelenhaftigkeit]. It has often been pointed out to you that the consciousness of group-soulness existed in the ancient Hebrew people in an eminent degree. He who felt himself — really consciously felt himself — as a member of the ancient Hebrew people said to himself — especial attention has been drawn to this —  “As an individual man I am a transitory phenomenon, but in me lives something that has an immediate connection with all the soul-being which has streamed down since the racial father Abraham.” A member of the old Hebrew people felt that. We can indeed esoterically admit as a spiritual phenomenon what was thus felt by the old Hebrew people.

We understand better what then happened if we keep the following in mind.

Let us consider an old Hebrew initiate. Although initiation was not so frequent among the ancient Hebrews as among other peoples, we could not characterize such a real initiate otherwise — not merely one initiated into the theories and the Law, but an initiate really seeing in the spiritual worlds — than by taking into consideration the entire racial peculiarity. It is the custom today in external science, which busies itself with documents without any misgiving, to take everywhere what stands in the Old Testament, to test it by all kinds of external records, and then find it unsubstantiated. We shall have occasion to point out that the Old Testament gives the facts more faithfully than external historical records. In any case, spiritual science shows that a blood relationship of the Hebrew people can really be demonstrated back to the racial father Abraham, and that the assumption of Abraham as racial father is fully justified. This was something especially known in the old Hebrew secret schools: Such an individuality, such a soul-being, as that of Abraham was not merely incarnated as Abraham, but is an eternal being, who remained existing in the spiritual world. And in truth a real initiate was inspired by the same spirit as he who inspired Abraham, and he could testify for him of himself that he was permeated by the same soul-nature as Abraham. There was a real connection between every initiate and the racial father Abraham. We must hold that fast: that expressed itself in the feeling of membership of the old Hebrew people. That was a kind of group-soulness. One felt what expressed itself in Abraham as the group-soul of the people. One felt group-souls similarly in the rest of humanity. Mankind in general goes back to group-souls. The farther we go back in human evolution, the less do we find expressed the single individuality. That which we still find today in the animal kingdom: that a whole group belongs together — that was existing among mankind, and appears ever clearer and clearer the farther we go back to ancient times. Groups of human beings then belonged together, and the group-soul was essentially stronger than what constituted the individual soul in the single human being.

We can now say: Today in our time the group-soulness of people is still not yet overcome, and whoever believes that it is completely overcome does not keep in mind certain finer phenomena of life. Whoever keeps it in mind will very quickly see that certain human beings not only appear alike in their physiognomy, but that also the soul-qualities are similar in groups of human beings: that one can, as it were, divide human beings into categories. Each person can still today be reckoned into a certain category; with reference to this or the other quality, he will belong perhaps to different categories, but a certain group-soulness is not only valid because the races exist, but also in other connections. The boundaries drawn between the single nations fall away more and more; but other groupings are still perceptible. Certain basic characteristics stand so connected in some people that he who will only look can still today perceive the last relics of the group-soulness of man.

Now we, in our present age, are living in the most eminent sense in a transition. All group-soulness has gradually to be stripped off. Just as the gaps between single nations gradually disappear as the single parts of different nations understand each other better, so also will other group-soul qualities be shed, and the individual nature of each single person come to the foreground more and more.

We have therewith characterized something quite essential in evolution. If we want to grasp it from another side we can say: That idea whereby the group-soulness chiefly expresses itself loses meaning ever more and more in the evolution of mankind, i.e., the idea of race. If we go back beyond the great Atlantean catastrophe we see how the human races are prepared. In the old Atlantean age human beings were grouped according to external characteristics in their bodily structure far more strongly than today. What we call races today are only the relics of those important distinctions between human beings as were customary in old Atlantis. The idea of race is only really applicable to old Atlantis. Since we deal with a real evolution of mankind, we have never employed the idea of race in the most eminent sense for the post-Atlantean age. We do not speak of an Indian race, a Persian race, etc., because that is no longer correct. We speak of an old-Indian period of civilization, of an old-Persian period of civilization, etc. And it would be utterly devoid of sense if we would speak of our time preparing a sixth race. If relics of the old Atlantean distinctions, of their group-soulness, are still existing in our time, so that one can still say the racial division continues to work on — that which is preparing for the sixth period of time consists just in the character of race being stripped off. That is the essential. Therefore it is necessary that that movement which is called the anthroposophical movement, which should prepare the sixth period of time, adopts in its basic character this stripping off of the character of race — that especially it seeks to unite people out of all “races,” out of all nations, and in this way bridges over these differences, these distinctions, these gaps, which are existing between various groups of human beings. For the old racial standpoint had in a certain connection a physical character, whereas what will fulfil itself in the future will have a much more spiritual character. Therefore it is so urgently necessary to understand that our anthroposophical movement is a spiritual one, which looks to the spirit, and overcomes just that which arises from physical distinctions, through the force of a spiritual movement. It is, of course, thoroughly comprehensible that any movement has, as it were, its childish illnesses, and that in the beginning of the theosophical movement matters were so represented as if the Earth fell into seven periods of time — they were called Root-races — and each of these Root-races into seven sub-races, and that would always repeat itself, so that one could always speak of seven races, and seven sub-races, etc. But one must get beyond the illnesses of childhood, and be clear that the idea of race ceases to have any meaning, especially in our age.

Something else, in addition, is being prepared — something connected with the individuality of man in a quite special way — in man becoming ever more and more individual. It is only a question of this occurring in the right sense, and the anthroposophical movement should serve to this end, that human beings become individualities — or we could also say personalities — in the right sense. How can it do this?

Here we must look to the most striking new quality of man's soul, which is preparing. The question is often put: Well, if reincarnation exists, why does a person not remember the former incarnations? That is a question which I have often answered. Such a question appears as when one brings along a four-year-old child, and because it is a human being, and cannot reckon, one would say: Man cannot reckon. But let the child become ten years old, and then it will reckon. It is thus with the human soul. If today it cannot remember, yet the time will come in which it can remember — the time when it has the same powers as he possesses who is initiated today. But just today that transition is happening. There exist today a number of souls who are so far on in our time, who stand close to the moment where they will remember their former incarnations, or at least the last one. A whole number of human beings today are, as it were, before the self-opening of the door to that embracing memory, which comprises not only the life between birth and death but the previous incarnations, or at least, the last, in the first place. And when, after the present incarnation, a number of human beings are reborn, then they will remember this present incarnation. It is merely a question of how they remember. Anthroposophical development should give help and direction to remember in the right way.

In order to characterize this anthroposophical movement from this point of view, it must be said: Its character is that it leads man to realize in the right way what one calls the human “I,” the innermost member of the human being. I have often pointed out that Fichte rightly said, most human beings would sooner regard themselves as a piece of lava on the Moon than as an “I.” And if you consider how many people there are in our time who make any idea at all of what is in the “I,” i.e., of what they themselves are, then in general you would come to a very dismal result.

When this question arises, I have always to call to mind a friend I had more than thirty years ago, and who as a quite young student was completely inoculated at that time by the materialistic mood — today it is more modern to say “monistic” mood. He was already injected by it, in spite of his youth. He always laughed when he heard something was contained in man which could be designated as spiritual being; for he was of the view that what lives as thought in us was produced by mechanical or chemical processes in the brain. I often said to him: “Look, if you earnestly believe this as a content of life, why do you continually tell lies?” He really lied, continually, because he never said: My brain feels, my brain thinks, but: I think, I feel, I know this or that. Thus he built up a theory which he contradicted with every word — as every man does; for it is impossible to maintain what one imagines as a materialistic theory. One cannot remain truthful, if one thinks materialistically. If one would say: My brain loves you, then one should not say “you,” but, my brain loves your brain. People do not make this consequence clear. But it is something which is not merely humoristic, but something which shows what a deep basis of unconscious untruthfulness lies at the basis of our present education.

Now, most people really would sooner regard themselves as a piece of lava on the Moon, i.e., as a piece of compact matter, than as that which can be called an “I.” And today one naturally comes least of all to a grasp of the “I” through external science, which indeed, as such, must think materialistically, according to its methods. How can one attain this grasp of the “I”? How can one gradually get an idea, a concept, of what he instinctively feels when he says: "I think"? Solely and alone through this: that he knows by means of the anthroposophical view of the world how this human being is constituted, how the physical body has Saturn character, the etheric body has Sun character, the astral body has Moon character, and the Ego has Earth character. When we keep in mind everything we thus get as ideas out of the entire cosmos, then we understand how the “I,” as the real Master-worker, labors at all the other members. And so we come gradually to an idea [Begriff] of what we profess with the word “I.” We gradually struggle up to the highest ideas of this “I” if we learn to understand [verstehen] such a word. We not merely feel ourselves as a spiritual being if we feel ourselves within an “I,” but when we can say: In our individuality lives something which was there before father Abraham. When we cannot merely say: I and father Abraham are one, but: I and the FATHER, i.e., the Spiritual, weaving and living through the world. What lives in the “I” is the same spiritual substance that weaves and lives through the world as Spirit. Thus we gradually work our way up to understand this “I,” i.e., the bearer of the human individuality, that which goes from incarnation to incarnation.

In what way, however, do we grasp the “I”? Do we grasp the world at all through the anthroposophical view?

This anthroposophical view of the world arises in the most individual way, and is, at the same time, the most un-individual thing that can be conceived. It can only arise in the most individual way by the secrets of the cosmos revealing themselves in a human soul, into which stream the great spiritual beings of the world. And so the content of the world must be experienced in the human individuality in the most individual way, but at the same time it must be experienced with a character of complete impersonality. Whoever will experience the true character of cosmic mysteries must stand entirely on the standpoint from which he says: Whoever still heeds his own opinion cannot come to Truth. That is indeed the peculiar [eigenartige] nature of anthroposophical truth: that the observer may have no opinion of his own, no preference for this or the other theory, that he may not love this or the other view more than any other because of his own especial individual qualities. As long as he stands on this standpoint it is impossible for the true secrets of the world to reveal themselves to him. He must pursue knowledge quite individually, but his individuality must develop so far that it no longer has anything personal, i.e., anything of his own peculiar sympathies and antipathies. This must be taken strictly and earnestly. Whoever still has any preference for these or the other ideas and views, whoever can incline to this or the other because of his education or temperament, will never recognize objective truth.

We have attempted here, this summer, to grasp Oriental wisdom from the standpoint of Western learning. We tried to be just towards Oriental wisdom, and truly presented it in such a way that it received its full rights. [see: The East in the Light of the West] One must strongly emphasize that in our time it is impossible for independent spiritual knowledge to decide through any special preference for either the Oriental or the Occidental view of the world. Whoever says according to his different temperament he prefers the nature, the laws, of the world as existing in the Oriental view — or correspondingly in the Occidental view — has not yet a full understanding for what is here essential. One should not decide, e.g., for the greater significance of, let us say, the Christ, as compared with what Oriental teaching recognizes, because one inclines to the Christ through one's Occidental education or one's temperament. One is only fitted to answer the question “How is the Christ related to the Orient?” when from a personal standpoint the Christian is as indifferent to one as the Oriental. As long as one has preference for this or the other, so long is one unsuited to make a decision. One first begins to be objective when one lets the facts alone speak, when one heeds no reasons derived from personal opinion but lets facts alone speak in this sphere.

Therefore something meets us in the anthroposophical worldview, if it meets us today in its true form, which is inwardly woven with the human individuality, because it must spring out of the “I”-force of the individuality, and on the other hand, must be independent, so that this individuality is again quite indifferent. That person in whom anthroposophical wisdom appears must be unconcerned by it, must be independent of it. This is essential: that he has brought himself so far that he forces nothing of his own coloring into these matters. Then they will indeed be individual, because the spiritual cannot appear in the light of the Moon, or the stars, but only in the individuality, in the human soul; but then, on the other hand, this individuality must be so far on that it can exclude itself in the production of what constitutes the wisdom of the world. Thus that which appears to mankind through the anthroposophical movement will be something which concerns each human being, no matter from what race, nation, etc., he is born, because it applies itself only to the new humanity, to man as such, not to an abstract, general man, but to each single human being. This is the essential. As it proceeds out of the individuality, out of the kernel of man's being, so it speaks to the deepest kernel of man's being, so it grasps this kernel of man. As we usually speak from man to man, fundamentally it is only surface speaking to surface, something which we have not united with the innermost kernel of our being. Understanding between man and man, full understanding, is hardly possible today in any other sphere than in that where what is produced comes from the center of man's being, and, when it is understood aright by another, speaks again to his center. Hence in a certain connection it is a new speech that is spoken by Anthroposophy. And if today we are still obliged to speak in the various national languages what has to be announced, the content is a new speech, which is spoken by anthroposophy.

What is spoken today outside in the world is a speech which is only really valid for a very limited sphere. In ancient times, when people still looked into the spiritual world through their old, dreamy clairvoyance, their word then meant something which existed in the spiritual world. The word signified something which existed in the spiritual world. Even in Greece things were still different from what they are today. The word “idea” used by Plato signified something different from the word “idea” as used by our modern philosophers. These modern philosophers can no longer understand Plato, because they have no perception of what he called “idea,” and they confuse it with abstract concepts. Plato still had something spiritual before him, even if already rarefied; it was still something quite real. Then also, one still had in the words the sap of the spiritual, if one may express it thus. You can trace that in the words. If anybody today uses the word “wind,” “air,” then he means something external, physical. The word wind here corresponds to something external, physical. If, e.g., in old Hebrew, the word wind, “Ruach,” was employed, one did not merely mean something external, physical, but a spiritual, which swept through space. When man breathes in today he is told by materialistic science that he simply inhales material air; in ancient times one did not believe one inhaled material air, but then one was clear that one inspired something of spirit, or at least, of soul. Thus the words then were absolutely designations for spirit and soul. That has ceased today; today speech is limited to the external world, or at least those who seek to stand at the peak of the age busy themselves seeing only a materialistic meaning, even behind those things where it is still obvious they are derived from soul and spirit. Physics speaks of an “impact” of bodies. It has forgotten that the word “impact” is derived from that which a living being performs out of its inner living nature, when it pushes another being. The original significance of words is forgotten in these simple things.

And so today, our speech — and this is most of all the case with scientific speech — has become a speech which is only able to express what is material. Because of this, what is in our soul while we speak is only comprehensible to those faculties of our soul which are bound to the physical brain as their instrument. And then the soul understands nothing more of all that is designated with these words, when it is disembodied. When the soul has gone through the gate of death, and no longer employs the brain, then all scientific considerations of today are forms quite incomprehensible to the disembodied soul. It does not even hear or perceive what one expresses in the speech of the time. This has no longer any meaning for a disembodied soul, because it only has meaning for what is the physical world.

That again is something which is still more important to consider in what one can call the mode of thinking, the method of representation. It is even more important to consider it there than in theory, because it is a question of life, not of theory, and it is characteristic that one can see in the theosophical movement itself how materialism has crept in. Because it is the mode of the time, it has often crept into the theosophical view, so that real materialism prevails even in theosophy itself, e.g., when one describes the etheric or life-body. Whereas a person should exert himself to come to a grasp of the spirit, one mostly describes it as if it were a finer matter; and the astral body also. One starts as a rule from the physical body, goes further to the etheric or life-body, and says: that is built after the pattern of the physical body, only finer — thus one progresses to Nirvana. Here one finds descriptions which take their images from nothing else than the physical. I have already experienced that when one wanted to express the good feeling present in a room among those present, one did not do so directly, but one said: Fine vibrations are existing in this room. One did not heed that one materializes what exists spiritually in a mood if one thinks the space filled with a kind of thin cloud, permeated with vibrations. That is what I should like to call the most material way of thinking possible. Materialism has even got by the neck those who want to think spiritually. That is only a characteristic of our time, but it is important that we are conscious of it. And therefore we must pay especial heed to what has been said: that our speech, which is always a kind of tyrant for human thinking, has implanted in the soul a tendency to materialism. And many who today would so willingly be thorough idealists express themselves entirely in a materialistic sense, misled by the tyranny of speech. That is a speech which can no longer be understood by the soul as soon as it no longer feels itself bound to the physical brain.

There is, indeed, something else, you may believe it or not. For one who knows occult perception, real spiritual perception, the method of presentation often employed today in theosophical-scientific writings causes real pain — because it appears irrational to him if he begins to think no longer with the physical brain but with the soul, which is no longer bound to the physical brain, i.e., which really lives in the spiritual world. As long as one thinks with the physical brain, so long can he go on characterizing the world thus. As soon, however, as one begins to develop spiritual perception, then to speak of things in this way ceases to have any meaning. Then indeed it even causes pain if one must hear the utterance: There are good vibrations in this room, instead of: A good feeling prevails here. That at once causes pain in anyone who can really see things spiritually, because thoughts are realities. Space then fills itself out with a dark cloud, if one forms the thought: Good vibrations are in this space, instead of: A good mood is prevailing.

It is now the task of the anthroposophical way of thinking — and the method of thought is more important than the theories — that we learn to speak a language which is really not merely understood by the human soul so long as it is in a physical body, but understood also when this soul is no longer bound to the instrument of the physical brain; for instance, either by a soul still in the body but able to perceive spiritually, or by a soul gone through the gate of death. And that is the essential! If we bring forward those ideas which explain the world, which explain the human being, then that is a speech which cannot merely be understood here in the physical world but also by those who are no longer incarnated in physical bodies but live between death and a new birth. Yes, what is spoken on our anthroposophical basis is heard and understood by the so-called dead. There they are fully one with us on a basis where the same speech is spoken. There we speak to all human beings. Because in a certain connection it is chance whether a human soul is in a body of flesh, or in the condition between death and a new birth. And we learn through anthroposophy a speech comprehensible to all human beings, whether they are in the one or other condition. Thus we speak a speech within the field of anthroposophy which is spoken also for the so-called dead. We really contact the innermost kernel of man, the innermost being of man, through what we cultivate in a real sense in anthroposophical considerations, even if they appear apparently abstract. We penetrate into the soul of man.

And because we penetrate to the soul of man, we liberate man from all group-soulness, i.e., man becomes in this way more and more capable of really grasping himself in his ego, his “I.” And that is the characteristic, that those who come to anthroposophy today, who really take up anthroposophy, appear in comparison with others who remain far from it — as if through anthroposophical thoughts their ego would crystallize as a spiritual being, which is then carried through the gate of death. With the others, in that place where the I-being is, which remains there — which is now there in the body, and which remains after death — there is a hollow space, a nothingness. Everything else which one can take up as ideas today will become more and more worthless for the real kernel of man's soul-being. The central point of man's being is grasped through what we take up as anthroposophical thoughts. That crystallizes a spiritual substance in man; he takes that with him after death, and with that he perceives in the spiritual world. He sees and hears with it in the spiritual world; with it he penetrates that darkness which otherwise exists for man in the spiritual world.

And thereby it is brought about that when through these anthroposophical thoughts and way of thinking man develops this “I” in him today, which now stands in connection with all the world wisdom we can acquire — if he develops it — he carries it over also into his next incarnation. Then he is born with this now developed “I,” and he remembers himself in this developed “I.” That is the deeper task of the anthroposophical movement today: to send over to their next incarnation a number of human beings with an ego in which they remember themselves as an individual ego. They will be the human beings who form the kernel of the next period of civilization. These people who have been well prepared through the anthroposophical spiritual movement to remember their individual “I” will be spread over the whole Earth. For the essential in the next period of culture will be that these people will not be limited by single localities, but spread over the entire Earth. These individual people will be scattered over the whole Earth, and within the whole Earth sphere will be the kernel of humanity, who will be essential for the sixth period of civilization. And so it will be the case among these people that they will know themselves as those who in their previous incarnation strove together for the individual “I.”

This is the right cultivation of that soul-faculty of which we have spoken. This soul-faculty so develops that not only those just described will have this memory. More and more human beings will have this memory of their former incarnation — in spite of their not having developed the “I.” But they will not remember an individual “I,” because they have not developed it, but they will remember the group-ego, in which they have remained. Thus people will exist who in this incarnation have cared for the development of their individual “I” — they will remember themselves as independent individualities, they will look back and say: You were this or the other. Those who have not developed the individuality will be unable to remember this individuality.

Do not think that through mere visionary clairvoyance one acquires the faculty of remembering the previous ego. Humanity was once clairvoyant. If mere clairvoyance sufficed, then all would remember, for all were clairvoyant. It is not merely a matter of being clairvoyant — humanity will already be clairvoyant in the future — it is a matter of having cultivated the ego in this incarnation, or not. If one has not cultivated it, it is not there as an inner human being; one looks back, and remembers as a group-ego, what one had in common. So that these people will say: Yes, I was there, but I have not freed myself. These people will then experience that as their FALL, as a new Fall of mankind, as a falling back into conscious connection with the group-soul. That will be something terrible for the sixth period of time: to be unable to look back to oneself as an individuality, to be hemmed in by not being able to transcend the group-soulness [Gruppenseelenhaftigkeit]. If one will express it strongly, one could say: The whole Earth with all it produces (this holds at least as an image) will belong to those who now cultivate their individuality; those, however, who do not develop their individual “I” will be obliged to join on to a certain group, from which they will be directed as to how they should think, feel, will, and act. That will be felt as a fall, a falling back, in the future humanity.

So we should regard the anthroposophical movement, the spiritual life, not as mere theory, but as something which is given us in the present because it prepares what is necessary for the future of mankind.

If we grasp ourselves aright in that point where we are now, whence we have come from out the past, and then look a little into the future, then we must say: Now the time is come where man begins to develop the human faculty of remembering backwards. It is only a question of our developing it aright, i.e., that we train in us an individual “I;” for only what we have created in our own soul can we remember. If we have not created it, then there only remains to us a fettering memory of a group-ego, and we feel it as a kind of falling down into a group of higher animality. Even if the human group-souls are finer and higher than the animal, yet they are but group-souls. Humanity of an early age did not feel that as a fall, because they were intended to develop from group-soulness to the individual soul. If they are now held back, they fall consciously into it, and that will be the oppressive feeling in the future of those who do not take this step aright, either now or in a later incarnation. They will experience the fall into group-soulness.

The real task of anthroposophy is to give the right impulse. We must thus grasp it within human life. If we keep in mind that the sixth period of time is that of the first complete conquest of the racial idea, then we must be clear that it would be fantastic to think that even the sixth “race” starts from one point on the Earth, and develops like the earlier races. Progress is made by ever-new progressive methods of evolution appearing. By progress we do not mean that what was valid as ideas for earlier times should also hold for the future. If we do not see this, the idea of progress will not be quite clear to us. We will as it were fall again and again into the error of saying: So and so many rounds, globes, races, etc., and it all goes on revolving round again and again in the same manner. One cannot see why this wheel of rounds, globes, races, etc., should always revolve again. It is a question of seeing that the word “race” is a term only having validity for a certain time. This idea no longer has any meaning for the sixth period. Races have only in themselves the elements which have remained from the Atlantean age.

In the future, that which speaks to the depths of man's soul will express itself more and more in the external nature of man; and that which man on the one side as a quite individual being has acquired, and yet, again experiences unindividually, will express itself by working out even to the human countenance; so that the individuality of man — not the group-soulness — will be inscribed for him on his countenance. That will constitute human manifoldness. Everything will be acquired individually, in spite of its being there through the overcoming of individuality. And we will not meet groups among those who are seized of the ego, but the individual will express itself externally. That will form the distinction between human beings. There will be such as have acquired their egoity; they will indeed be there over the whole Earth with the most manifold countenances, but one will recognize through their variety how the individual ego expresses itself even into the gesture. Whereas among those who have not developed the individuality, the group-soulness will come to expression by their countenance receiving the imprint of the group-soulness, i.e., they will fall into categories similar to each other. That will be the external physiognomy of our Earth: a possibility will be prepared for the individuality to carry in itself an external sign, and for the group-soulness to carry in itself its external sign.

This is the meaning of earthly evolution: that man acquires more and more the power of expressing externally his inner being. There exists an ancient script in which the greatest ideal for the evolution of the “I,” the Christ Jesus, is characterized by the saying: When the two become one, when the external becomes like the inner, then man has attained the Christ nature in himself. That is the meaning of a certain passage in the so-called Egyptian Gospel. One comprehends such passages out of anthroposophical wisdom.

After we have attempted today to grasp the task of anthroposophy out of the depths of our knowledge, we will consider something on Tuesday which as a spiritual problem — as a specially individual affair of man — can lead us to his destiny, to his being.