Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The Fall into Intellectualism

Supersensible Influences in the History of Mankind. Lecture 2 of 6

Rudolf Steiner, September 23, 1922:

I spoke yesterday of certain happenings in history which lead over our study of the life and being of man to the spiritual worlds and I referred to two early epochs of history (the Egypto-Chaldean and the Greek) in this connection. I told you how the ancient initiates sought to give guidance to men not only in matters of religion but in other domains too, including that of social life, by calling to their aid spiritual beings who are connected with the inbreathing. And we heard that these beings in turn are connected in the cosmos with what is manifest, externally in the Moon and its light. Certain Moon-beings, in times when such intervention had become necessary, namely in the Egyptian epoch, were used by the initiates in order to give direction to the religious and social life in ancient Egypt and to other spheres, too, of ancient historical development. We also heard of the importance assumed in Greek culture by Luciferic beings, elementary beings who were used by the Greek initiates, for example by the initiates of the Orphic Mysteries, as their helpers in the inauguration of Greek art.

I indicated that even today, to those whose perceptive faculty is deeper and more inward than is normally the case, the traditional heads of Homer in sculpture give the impression of a kind of listening, of hearing that is also touching, of touching that is also hearing. Homer listens to those spiritual beings of the air who use the state of equilibrium between the inbreathing and the outbreathing of man to create a rhythm between the breathing and the circulating blood. The Greek hexameter is based upon the wonderful ratio of number existing between the rhythm of the breathing and the pulse in the human being, as indeed are all the measures of Greek verse, which for this reason, as well as being creations of man have also been created by the mysterious rhythm which surges and shimmers through the cosmos. I said that when the Greeks speak of the lyre of Apollo, we can picture its strings being according to the impressions which came to men from this composite rhythm.

Since those days humanity has entered upon a quite different phase of evolution, the characteristics of which I have described from many points of view. Since the fifteenth century, mankind has been laid hold of by the intellectualism which now has sovereign sway in all human culture and civilization, and arose because an older form of speech — the Latin language in its original form, which was still connected with that hearing of rhythm in the Graeco-Roman epoch of which I have spoken — continued far on into the Middle Ages and became entirely intellectual. In many respects the Latin language was responsible for educating man to modern intellectualism. This modern intellectualism, based as it is upon thoughts that are dependent entirely upon the development of the physical body, exposes the whole of mankind to the danger of falling away from the spiritual world. And it can be said with truth that as earlier creeds speak of a Fall into Sin, meaning a Fall more in the moral sense, so, now, we must speak of the danger to which modern humanity is exposed: the danger of a Fall into Intellectualism.

The kind of thoughts that are universal today, the so-called astute thoughts of modern science to which such great authority is attached — these thoughts are altogether intellectualistic, having their foundation in the human physical body. When the modern man is thinking, he has only the physical body to help him. In earlier periods of Earth existence, thoughts were entirely different in character, for they were accompanied by spiritual visions. Spiritual visions were either revealed by the cosmos to man or they welled up from within him. On the waves of these spiritual visions, thoughts were imparted to men from out of the spiritual world. The thoughts revealed themselves to men, and such “revealed” thoughts are not accessible to intellectualism. A man who builds up his own thoughts merely according to the logic for which modern humanity strives — such a man's consciousness is bound to the physical body.

Not that the thoughts themselves arise out of is the physical body — that, of course, is not the case. But modern man is not conscious of the forces that are working in these thoughts. He does not know what these thoughts are, in their real nature; he is entirely ignorant of the real substance of the thoughts that are instilled into him, even in his school days, by popularized forms of science and literature. He knows them only in the form of mirrored pictures. The physical body acts as the mirror and the human being does not know what is really living in his thoughts; he only knows what the physical body mirrors back to him of these thoughts. If he were really to live within these thoughts, he would be able to perceive pre-earthly existence, and this he cannot do. He is unable to perceive pre-earthly existence because he lives only in mirrored images of thoughts, not in their real substance. The thoughts of modern man are not realities.

The element of danger for modern evolution lies in the fact that whereas, in truth, the spiritual, the pre-earthly life, is contained in the substance of the thoughts, the human being knows nothing of this; he knows the mirrored pictures. And, as a result, something that is really attuned to the spiritual world falls away. These thoughts are attuned to and have their roots in the spiritual world and are mirrored by the physical body; what they mirror is merely the external world of the senses.

In respect of the modern age, therefore, we may speak of a Fall into sin in the realm of intellectualism. The great task of our age is to bring spirituality, the reality of the spirit, once again into the world of thought and to make man conscious of this. If he wants to live fully in the modern world a man cannot altogether rid himself of intellectualism, but he must spiritualize his thinking, he must bring spiritual substance into his thoughts.

Because this is our task, our position is the reverse of that of the initiates of ancient Egypt. The initiates over in Asia, before the Egyptian epoch, were able, because men were endowed with the old clairvoyance, to utilize the intermediate state of consciousness between sleeping and waking to have as their helpers the Moon-spirits who lived in the inbreathing. But during the Egyptian period men gradually lost this old clairvoyance and the initiates were forced to provide for their helpers dwelling places on the Earth, because these Moon-spirits had, as I said yesterday, become homeless. I told you that the dwelling places provided by the Egyptian initiates for these Moon-spirits were the mummified bodies of men, the mummies. The mummies played a part of the greatest imaginable importance during the third post-Atlantean period of evolution, for in the mummies there dwelt those elementary spirits without whose help the initiates on Earth could do very little to influence the social life of men. In more ancient times still, it had been possible to enlist the help of the Moon-spirits living in the inbreathing of men for the spiritual guidance of Earth evolution; and when this was no longer possible a substitute was created in ancient Egypt by making use of the spirits who had a dwelling-place in the mummies.

Today we are in the opposite position. The initiates of Egypt looked back to what had been possible in a past age and were obliged to create a substitute. We, in our day, have to look towards the future, to that future when once again there will be men who live in communion with the spiritual world, who will bear the impulses of their morality in their own individuality, who live in the external world as I have described in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity by saying that moral impulses must be born in the individual and from the individual work out into the world.

This is possible only when the outbreathing of men is such that the air exhaled by an individual who has within him quickened moral impulses impresses the images of this morality into the external life of the cosmos. Just as with the inbreathing, as I described yesterday, the cosmic ether forms enter into man and work for the preservation of his organs, so what develops within the individual himself must enter as an impulse into the outbreathing and pass, together with the outbreathed air, into the external cosmos. And when in a distant future the physical substance of the Earth disperses into cosmic space — as it will do — there must exist a life that has taken shape in the cosmic ether out of these images of moral intuitions that have passed into the ether with the outbreathed air. As I have described in Occult Science, when the physical substance of the Earth is dispersed in the universe, a new Earth, a “Jupiter” planet, will arise from the densified forms outbreathed by individuals in times to come. Thus we must look towards a future when the outbreathing will play a role of predominating importance, when the human being will impart to his outbreathing those impulses whereby he is to build a future.

New light can here be shed upon words from the Gospel: “Heaven and Earth will pass away but My words will not pass away.” I have often indicated the meaning of this passage, namely, that what surrounds us physically, including the world of stars, will one day no longer exist; its place will be taken by what flows, spiritually, out of the souls of men to build the future embodiment of the Earth, the Jupiter embodiment. The words “Heaven and Earth will pass away but My words will not pass away” may be supplemented by saying: Men must be so permeated with Christ that they are able to impart to the outbreathed air the moral impulses quickened within the soul by Christ's words — impulses which will build the new world out of the forms proceeding from the human being himself.

Since about the fourth and fifth centuries of our era, elementary spiritual beings from other worlds have entered into the sphere of the Earth — beings who were not previously there. We may call them Earth-spirits, in contrast to the Moon-beings who in the epochs of ancient India and ancient Persia fulfilled an important function and who then, having become homeless on the Earth, took up their abode in the mummies; in contrast also to the daemons of the air who played an important role in ancient Greece and to whom Homer “listened”. We can speak of elementary Earth-spirits in contrast both to the Moon-beings who lived in the inbreathed air and to the air-beings who moved, in their cosmic dance, in the state of balance between inbreathing and outbreathing, and were mirrored in Greek art. These Earth-spirits will one day be the greatest helpers of the individual human being with his own moral impulses — they will help him to build a new Earth planet out of his moral impulses. We can call these helpers “Earth-spirits”, elementary Earth-spirits, for they are intimately connected with earthly life. They expect to receive from earthly life a stimulus that will enable them to undo their activity in the future incarnation of the Earth.

As already said, these beings have come into the sphere of Earth evolution since the fourth and fifth centuries of our era. In public lectures, as well as elsewhere, I have emphasized that remnants of the old clairvoyance persisted for some time after the Mystery of Golgotha had taken place. In those days there were still external institutions, ceremonial cults and the like, by means of which these beings who had come into the sphere of Earth evolution maintained their footing — if I may use a trivial expression. The particular tendency of these beings is to help man to become very individual, so to shape the whole organism of a man who has within him some strong moral idea that this moral idea can become part of his very temperament, character, and blood, that the moral ideas and individual moral quality can be derived from the blood itself. These elementary Earth-beings can render significant help to men who are acquiring individual freedom in ever greater measure.

But a great and powerful obstacle confronts these beings.

If, instead of speaking from theories — theories are never to be taken quite seriously — we speak about the spiritual world from actual experience, we can hardly refer to these spiritual beings in any other way than that in which we refer to men, for they are present on the Earth just as men are present there. Thus we can say: These beings feel especially deflected from their aim by the factor of human heredity. When the superstition of heredity is very potent, this runs counter to all the inner inclinations and propensities of these elementary beings, who are by nature turbulent and passionate. When Ibsen brought out a work like his Ghosts, which helped to make heredity a fixed superstition, these beings were roused to fury. (As I said, you must get accustomed to hearing them spoken of as if they were men). Let me express it pictorially. Ibsen's disheveled head, his tangled beard, the strangely wild look in his eyes, his distorted mouth — all this comes from the havoc wrought by these beings because they could not endure Ibsen, because in this respect he was one of those typical moderns who persist in upholding the superstition of heredity. Those who fall victim to this “ghost” believe that a man inherits from his parents, grandparents, and so on propensities in his blood which he cannot get rid of, that his particular constitution is due entirely to inherited qualities.

And what in Ibsen came to the fore only in a grotesque, poetic form and also with a certain grandeur — this tendency pervades the whole of modern science. Modern science does indeed suffer from the superstition of heredity. But the aim that ought really to be pursued by modern man is to free himself from inherited qualities and abandon the superstition that everything comes from the blood flowing down from his ancestors. Modern man must learn to function as an individual in the true sense, so that his moral impulses are bound up with his individuality in this earthly life, and he can be creative through his own individual moral impulses. The Earth-beings serve this aim and can become man's helpers in pursuit of it.

But in our modern world, circumstances for these Earth-beings are not as they were for the Moon-beings who, having become homeless, were obliged to find dwelling places in the mummies. These Earth-beings to whom we must look as the hope of the future are not homeless in humanity, but they wander about like pilgrims gone astray, meeting everywhere with uncongenial conditions. They feel constantly repelled, most of all by the brains of academic scholars, which they try at all costs to avoid. They find disagreeable conditions everywhere, for belief in the omnipotence of matter is altogether abhorrent to them. Belief in the omnipotence of matter is, of course, connected with the Fall into intellectualism, with the fact that the human being holds fast to thoughts that are, fundamentally, of no significance because they are only mirror images and he is quite unconscious of their real nature and content.

Just as the Egyptian initiates were obliged to wrestle with the problem of how to bring down the Moon-beings who had become homeless, so it is our task now to help these other spirits to find the Earth a fruitful, not an unfruitful, field. The worst possible rebuff for these beings is constituted by all the mechanical contrivances of modern life that form a kind of second Earth, an Earth devoid of spirit. The spiritual indwells the minerals, plants, and animals, but in these modern mechanical contrivances there are only mirrored thoughts. This mechanized world is a source of perpetual pain to these beings as they wander over the Earth. Complete chaos prevails in the outbreathing of men during the hours of sleep at night. These beings, who should be able to find paths in the carbonized air outbreathed by men, feel isolated, cut off, by what intellectualism creates in the world.

And so, much as it goes against the grain, much as modern man struggles against it, there is only one thing to do: namely, to strive to spiritualize his actions in the external world. This will be difficult, and he will have to be educated up to it. Modern man is extremely clever, but in the real sense he knows nothing, for intellect alone does not create knowledge. The modern intellectual, surrounded by his mechanical contrivances in which mirrored thoughts are embodied, is well on the way to losing his real self, to knowing nothing of what he really is. Inner reality, inner morality, in his intellectual life — that is what modern man must acquire.

I will tell you what I mean by this.

Human beings today are exceedingly clever, but there is really not much substance in their cleverness. Every imaginable subject is talked about, and people pride themselves on their talk. Examples lie very close at hand. A curious one in European literature is a volume of correspondence, in Russian, between two men — Herschenson and Ivanow. The literary setting is that these two men live in the same room but they are both so clever that, when they are talking, their thoughts jostle to such an extent that neither of them listens to the other; they are both always talking at the same time. I can think of no other reason why they should write letters to each other, for there they are, in the same square room, one in one corner and the other in the corner opposite. They write letters to each other — very lengthy letters containing a vast number of words but no real substance whatever. One of them says: We have become much too clever. We have art, we have religion, we have science — we have become terribly clever ... The other man, reading these remarks, is merely astonished at the stupidity of the writer, although he is, admittedly, clever in the modern sense. But in his own view he has become so clever that he doesn't know where to begin with his cleverness and he longs to return to times when men had no ideas about religion, no science, no art, when life was entirely primitive. The second man cannot agree, but his opinion is that as this whole medley of culture develops it must abandon certain fundamental ideas if anything at all is to result from it. The two men are really talking about nothing, but they pour out floods of clever words. This is only one example, and there are many such.

Intellectualism has reached such a pitch that this kind of discussion is possible. It is just as if a man is proposing to sow a field with oats ... it never occurs to people that it is up to them to sow seeds in culture and in civilization — they merely criticize what has been and what ought not to have been and what, in their opinion, ought to be different ... Very well, then, a man is proposing to sow a field with oats and he discusses with someone else whether this would be a good thing to do. They begin to debate: Ought one to sow oats here? Once upon a time the field was sown with corn. Ought one to show oats in a field that was once sown with corn, or has the field been spoilt by having had corn on its soil? Were there not people living near the field who knew that the field contained corn? And is not the thought that one should now sow oats somewhat marred by the fact that certain people knew that corn had been sown in the field? These people may have been pleasant people. Should one not also take into account that the people who knew about the corn in the field were quite pleasant? ... and so on, and so on. This is more or less the kind of talk that goes on; because what nobody realizes is that his task is to sow the oats! Whatever the value of our culture — whether one desires to return to the condition of Adam or that the world shall come to an end — a man who has something real to contribute to culture will not sit down and write letters to his neighbor in the style of the correspondence of which I have spoken. This sort of thing is one of the worst products of modern mentality; it is symptomatic of the deplorable state of modern cultural life.

These things must be faced fairly and squarely. People who hold a certain position in life are often capable of doing a great deal; but the important thing is that they should do what is right at each given opportunity. There are innumerable possibilities for action at this very minute — 11:45 a.m., September 23, 1922 — but it is up to every individual to do what the particular situation demands of him. This principle must also operate in the life of thought. People must learn that certain thoughts are impermissible, and others permissible. Just as there are things that ought to be done and things that ought to be left undone, so people must learn to realize that by no means every thought is permissible. Such an attitude would bring about many changes in life. If it were universally cultivated, newspapers written in the modern style would be practically impossible, for those who discipline themselves at all would turn their back upon the thoughts voiced in such newspapers. Just as there must be morality in men's actions in the world of practical affairs, so, too, morality must pervade the life of thought. Today we hear from everyone's lips: This is my point of view, I think so-and-so ... Yes, but perhaps it is not at all necessary to think it, or to hold such a point of view! In their life of thought, however, people have not yet begun to adopt moral principles. They must learn to do so, and then we shall not be treated to floods of pseudo-thoughts as in the correspondence I have mentioned ... All these things are connected with the fact that intellectualism has diverted men right away from the spirit, from understanding of the truly spiritual.

A good example of this is ready to hand, and I will give it to you, before speaking in the lecture tomorrow about what must come to pass in order that intellectualism may be prevented from ousting men altogether from the world of realities.

A certain Benedictine monk, by the name of Mager, has written quite a good little book about man's behavior in the sight of God. This little book only goes to show that the Benedictine Order was a magnificent institution in the period immediately after its foundation, for the influence of the rules of the Order of St. Benedict is still strong in the writing of this modern monk. One can really have a certain respect for this little book (it is not expensive as prices go nowadays, for it came out in a cheap edition) and, in comparison with much of the trash that is published today, it can be recommended as reading matter. It really is an example of the best writing emanating from those particular circles, although all such literature is, of course, antiquated, quite behind the times. And now this Benedictine monk has also felt inspired to speak about Anthroposophy. So do all kinds of people, and from every possible angle! They cannot be expected to abstain from this in their thoughts because they do not realize that they have no understanding whatever of Anthroposophy. It must be admitted, however, that what Mager writes about Anthroposophy is by no means in the worst category, and it is useful to consider his book because it is characteristic of the intellectualism prevailing in our time. Mager says: The anthroposophist tries to develop his faculties of knowledge so that he can actually behold the spiritual. Certainly, Anthroposophy aims at this and can, moreover, achieve it. Alois Mager admits that it would be an extremely good thing if men could really unfold perception of the spiritual world, but he maintains that they are incapable of this. He is even of the opinion that it is not, in principle, impossible, but that the general run of human beings cannot attain real vision of the spiritual world. He proves that he is not, fundamentally, opposed to this aim, because he says: Two men were actually able to develop their faculties of cognition to such an extent that they could gaze into the spiritual world: Buddha and Plotinus.

It is very remarkable that a Catholic monk should hold the view that the only two men really able to see into the spiritual world were Buddha and Plotinus — Plotinus, who is naturally regarded by the Catholic Church as a visionary and a heretic, and Buddha, one of the three great figures whom, in the Middle Ages, the faithful were made to abjure. Nevertheless, Mager says of Buddha and Plotinus that their souls were capable of looking into the spiritual world. He uses a strange picture as a comparison, very reminiscent of modern trends of thought, especially of militaristic thought. He compares the spiritual world with a city, and those who desire to approach it he compares with soldiers who are storming this divine city. He says it is as if an army had equipped itself to storm a city; but only two of the bravest soldiers succeed in scaling the battlements, and so the attack collapses. During the World War, how often did we not read, in the communiqués, of attacks collapsing ... and today a Benedictine monk speaks of knowers of the spirit as soldiers who want to storm the city of the spiritual life, but the attack fails, with the exception of what the two valiant soldiers, Buddha and Plotinus, were able to achieve. Mager, you see, is simply not able to admit that man can approach the spiritual world; his intellectualism makes him incapable of it. One is surprised, however, at his refusal to admit that any Christian can draw near to God with real knowledge. Being quite sincere in this respect he would naturally be obliged to reject a book like my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, for its aim is to show that the individual, out of himself, can give birth to moral impulses in the truest sense. Mager's view is that this can never be, for he maintains that when the human being is left entirely to his own resources nothing spiritual can come out of him. Therefore he says that both private and public life will, as time goes on, be based wholly on the precepts of the Gospels. He means, in other words, that without understanding what the Gospels actually say, private and public life will be organized according to Gospel precepts — which are beyond the grasp of human powers of knowledge.

It is really not to be wondered at when, with the intellectualism of today, Mager says: It is my innermost and well-founded conviction that Steiner's Anthroposophy can only be described as a clever systematizing of hallucinations into a picture of the world, as a materialization of the spiritual ... It is grotesque that this should come from a man who, in himself, is honest and sincere and is by no means among the most trivial thinkers of the present day. In order to do him justice I told you that quite recently he wrote a good little book. This critique of Anthroposophy is his latest production. Think once again of the sentence: It is my innermost and well-founded conviction that Steiner's Anthroposophy can only be described as a clever systematizing of hallucinations into a picture of the world, as a materialization of the spiritual ... My reply would be: “Very well, let us assume that you are in earnest about your conceptions of God and of the spirit. You must place the spiritual somewhere when you aspire to reach it ... but you do not admit that man's powers of knowledge are capable of this. Why then are you a priest, desiring to dedicate your whole life to the service of the spiritual? You admit that the material proceeds from the spiritual. If, now, someone attains to a knowledge of the spirit, what is the nature of such knowledge?” Those who adhere merely to knowledge of the material, well, they have the material before them and the spiritual amounts only to a number of thoughts. But a man who truly turns to the spiritual experiences its reality. Within the spiritual, the things that can be seen with physical eyes are present only as indication. Father Mager regards this as hallucination, so he says that Anthroposophy systematizes hallucinations. His view is quite understandable, because in speaking of the spiritual we cannot speak as we do about a material table that the eyes can see and the hands can touch. A material object exists in the spiritual merely as indication, and so it seems to Mager to be hallucination.

And now let us go further, and say to him: “You, Father, are dedicating your life and service to the spiritual and you most certainly acknowledge that the creator of the material is the spiritual. What, then, is the world in your view — materialization of the spiritual? Yes, but this is exactly what you censure in Anthroposophy! You speak of a picture of the world that is a materialization of the spiritual, but you believe for a fact that this world has been created out of the spirit, through materialization. This is what Anthroposophy tries to fathom. Your strongest censure of Anthroposophy is that Anthroposophy takes in earnest something that you, yourself, ought to take in earnest, but are not willing to do so. That is why you censure Anthroposophy. According to your view, the God in whom you believe must surely once have taken a materialization of the spiritual in earnest! Otherwise there would have been no Creation. Are you, therefore, taking your religion in earnest when you censure Anthroposophy for trying to grasp how the spiritual can gradually become the material?”

Into what an abyss we gaze when we see how a man like this approaches Anthroposophy! This man is really clever; moreover he is not like others who are all cleverness and nothing else; he knows a little and has also learnt how to think. But just realize what his judgment of Anthroposophy implies and you will understand what kind of fruit is produced by intellectualism today, even when it is dedicated to the service of the spirit. You will realize, too, that this intellectualism must be superseded by methods differing from those adopted by the priests of Egypt to overcome the spiritual dilemma that had arisen in their epoch. Of the powers to which intellectualism must turn we will speak in the lecture tomorrow.

Source: http://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/Dates/19220923p01.html

Supersensible Influences in the History of Mankind


Supersensible Influences in the History of Mankind. Lecture 1 of 6

Rudolf Steiner, September 22, 1922:

In recent lectures I have been trying to describe in some detail the connection of man as a being of body and soul with the spiritual powers of the universe. I should like now to enlarge the picture by describing, in a similar way, certain historical happenings and their connections with spiritual worlds. In our materialistic age, study of the history of the human race is limited to its external aspect; attempts are made to depict what comes to pass in the physical world of sense, but no consideration is given to how the spiritual world plays into the activities and doings of men. In our epoch, human actions in the onflowing course of history are never studied from the point of view of their connection with the beings and powers behind human existence.

Let us think of very ancient times in the evolution of mankind — to begin with, of those epochs described in my Outline Of Occult Science as the Old Indian and Old Persian periods of culture. Naturally, many things that were done by men in those times go to form the content of history. But it must be realized that happenings which then constituted external history were by no means the outcome of fully conscious deliberation on the part of men, for human consciousness was pervaded by a kind of dreamlike clairvoyance. Pictures arose in men's consciousness — pictures interwoven with the activities of spiritual beings who then spurred men on to deeds of one kind or another.

In the epoch of which I am speaking now, the process of inbreathing was extremely important. The fact that through the exercises of yoga, breathing became a conscious process, a process of perception, indicates the significance of the part played by breathing in those ancient times. But the process of inbreathing was more important then than that of outbreathing.

We do not realize today that besides, shall I say, the coarse matter inhaled with the air, all kinds of substances are present, but in a state of exceedingly delicate, fine distribution. Those substances, too, which in present Earth existence are in the solid, mineral condition are contained in the air in fine, delicate distribution, and the human being breathes them in. Now, the peculiarity of these substances in their state of fine distribution through the air is that they have the tendency to assume forms and shapes. Earthly substances too, of course, assume the forms we know as the mineral crystals. I am not here referring to the crystals but to substances finely distributed in the air, or one might also say, in the air-ether, inasmuch as this plays through the air. These substances, too, build forms — forms that do not resemble those of the minerals but of the organs in man. This is a peculiarity of the ether, which pervades the air. When we can observe this ether with Imaginative Knowledge, we see within it floating forms, delicate ether-forms with the shape of lung, or liver, or stomach — at any rate, shapes of the inner organs of man. With trained etheric sight all these forms can be observed in the cosmic ether. In comparison with our physical organs, however, these cosmic forms are usually of gigantic dimensions. We see gigantic ether-forms, with the shapes of liver, lung, and so on, interpenetrating the cosmic space around us.

These forms, floating as it were in space, are breathed in by man — and it is good that this happens. For as man inbreathes these forms which enter into him with the air, they work beneficially and with healing effect upon his organs. Organs, after all, deteriorate as life progresses and, to speak colloquially, they are patched up again by what is inbreathed in this way. We well know how difficult it is for therapy to restore the physical organs, but this other kind of therapy works effectively and continuously upon the human being.

In those very early epochs of history it was possible for men, without special training and merely through their dreamlike clairvoyance, to see these ether forms and, above all, to realize what it means when, together with the finely dissolved, pepsin-like substances in the ether, the form of the stomach, let us say, is breathed in and received by the corresponding organ in the human body. In olden times a very great deal was known about this connection with the delicate organization of the surrounding world, and the further back we go in time, the greater was the knowledge.

This process of breathing in the ether form was not as if air were automatically pumped into a space emptied of air. Think of an ether form that passed into the human being through his inbreathing. Spiritual beings were active as the cosmic forms sank into him. In recent lectures, some public and some given here, we have heard about certain spiritual beings and of their significance for man. I refer to those spiritual beings who have their physical reflection in the Moon and its light: the spiritual Moon-beings. It was these Moon-beings who, in the times of which I am now speaking, were able by way of these cosmic forms to pass from the cosmos into the human being. So that in those ancient epochs of historical evolution on the Earth, men drew the spiritual Moon-cosmos into themselves in the process of inbreathing, stimulating the spiritual Moon-beings to activity within them.

What I am now telling you was the content of a science and was a body of wisdom to which much study was devoted in the most ancient Mysteries. For the initiates of these Mysteries knew that human beings drew the spiritual Moon-cosmos into themselves in this way. The Initiates knew, too, that this took place chiefly during the night, during sleep. But because in those olden days men were endowed with dreamlike clairvoyance, living in a state of consciousness midway between waking and sleeping, it was possible to reckon with the fact that these spiritual Moon-beings entered into human beings during certain periods of the day-consciousness. And the leadership given to mankind by the initiates of the ancient Mysteries aimed at gaining control of what passed into the human being in this way through the inbreathing, so that men might be able to utilize the forces of these Moon-beings in their own deeds.

You must realize that in those ancient times there was no such thing as intellectual instruction of the kind that is current today. Nevertheless the initiates of the Mysteries had much more potent ways and means of guiding and leading the peoples than was the case later on — and, above all, than is the case today. In the earliest period of human evolution the initiates had developed the art of conversing with the Moon-beings breathed in by man during the night and during the clairvoyant periods of his waking consciousness, and of causing these Moon-beings to inculcate something very definite into humanity. Inasmuch as the Moon-beings, via the inbreathing, became their helpers, the initiates of the ancient Mysteries were able, in this way, to give wonderful leadership to mankind.

Only the most inadequate conceptions exist today of these deeply mysterious processes which had their outward image in all manner of ceremonial rites — processes which were used in olden times in order, from the centers of the Mysteries, to lead and guide humanity.

As evolution proceeded, a different age came to birth. Darkness gathered over the old clairvoyance, with the result that the special processes, which the initiates had been able to make elective in the days of ancient India and ancient Persia, presented greater and greater difficulties. Up to the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, of course, and for a few centuries afterwards, remnants of the old clairvoyance persisted, particularly in certain regions. But it was already dim, and by the second or third century B.C. the procedure of which I have spoken could no longer be as effective as it had been in the earliest times of human evolution after the Atlantean epoch. The initiates of the Mysteries were more and more at a loss when they desired to make use of the power of the Moon-beings in the guidance of mankind. If I am to describe what then took place between the initiates and the Moon-beings, I will say the following: When an initiate of the Egypto-Chaldean epoch approached one of these Moon-beings with the object of charging this being, when he had entered into a man via the inbreathing, to instill this or that into the soul, the Moon-being would often reply to the initiate: During the hours of day-consciousness we no longer have any dwelling-place on the Earth; we find a dwelling-place only during the hours of night.

But the initiates would have regarded it as unlawful thus to influence men on Earth during the hours of night-consciousness by way of the Moon-beings, for this would have meant handling them like automatons. Such procedure would have given rise to what is described in certain terminology as an art of black magic, and with this the good initiates would, naturally, have nothing whatever to do. So it was deeply significant for them when the Moon-beings who were to be their helpers in the guidance of humanity made answer: During the hours of the day-consciousness we have no dwelling-place on the Earth. The initiates of these Mysteries were thus faced with the danger of being without helpers in the methods they had used for leading mankind. On the other hand, what came into the world with the Christ Mystery was not yet in existence. There was an intermediate period between that of the ancient clairvoyance, when the procedures I have described were possible, and the epoch that changed the whole character of the workings of the Spiritual on the Earth — the epoch inaugurated by the Mystery of Golgotha.

The Egypto-Chaldean epoch, following that of ancient Persia, provides the best illustration for study of this intermediate period. The initiates among the Chaldean peoples hardly knew at all how to tackle the dilemma of which I am now speaking. In a certain respect they were extraordinarily helpless and they sought what they needed for the guidance of men through somewhat external means, namely, through their star lore, their art of astrology. For what the Chaldean initiates learnt through their astrology could be experienced in quite a different way through the Moon-beings who passed into the bodies of men via the inbreathing. Now, however, the Moon-beings were saying: There is no dwelling-place for us on the Earth. And so the Chaldean initiates substituted a power of external observation for the inner power which in former days had been imparted by these beings.

The initiates of Egypt set to work quite differently. They sought for ways and means whereby dwelling places might be provided on Earth for the Moon-beings. For beings, therefore, who according to the eternal laws of world evolution no longer had their appointed dwelling places on the Earth — for these beings the initiates of the Egyptian Mysteries sought to provide shelter. And the priests of the Egyptian Mysteries, the Egyptian initiates, did indeed succeed in providing dwelling places on the Earth for the Luciferic Moon-beings. By peopling the burial places with mummies, the Egyptian priests found the solution to the secret of enticing the Moon-spirits to come down to the Earth, although according to the laws of world evolution this was no longer their allotted role. Mummified human beings, mummified corpses, became dwelling places for the Luciferic Moon-beings. In earlier lectures I have spoken from a different point of view of what the mummified corpse signified, and I refer to it now from the aspect of cosmological history. Surrounded by their rows of mummies, the Egyptian initiates were able to make observations that were no longer possible in a natural way. In earlier times it was merely a matter of being together with men and clairvoyantly observing their breathing. In substitution for this a method was found for bringing about what had once happened in the natural process of inbreathing. Places were established to which these spirits could descend — the spirits who now had no dwelling-place within humanity during the hours of day and would otherwise have been obliged to wander homeless about the Earth. Under such conditions they could have played no part in the affairs of the Earth, and places were therefore established where they could, as it were, be given shelter. These places were the mummies, the mummified corpses of men. The mummies became the dwelling places of the Moon-beings. Standing with full understanding before the mummies, the Egyptian Initiate studied what the initiates of earlier times had studied from life in its fresh and natural state. The Egyptian initiate observed the activities of the Moon-beings in the dwelling places that had thus been provided for them, and by this means he became aware of what these Moon-beings were able to inculcate, in manifold ways, into the historical development of humanity.

Paradoxical as it will appear to the materialistic intellect of today, it is nevertheless true that if we wish to understand historical development during the Egyptian epoch of culture we must study not merely the external monuments but that eternal chronicle of worlds which can be read with the vision of Imagination and Inspiration, and in which are recorded the deeds of those spiritual Moon-beings to whom no outer monuments were erected and who left no written scripts. But the achievements of the men to whom the monuments were erected — these achievements were inspired through the work of the Initiates with the Moon-beings in the mummies, inspired by the spiritual Moon-beings for whom, during the hours of day-consciousness, dwelling places on Earth had been provided in the mummies. We can, in truth, only understand the origin of what is recorded in the ancient scripts when we are able to deck out, in the life of the cosmos, those beings who tell us: “During the third, second, and first millennia before Christ we could come down to the Earth only because the priest-initiates of Egypt provided dwelling places for us in the mummies.” From these Moon-beings we can learn the intentions behind deeds that go to form the history of that epoch.

To understand man in his true being, we must turn to the stars and to the spiritual hierarchies, as I said in the last two lectures given here. But to understand the historical development of humanity we must be able to study, as well, the spiritual powers that play into this development. We must study the meaning of a phenomenon as striking as that of the mummification of the human corpse in ancient Egypt. The inner purpose of things often regarded by modern materialism merely as curious customs can be understood when we are able to investigate them by means of spiritual science.

Once upon a time the mummies were the homes of Gods, dwelling places of Moon-beings who were now Luciferic beings. In the Greco-Roman epoch, the fourth Post-Atlantean epoch, conditions were somewhat different. The process of inbreathing now ceased to play the predominating part. Inbreathing retained its significance, certainly, but it was no longer as important as it had once been. Inbreathing and outbreathing were now of equal significance for the human being. The Greek initiates were well aware of this fact, and the wonderful balance between inbreathing and outbreathing, which was characteristic of the Greeks, enabled their art to become the model to which history always points. It would not have been in keeping with the nature of the Greeks to receive the Moon-beings specifically by way of the inbreathing. Through the work of their initiates the Greek people were able to make effective those beings who hovered — half flying, half floating — in the air, and who liked best to be cradled in the condition of balance between inbreathing and outbreathing. Looking back to those ancient times of Greek development when the real inspiration was given for what manifested later on in a more external form — looking back to the times when forms of primitive grandeur were the source and wellspring of plastic art, of the Greek art of tragedy and of philosophy, we find that the priest-initiates of the Mysteries in their guidance of humanity were able to make use primarily of those beings who cradled themselves in the condition of balance between man's inbreathing and outbreathing. We can have no real knowledge of the Apollonian art, or of Orphic wisdom, unless we realize that their inspiration came from dæmonic beings moving within this condition of balance between inbreathing and outbreathing. The strings of Apollo's lyre were tuned in accordance with what could be observed of those beings who lived between the Moon sphere and the Earth sphere, who liked best to hover, to dance, as it were, on the strings of the cosmos which had been woven into the balance between inbreathing and outbreathing. The dance of the daemons of the air — this was mirrored in the tuning of the strings of Apollo's lyre.

Thus we must look into the spiritual world if we would gain knowledge of what has come to pass in external history. Think of what I said some time ago, namely, that scansion, the development of the art of ancient recitative, of the hexameter, is based on the relation between the rhythms of breathing and blood circulation in man. Remind yourselves of what I once said in a series of lectures about the development of the hexameter. The study that led to the creation of the hexameter was, for the Greek initiates, full of concrete realities. As we breathe in we receive the moving waves of cosmic life into ourselves, and adjust them to our inner being. As we breathe out we impart to the rhythm of the breath something of the vibration of the pulse in the circulating blood. Thus we can say: The external world pulsates into our inbreathing. In our outbreathing our own blood pulsates. And so a Greek Initiate who was schooled in these things was able to observe how in and around the human being, in his ether-body and astral body, cosmic rhythm and the rhythm of the blood were meeting and intermingling, and how denizens of the air were moving and dancing in these rhythms.

Such was the study to which Homer applied himself when he was developing the hexameter, in particular, to its highest perfection of form — for the hexameter is born from the connection between the human being and the world.

Many things become clear for the first time when we study history with the eye of knowledge permeated by art, and with the eye of art permeated by knowledge. I have no desire to speak about the materialistic mentality of today, which instead of pondering deeply about the origin of, let us say, the “Songs of Homer” finds a way out by saying that Homer never existed. That is the simplest way out of the difficulty, from the standpoint of modern materialism. It is not possible for materialistic science to understand Homer, and according to a mentality that has become so vain and self-glorious in our times, anything that is incomprehensible cannot possibly exist. Things that cannot be explained by the academic mind do not exist! Homer is incomprehensible — therefore he never existed. He cannot be explained, so he doesn't exist ... but after all, surely there is a more sensible explanation than this!

In museums everywhere you will find sculptured heads of Homer. I am not saying that the likeness is particularly good, but when we look at this blind Homer, whose eyes, in spite of blindness, have such a mysterious expression and whose head has a striking pose, the portrayal is good enough to make us feel perhaps he blinded himself voluntarily — I am, of course, speaking metaphorically — perhaps he deliberately made himself blind in order that sight should not disturb a certain kind of listening; for Homer listens. Without the distraction of sight, he experiences the interplay between the pulsation of the cosmos and the pulsing of human blood, the pulsing of the human ether body, where the beings of the air carry out their dance of harmony and melody. In a kind of whirring ... as when one listens to the whirring of a swarm of flies ... Homer heard the hexameter and, undisturbed by sight or the ordinary clear light of day, it is as if his ears were touching at the same time as hearing.

Look at the heads of Homer from this point of view. The form of marble or plaster gives the impression of hearing that is also touching, touching that is also hearing; life of a very special kind is present here. The head-nature seems to flash from within through the blinded eyes. There is something that seems not only to hear, but actually to touch the sounds, to detain them, in order to lead over into scansion by the human voice what was drawn in from the cosmos. So it was, in days when the predominating factor was not the inbreathing or the outbreathing but the interplay between them. Contemplation of the head of Homer should give rise to the eager question: How did he breathe? This head is undisturbed by external light, is wholly given up to the mysteries of the breathing. To have this feeling about the sculptured heads that can be seen in many places would be more intelligent than to argue away the existence of Homer.

The reasons produced by scholars when they argued away the existence of Homer were so subtle and deceptive that even Goethe was a little disturbed. The German philologist Wolf was the first to argue away the existence of Homer, and even Goethe could not entirely put aside his subtle, plausible contentions. And although Goethe always had a feeling of horror at the thought that Homer had been demolished by Wolf, he was nevertheless a little shaken by the extremely astute arguments put forward. Modern cleverness is capable of anything! On this subject I have always said: Modern men are clever, extraordinarily clever and astute; but cleverness does not necessarily mean that they really know the world.

Hermann Grimm set to work ... not to bring Homer to life again, for he had not really been demolished by Wolf — all that had been demolished was a picture that had grown up in the course of time ... Hermann Grimm set to work as follows. He said: We will not, to begin with, concern ourselves with Homer, nor with Wolf who is supposed to have demolished him, but we will turn to the Iliad itself. Let us read this epic of Homer, not as a philologist reads it but as a human being reads it. Let us take the first Book, the first Song, and try to discover by what kind of art the introduction, the continuation, and the further development were created. Then pass to the second Song; again we find a remarkable unity in the composition and realize with what a wonderful feeling for art each Song is built on the preceding one. Hermann Grimm pursued this method of study through the whole of the Iliad and it did not fail. Then he said: It would indeed be strange if Homer had never existed, if one man had written a portion of the Iliad, a second man another portion, a third man another, and so on, and then such fragments had merely been put together — as people will probably one day say of Faust, because contradictions have been found in it. It would indeed be strange if a work like the Iliad with its unbroken uniformity of composition had been compiled from all kinds of fragments discovered here or there.

Truly, it is necessary in studying history to picture the weaving and working of spiritual beings in the happenings and proceedings of history. Anthroposophical spiritual science must also have this aim, and I have tried today to pursue it in respect of very early periods and up to the time of Greek culture. In the lecture tomorrow we shall see how in the present age, since the Mystery of Golgotha, spiritual beings have been manifestly working in human deeds which have become increasingly free and we shall learn what we ourselves have to do in order to find help as did the Egyptian initiates when they provided shelter for certain Moon-beings. Something not altogether dissimilar may have to be brought about, but out of a true understanding of the spirit.

Source: http://www.webcitation.org/5yMMdxFbo

Monday, April 29, 2024

Soma: Sunlight, collected by the Moon


A Butterfly Egg

Rudolf Steiner, from a lecture given June 8, 1923:

I refer to an age when all the arts, except poetry, were but little developed. The other arts existed, to be sure, but in only a rudimentary state because the human beings of that time were deeply conscious of the fact that with the word, created out of their organisms' innermost secret, they could express something supersensible, that language was fitted to express what appears in star-constellations and star-movements; far better fitted than the art-mediums using substances taken directly from the earth. For language originates in spiritual man — this they felt — and is therefore eminently adapted to what, from cosmic reaches, manifests here on earth. Poetry, then, was not an offspring merely of phantasy but of spiritual perception; and it was by this means that man learned what he in turn poured into the other arts. Poetry, which finds expression through words, was the medium by which man entered into soul-communion with the stars, the extra-earthly.
This soul-communion constituted the poetic mood. Through it man saw how thoughts not yet separated from objects gain pictorial expression in his vault-like head, a head resembling the firmament; how thought represents a spiritual firmament, a celestial vault; how thought is inherent throughout the cosmos. Individual thoughts were expressed through the relative positions of the stars, by the way the planets moved past each other. In those ancient times man — unlike the free man of a later age — did not think merely by virtue of his own inner force. In every thought-movement he felt the after-image of some star-movement, in every thought-form the after-image of a constellation. Thus his thinking transported him into stellar space. The sunlight which illumined the day, and which would seem to be blinding out in the cosmos, was not considered the guide to wisdom, not the guiding force of thought, but, rather, sunlight as reflected by the moon. The following is ancient Mystery wisdom: During the day we see light with the physical body, at night we do more; we see it gathered up by the silver chalice of the moon. And this sunlight, collected by the moon, was regarded as the soul's Soma drink. Enspirited thereby, the soul could conceive those thoughts which were the result, the image, of the starry heavens.

Source: June 8, 1923

The working of the angels in the astral bodies of human beings

Rudolf Steiner, Zurich, October 9, 1918:

Anthroposophical understanding of the spirit must not be a merely theoretical view of the world, but a leaven, an actual power in life. Only when we manage to investigate this view of the world so fundamentally that it really comes alive in us does it properly fulfill its mission. For by linking our souls with this anthroposophical conception of the spirit we have become custodians, as it were, of very definite and significant processes in the evolution of humanity.
Whatever their view of the world, men are generally convinced that thoughts and ideas have no status in it except as the contents of their own souls. Those who hold such views believe that thoughts and mental pictures are “ideals” which will be embodied in the world only to the extent that man succeeds in ratifying them by his physical deeds.
The anthroposophical attitude posits the conviction that our thoughts and ideas must find other ways of taking effect besides the way through our deeds in the physical world. Recognition of this essential principle implies that the anthroposophist must play his part in watching out for the signs of the times. A very great deal is happening all the time in the evolution of the world; and it is incumbent upon men, particularly the men of our own time, to acquire real understanding of what is going on in the evolutionary process in which they themselves are placed.
In the case of an individual human being, everybody knows that account must be taken of his stage of development, not only of the outer facts and occurrences around him. Think of it quite crudely for a moment. Outer, physical happenings are going on around human beings of five, ten, twenty, thirty, fifty, seventy years of age. But nobody in his senses will expect the same reaction to these happenings from the five-year-olds, the ten-year-olds, the twenty-year-olds, the fifty-year-olds, the seventy-year-olds! How human beings may be expected to react to their environment can be determined only by taking account of their stage of development. Everybody will admit this in the case of the individual.
But just as there are definite stages in the evolution of the individual human being, just as the nature of his powers and faculties differs in childhood, middle life, and old age, so too are the powers and faculties possessed by humanity in general constantly changing in the course of evolution. Not to take account of the fact that the character of humanity is different in the twentieth century from what it was in the fifteenth century, let alone before and at the time of the Mystery of Golgotha, is to sleep through the process of world evolution. One of the greatest defects, one of the principal sources of aberration and confusion in our time, is its failure to pay heed to this, as well as the prevalent notion that it is possible to speak of man or of humanity in terms of abstract generalizations, that there is no need to regard humanity as being involved in a continuous process of evolution.
How can a more exact insight into these things be acquired? As you know, mention has often been made of an important phase in the evolution of humanity. The Greco-Latin epoch of civilization, lasting from the eighth century B.C. to approximately the fifteenth century, was the period of the development of the Intellectual Soul, or Mind Soul; the development of the Consciousness Soul (the Spiritual Soul) has been in progress since the fifteenth century. This is a factor in the evolution of humanity which essentially concerns our own times. The paramount force in human evolution from the fifteenth century until the beginning of the third millennium is the Spiritual Soul.
But in true spiritual science we must never stop at generalizations and abstractions; everywhere and at all times it must be our endeavor to grasp concrete facts. Abstractions are, at the highest, useful to curiosity in the most ordinary sense of the term. If  spiritual science is to become the very leaven and essential force of life, earnestness must outweigh curiosity and we must not stop at abstractions such as those of which I have just spoken. It is both true and important that because we are living in the epoch of the Spiritual Soul we must take account of its development; but we must not stop there.
To arrive at a clear conception of these things, we must above all consider in greater detail the nature of man himself. In the sense of spiritual science, the members of man's being, beginning from above downwards, are: ego, astral body, etheric body — which latterly I have also called the body of formative forces — and physical body. The ego is the only one of these members in which we live and function as beings of spirit-and-soul. The ego has been implanted in us by the Earth-evolution and the Spirits of Form who direct it. Fundamentally speaking, everything that enters into our consciousness enters it through our ego. And unless the ego, as it unfolds itself, can remain connected — connected through the bodies — with the outer world, we have as little consciousness as we have during sleep. It is the ego that connects us with our environment; the astral body is the legacy of the Moon-evolution; the etheric body of the Sun-evolution; the physical body, in its first rudiments, of the Saturn-evolution.
But if you study the description of these bodies given in the book An Outline of Occult Science you will realize by what a complicated process this fourfold constitution of man came into being. Is it not evident from the facts presented in that book that spirits belonging to all the hierarchies participated in the formation of the three sheaths of man's being? Is it not evident that our threefold sheath composed of physical body, etheric body, and astral body is extremely complicated? It is not simply that these sheaths owe their origin to the cooperation of the hierarchies; the hierarchies are still constantly working within them. And those who believe that man is merely the apparatus of bones, blood, flesh, and so forth, of which natural science, physiology, biology, and anatomy speak, have no understanding of his nature.
If we genuinely study these sheaths of man, we realize that spiritual beings of the higher hierarchies are working together with wisdom and with set purpose in everything that takes place, without our being conscious of it, in our bodily sheaths. From the brief outline I have given in Occult Science about the cooperation that took place between particular beings of the hierarchies in order that man should come into existence, you will have realized how intricate the details must be. Nevertheless if man is to be understood, these things too must be studied more and more concretely.
In this domain it is extremely difficult even to formulate a concrete question, because of the tremendous complexity of all such questions. Suppose for a moment that someone were to ask: What is the hierarchy, let us say, of the Seraphim or of the Dynamis (Mights) doing in man's etheric body in the year 1918 of the present cycle of evolution? For we can certainly ask this question, just as we can ask whether it is raining or not raining in Lugano at the present time. Neither question can be answered by mere reflection or theorizing, but only by ascertaining the facts. Just as we should have to find out, by means perhaps of a telegram, whether or not it is raining at Lugano, so it is necessary to investigate the facts themselves in order to get the answer to a question such as: What is the task of the Spirits of Wisdom or of the Thrones in the etheric body of man during the present cycle of evolution? Only, this latter kind of question is indescribably complex and we can never do more than make an approach to the domains where such questions arise. Good care is taken that man shall not soar too far aloft and become arrogant and supercilious in his endeavors to attain knowledge of such things.
Roughly speaking, it is the prospects nearest to us — those that directly concern us — of which we can get a clear view. But such a view we must get, if we are not to remain asleep at our stations in the evolution of humanity.
I will therefore speak about a question that is less vague and indefinite than the question as to what the Dynamis or the Thrones are doing in our etheric body. I will speak of another question that is of immediate concern to men at the present time. It is the question: What are the Angels — the spiritual beings nearest to men — doing in the human astral body in the present cycle of evolution?
The astral body is the member nearest to the ego; obviously, therefore, the answer to this question will vitally concern us. The Angels are the hierarchy immediately above the human  hierarchy itself. So the question is not unduly arrogant, and we shall see how it can be answered. What are the Angels doing in man's astral body in this present epoch which began in the fifteenth century and will last until the beginning of the third millennium?
What is there to be said in the general sense when it comes to answering a question such as this? It can only be said that spiritual investigation, when earnestly pursued, is not a matter of juggling with ideas or words, but works its way into the actual sphere where the spiritual world becomes perceptible ... but this question can, in reality, be fruitfully answered only in the age of the Spiritual Soul itself.
You may think that if this question had been asked in other epochs, an answer would probably have been forthcoming. But neither in the epoch of atavistic clairvoyance nor in that of Greco-Latin civilization could this question have been answered, because the pictures arising in man's soul from atavistic clairvoyance obscured his observation of the deeds of the Angels in his astral body. Nothing could be seen of this, precisely because he had in him the pictures given by atavistic clairvoyance. And in the Greco-Latin period, thought was not as strong as it is today. Thought has been strengthened as the direct consequence of the advance of natural science. Hence it is in the epoch of the Spiritual Soul that such questions can be the subject of conscious study. The fruitfulness of spiritual  science for life must be shown by the fact that we do not just browse on theories but know how to say things of incisive significance for life.
What are the Angels doing in our astral body? Conviction of what they are doing can come to us only when we have achieved a certain degree of clairvoyance and are able to perceive what is actually going on in our astral body. A certain degree at least of Imaginative knowledge must therefore have been attained if this question is to be answered.
It is then revealed that these beings of the hierarchy of the Angels — particularly through their concerted work, although in a certain sense each single Angel also has his task in connection with every individual human being — these beings form pictures in man's astral body. Under the guidance of the Spirits of Form (Exusiai), the Angels form pictures. Unless we reach the level of Imaginative cognition we do not know that pictures are all the time being formed in our astral body. They arise and pass away, but without them there would be for mankind no evolution into the future in accordance with the intentions of the Spirits of Form. The Spirits of Form are obliged, to begin with, to unfold in pictures what they desire to achieve with us during Earth-evolution and beyond. And then, later on, the pictures become reality in a humanity transformed.
Through the Angels, the Spirits of Form are already now shaping these pictures in our astral body. The Angels form pictures in man's astral body, and these pictures are accessible to thinking that has become clairvoyant. If we are able to scrutinize these pictures, it becomes evident that they are woven in accordance with quite definite impulses and principles. Forces for the future evolution of mankind are contained in them. If we watch the Angels carrying out this work of theirs — strange as it sounds, one has to express it in this way — it is clear that they have a very definite plan for the future configuration of social life on Earth; their aim is to engender in the astral bodies of men such pictures as will bring about definite conditions in the social life of the future.
People may shy away from the notion that Angels want to call forth in them ideals for the future, but it is so all the same. And indeed in forming these pictures the Angels work on a definite principle, namely, that in the future no human being is to find peace in the enjoyment of happiness if others beside him are unhappy. An impulse of brotherhood in the absolute sense, unification of the human race in brotherhood rightly understood — this is to be the governing principle of the social conditions in physical existence.
That is the one principle in accordance with which the Angels form the pictures in man's astral body.
But there is a second impulse in the work of the Angels. The Angels have certain objectives in view not only in connection with the outer social life but also with man's life of soul. Through the pictures they inculcate into the astral body, their aim is that in future time every human being shall see in each and all of his fellow-men a hidden divinity.
Quite clearly, then, according to the intention underlying the work of the Angels, things are to be very different in future. Neither in theory nor in practice shall we look only at man's physical qualities, regarding him as a more highly developed animal, but we must confront every human being with the full realization that in him something is revealing itself from the divine foundations of the world, revealing itself through flesh and blood. To conceive man as a picture revealed from the spiritual world, to conceive this with all the earnestness, all the strength, and all the insight at our command — this is the impulse laid by the Angels into the pictures.
Once this is fulfilled, there will be a very definite consequence. The basis of all free religious feeling that will unfold in humanity in the future will be the acknowledgment, not merely in theory but in actual practice, that every human being is made in the likeness of the Godhead. When that time comes there will be no need for any religious coercion; for then every meeting between one man and another will of itself be in the nature of a religious rite, a sacrament, and nobody will need a special Church with institutions on the physical plane to sustain the religious life. If the Church understands itself truly, its one aim must be to render itself unnecessary on the physical plane, as the whole of life becomes the expression of the supersensible.
The bestowal on man of complete freedom in the religious life — this underlies the impulses, at least, of the work of the Angels.
And there is a third objective: To make it possible for men to reach the Spirit through thinking, to cross the abyss and through thinking to experience the reality of the Spirit.
Spiritual science for the spirit, freedom of religious life for the soul, brotherhood for the bodily life — this resounds like cosmic music through the work wrought by the Angels in the astral bodies of men.
All that is necessary is to raise our consciousness to a different level and we shall feel ourselves transported to this wonderful site of the work done by the Angels in the human astral body.
We are living in the age of the Spiritual Soul, and in this age the Angels work in the astral bodies of men as I have described. Man must gradually come to understand this in his wide-awake consciousness. It is part of the process of human evolution itself. How can such a statement be made? Where are we to look for this work of the Angels?
It is still to be discovered in man while he is sleeping, in the conditions prevailing between the moments of falling asleep and waking — also in somnolent waking states. I have often said that although men are awake, they actually sleep through the most important concerns in life. And I can give you the not very heartening assurance that anyone who goes through life with alert consciousness today finds numbers and numbers of human beings who are really asleep. They let events happen without taking the slightest interest in them, without troubling about them or associating themselves with these happenings in any way. Great world-events often pass men by just as something that is taking place in the city passes a sleeper by ... although people are apparently awake. At such times, while men, in spite of being awake, are sleeping through some momentous event, it can be seen how in their astral bodies — quite independently of what they want or do not want to know — this important work of the Angels continues.
Such things proceed in a way which must necessarily seem highly enigmatic and paradoxical. A man may be considered entirely unworthy of having any connections at all with the spiritual world. But the truth about such a man may well be that in this incarnation he is just a terrible dormouse who sleeps through everything that goes on around him. Yet one of the choir of the Angels is working in his astral body at the future of mankind. Observation of his astral body shows that it is being made use of, in spite of these conditions.
What really matters, however, is that men shall become conscious of these things. The Spiritual Soul must rise to the level where it is able to recognize what can be discovered only in this way.
After all this, you will understand me when I point out that this epoch of the Spiritual Soul is heading toward a definite event, and that — just because it is the Spiritual Soul that is involved — it will depend upon men themselves how this event takes effect in the evolution of humanity. It may come a century earlier or a century later, but it is bound to form part of the evolutionary process. It can be characterized by saying: Purely through the Spiritual Soul, purely through their conscious thinking, men must reach the point of actually perceiving what the Angels are doing to prepare the future of humanity. The teachings of spiritual science in this domain must become practical wisdom in the life of humanity — practical, because men can be convinced that it belongs to their own wisdom to recognize the aims of the Angels, as I have described them.
But the progress of the human race toward freedom has already gone so far that it depends upon man himself whether he will sleep through this event or face it with fully wide-awake consciousness. What would this entail? To face this event with wide-awake consciousness would entail the study of spiritual science, which is possible today. Indeed nothing else is really necessary. The practice of meditations of various kinds and attention to the guidance given in the book Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment will be an additional help. But the essential step has already been taken when spiritual science is studied and really consciously understood. Spiritual science can be studied today without developing clairvoyant faculties. Everyone can do so, who does not bar his own way with his prejudices. And if people study spiritual science more and more thoroughly, if they assimilate its concepts and ideas, their consciousness will become so alert that instead of sleeping through certain events, they will be fully aware of them.
These events can be characterized in greater detail, for to know what the Angel is doing is only the preparatory stage. The essential point is that at a definite time — depending, as I have said, upon the attitude men themselves adopt it will be earlier or later, or at worst not at all — a threefold truth will be revealed to mankind by the Angels.
Firstly, it will be shown how his own genuine interest will enable man to understand the deeper side of human nature. A time will come — and it must not pass unnoticed — when out of the spiritual world men will receive through their Angel an impulse that will kindle a far deeper interest in every individual human being than we are inclined to have today. This enhanced interest in our fellow-men will not unfold in the subjective, leisurely way that people would prefer, but by a sudden impetus a certain secret will be inspired into man from the spiritual side, namely, what the other man really is. By this I mean something quite concrete — not any kind of theoretical consideration. Men will learn something whereby their interest in every individual can be kindled. That is the one point — and that is what will particularly affect the social life.
Secondly: From the spiritual world the Angel will reveal to man that, in addition to everything else, the Christ Impulse postulates complete freedom in matters of religions life, that the only true Christianity is the Christianity which makes possible absolute freedom in the religious life.
And thirdly: Unquestionable insight into the spiritual nature of the world.
As I have said, this event ought to take place in such a way that the Spiritual Soul in man participates in it. This is impending in the evolution of humanity, for the Angel is working to this end through the pictures woven in man's astral body.
But let it be emphasized that this impending event confronts the will of man. Many things that should lead to conscious awareness of this event may be and indeed are being left undone.
But as you know, there are other beings working in world-evolution, beings who are interested in deflecting man from his proper course: these are the Ahrimanic and the Luciferic beings. What I have just said belongs to the divinely willed evolution of mankind. If man were to follow the dictates of his own proper nature, he could not very well fail to perceive what the Angel is unfolding in his astral body; but the aim of the Luciferic beings is to tear men away from insight into the work of the Angels. And they set about doing this by curbing man's free will. They try to cloud his understanding of the exercise of his free will. True, they desire to make him good — for from the aspect of which I am now speaking, Lucifer desires that there shall be goodness, spirituality, in man — but automatic goodness, automatic spirituality — without free will. Lucifer desires that man shall be led automatically, in accordance with perfectly good principles, to clairvoyance — but he wants to deprive him of his free will, to remove from him the possibility of evil-doing. Lucifer wants to make man into a being who, it is true, acts out of the spirit, but acts as a reflection, as an automaton, without free will.
This is connected with certain specific secrets of evolution. As you know, the Luciferic beings have remained stationary at other stages of evolution and they introduce an element that is foreign to the normal evolutionary process. They are deeply interested in so seizing hold of man that he does not unfold free will, because they themselves have not acquired free will. Free will can be acquired only on the Earth, but the Luciferic beings want to have nothing to do with the Earth; they want only Saturn-, Sun-, Moon-evolution, and to remain at those stages. In a sense they hate the free will of man. Their manner of acting is highly spiritual, but it is automatic — that is a point of great significance — and they want to lift man to their own spiritual heights, to make him an automaton — a spiritual, but an automatically spiritual, being. Thereby on the one side the danger would arise that prematurely, before his Spiritual Soul is in full function, man would become a being whose actions are those of a spiritual puppet and he would sleep through the impending revelation.
But the Ahrimanic beings too are working to obscure this revelation. They are not at pains to make man particularly spiritual, but rather to kill out in him the consciousness of his own spirituality. They endeavor to instill into him the conviction that he is nothing but a completely developed animal. Ahriman is in truth the teacher par excellence of materialistic Darwinism. He is also the great teacher of all those technical and practical pursuits in Earth-evolution where there is refusal to acknowledge the validity of anything except the external life of the senses, where the only desire is for a widespread technology, so that with somewhat greater refinement, men shall satisfy their hunger, thirst, and other needs in the same way as the animal. To kill, to darken, in man the consciousness that he is an image of the Godhead — this is what the Ahrimanic beings are endeavoring by subtle scientific means of every kind to achieve in our age of the Spiritual Soul.
In earlier epochs it would have been of no avail to the Ahrimanic beings to obscure the truth from men by theories in this way. And why? Even during the Greco-Latin age, but still more so in the earlier epoch when man still had the pictures of atavistic clairvoyance, how he thought was entirely a matter of indifference: he had his pictures and these pictures were windows through which he looked into the spiritual world. Whatever Ahriman might have insinuated to man concerning his relation to the animals would have had no effect at all upon his way of life. Thought has for the first time become really powerful — one could also say, powerful in its ineptitude — in our fifth post-Atlantean epoch, since the fifteenth century. Only since then has thinking been competent to bring the Spiritual Soul into the realm of the spirit, but at the same time also to hinder it from entering the spiritual world. Only now are we experiencing the age when a theory or a science, by the path of consciousness, robs man of his divinity, of his knowledge of the Divine. Only in the age of the Spiritual or Consciousness Soul is this possible. Hence the Ahrimanic spirits endeavor to spread teachings which obscure man's divine origin.
From this mention of the streams which run counter to the normal, god-willed evolution of man it can be gathered how he must conduct his life, lest the impending revelation finds him in a state of sleep. A great danger may arise, and men must be alert to it. If they are not, instead of the event that should play a momentous part in shaping the future evolution of the Earth, a great danger to this evolution will supervene.
Now, certain spiritual beings achieve their development through men who evolve together with them. The Angels who unfold their pictures in the human astral body are not doing this as a game but in order to achieve something. But because this aim must be achieved in earthly humanity itself, the whole matter would become a game if, having reached the stage of the Spiritual Soul, men deliberately ignore it. It would become a game! The Angels would be playing a game in the evolution of man's astral body! Only when this activity is realized in humanity itself is it not a game but serious business.
From this you can realize that the work of the Angels is, and under all circumstances must remain, serious. Just imagine what conditions would be behind the scenes of existence if through their somnolence men were able to turn the work of the Angels into a game!
And what if this should happen after all? What if humanity on Earth should persist in sleeping through the momentous spiritual revelation of the future? If this were to happen in respect of the freedom of the religious life — for example, if men were to sleep through the repetition of the Mystery of Golgotha on the etheric plane, the reappearance of the etheric Christ, or other matters as well — then the Angels would have to try different means of achieving what the pictures they weave in the astral body of man are intended to achieve. If men do not allow this to be achieved in the astral body while they are awake, the Angels would, in this case, endeavor to fulfill their aims through their sleeping bodies. Therefore what the Angels could not achieve because in their waking life men slept through it would be achieved with the help of the physical and etheric bodies of men during actual sleep. It is there that the Angels would seek forces required for the fulfillment of what could not be achieved through men in their wide-awake consciousness when the souls were within the etheric and physical bodies in the waking state. It would be achieved by means of the etheric and physical bodies in the sleeping state, when human beings who ought to be awake to what is going on were outside these bodies with their ego and astral body.
Here lies the great danger for the age of the Spiritual Soul. This is what might still happen if, before the beginning of the third millennium, men were to refuse to turn to the spiritual life. The third millennium begins with the year 2000, so it is only a short time ahead of us. It might still happen that the aim of the Angels in their work would have to be achieved by means of the sleeping bodies of men — instead of through men wide-awake. The Angels might still be compelled to withdraw their whole work from the astral body and to submerge it in the etheric body in order to bring it to fulfillment. But then, in his real being, man would have no part in it. It would have to be performed in the etheric body while man himself was not there, just because if he were there in the waking state he would obstruct it.
I have now given you a general picture of these things. But what would be the outcome if the Angels were obliged to perform this work without man himself participating, to carry it out in his etheric and physical bodies during sleep?
The outcome in the evolution of humanity would unquestionably be threefold. Firstly, something would be engendered in the sleeping human bodies — while the ego and astral body were not within them — and man would meet with it on waking in the morning ... but then it would become instinct instead of conscious spiritual activity and therefore baleful. It is so indeed: certain instinctive knowledge that will arise in human nature, instinctive knowledge connected with the mystery of birth and conception, with sexual life as a whole, threatens to become baleful if the danger of which I have spoken takes effect. Certain Angels would then themselves undergo a change — a change of which I cannot speak, because this is a subject belonging to the higher secrets of initiation-science which may not yet be disclosed. But this much can certainly be said: The effect in the evolution of humanity would be that certain instincts connected with the sexual life would arise in a pernicious form instead of wholesomely, in clear waking consciousness. These instincts would not be mere aberrations but would pass over into and configure the social life, would above all prevent men — through what would then enter their blood as the effect of the sexual life — from unfolding brotherhood in any form whatever on the Earth, and would rather induce them to rebel against it. This would be a matter of instinct.
So the crucial point lies ahead when either the path to the right can be taken — but that demands wakefulness — or the path to the left, which permits of sleep. But in that case instincts come on the scene — instincts of a fearful kind.
And what do you suppose the scientific experts will say when such instincts come into evidence? They will say that it is a natural and inevitable development in the evolution of humanity. Light cannot be shed on such matters by natural science, for whether men become angels or devils would be equally capable of explanation by scientific reasoning. Science will say the same in both cases: the later is the outcome of the earlier ... so grand and wise is the interpretation of nature in terms of causality! Natural science will be totally blind to the event of which I have told you, for if men become half devils through their sexual instincts, science will as a matter of course regard this as a natural necessity. Scientifically, then, the matter is simply not capable of explanation, for whatever happens, everything can be explained by science. The fact is that such things can be understood only by spiritual, supersensible cognition. That is one aspect.
The second aspect is that from this work which involves changes affecting the Angels themselves, still another result accrues for humanity: instinctive knowledge of certain medicaments — but knowledge of a baleful kind!
Everything connected with medicine will make a great advance in the materialistic sense. Men will acquire instinctive insights into the medicinal properties of certain substances and certain treatments — and thereby do terrible harm. But the harm will be called useful. A sick man will be called healthy, for it will be perceived that the particular treatment applied leads to something pleasing. People will actually like things that make the human being — in a certain direction — unhealthy.
Knowledge of the medicinal effects of certain processes and treatments will be enhanced, but this will lead into very baleful channels. For man will come to know through certain instincts what kind of illnesses can be induced by particular substances and treatments. And it will then be possible for him either to bring about or not to bring about illnesses, entirely as suits his egotistical purposes.
The third result will be this. Man will get to know of definite forces which, simply by means of quite easy manipulations — by bringing into accord certain vibrations — will enable him to unleash tremendous mechanical forces in the world. Instinctively he will come to realize in this way the possibility of exercising a certain spiritual guidance and control of the mechanistic principle — and the whole of technical science will sail into desolate waters. But human egoism will find these desolate waters of tremendous use and benefit.
This, my friends, is a fragment of concrete knowledge of the evolution of existence, a fragment of a conception of life which can be truly assessed only by those who realize that an unspiritual view of life can never grow clear about these things. If a form of medicine injurious to humanity were ever to take root, if a terrible aberration of the sexual instincts were to arise, if there were baleful doings in the sphere of the purely mechanistic forces of the world, in the application of the forces of nature by means of spiritual powers, an unspiritual conception of life would see through none of these things, would not perceive how they deviate from the true path. The sleeper, as long as sleep lasts, does not see the approach of a thief who is about to rob him; he is unaware of it and at most he finds out later on, when he wakes, what has been done to him. But it would be a bad awakening for humanity! Man would pride himself upon the growth of his instinctive knowledge of certain processes and substances and would experience such satisfaction in obeying certain aberrations of the sexual impulses that he would regard them as evidence of a particularly high development of superhumanity, of freedom from convention, of broad-mindedness! In a certain respect, ugliness would be beauty and beauty, ugliness. Nothing of this would be perceived because it would all be regarded as natural necessity. But it would denote an aberration from the path which, in the nature of humanity itself, is prescribed for man's essential being.
If a feeling has been acquired of how spiritual science penetrates into and affects our whole attitude of mind, I believe that there can also arise the earnestness required for receiving such truths as have been presented today. From this earnestness there can stem what ought indeed to stem from all spiritual science: the acknowledgment of definite obligations, of definite responsibilities in life. Whatever our position may be, whatever we have to do in the world, the essential thing is to foster the thought that our conduct must be permeated and illumined by our anthroposophical consciousness. Then we contribute something toward the true progress of humanity.
If a man ever believes that true  spiritual science, earnestly and worthily pursued, may divert him from practical and necessary activity in life, he is entirely misguided. True spiritual science begets vigilance — an awakening in regard to matters such as those I have presented today. It may be asked: Is waking life, then, really harmful to sleep? If we choose to draw this parallel — namely that insight into the spiritual world is itself a greater awakening from ordinary waking life, just as the ordinary waking is an awakening from sleep — then in order to follow the comparison, we can indeed ask the question: Can waking life ever be harmful to sleep?
Yes — if waking life is not what it ought to be! If a man spends his waking life as it ought to be spent, his sleep will also be healthy, and if in his waking life he is drowsy or lazy, happy-go-lucky or indolent, then his sleep too will be unhealthy. And it is the same in regard to the waking life we acquire as the result of our study of spiritual science. If spiritual science enables us to establish a true relation to the spiritual world, our interest in the familiar facts of physical life will be guided into the right channels — just as a healthy waking life brings order and direction into sleep.
Anyone who looks at life, particularly in our own age, must himself be asleep if he does not notice a number of things. How men have preened themselves on their conduct of life, particularly during the last few decades! Things have finally come to the point where the leading positions everywhere are held by those who are most contemptuous of the ideal, of the spiritual. People managed to go on declaiming about their conduct of this life as long as mankind had not actually been dragged into the abyss. Now a few — mostly out of instinct — are actually beginning to croak that a new age must come, with all kinds of new ideals. But it is all so much croaking. And if things have to come about instinctively, without conscious penetration into spiritual science on the part of men, they would lead to the decline of what ought to be experienced in the waking state rather than to any wholesome transition in evolution.
One who today makes impassioned speeches to men in the words they have so long been accustomed to hear can still usually count on some applause. But men will have to get used to listening to different words, different ways of putting things, if a social cosmos is again to arise out of chaos.
If, in some epoch, the men who ought to be vigilant fail in this respect and do not discern what really ought to happen, then nothing real does happen. Instead, the ghost of the preceding epoch walks — as the ghosts of the past are walking in many religious communities today, and as the ghost of ancient Rome still haunts the sphere of jurisprudence. In the age of the Spiritual Soul, spiritual science must make men free in just this way, must lead them to perception of a spiritual fact: What the Angel is doing in our astral body. To speak abstractly about Angels and so on can at most be the beginning; progress requires that we speak concretely — which means that in reference to our own epoch we find the answer to the question nearest to us. This question concerns us most nearly, for the simple reason that in our astral body the Angel is weaving pictures that are to determine our future form, and this determination is to be brought about through the Spiritual Soul.
If we had not the Spiritual Soul, there would be no need to exert ourselves, for then other spirits, other  hierarchies, would certainly step in to bring to fulfillment what the Angel is weaving. But because our task is to unfold the Spiritual Soul, no other spirits step in to carry the work of the Angels into effect.
Other Angels, of course, were at work in the Egyptian epoch. But other spirits soon made their entry, and the work of the Angel was obscured from men through their own atavistic clairvoyance. Their clairvoyance wove a veil, a dark veil, over the pictures. But now man must unveil them. Therefore it behooves him not to sleep through what is being inculcated into his conscious life in the epoch that will end before the third millennium does. Let us draw from anthroposophical spiritual science not only teachings, but resolutions as well! They will give us strength to be vigilant and alert. We can season ourselves to be watchful human beings by paying heed to many things. We can make a beginning in this direction now; we can discover that in reality no single day passes without a miracle happening in our life. This last sentence can be turned, and we can also say: If on some day we find no miracle in our life, then we have merely overlooked it. Try one evening to survey your life and you will find in it some event of slight or great or middling importance of which you will be able to say: It came into my life and took effect in a truly remarkable way. You can realize this, provided only that you think comprehensively enough, provided only that you have in your mind's eye a sufficiently comprehensive picture of the circumstances and connections of life. But in the ordinary course this does not happen, because as a rule we do not ask ourselves: What was it that was prevented from happening by this or that occurrence?
We do not usually trouble about the things that have been prevented but which, if they had happened, would have fundamentally changed our life. Behind these things which in some way or other have been kept out of our lives there is very, very much that educates us into becoming vigilant human beings. What manner of things might have happened to me today? If we ask ourselves this question every evening and then think of particular occurrences which could have had this or that result, observations will couple themselves with such questions and introduce the element of vigilance into the exercise of self-discipline. This is something that can be a beginning, and of itself leads on and on, until finally we do not explore only into what it meant in our life when, for example, we wanted to go out, say, at half-past ten one morning and at the last moment somebody turned up and stopped us ... we are annoyed at being stopped, but we do not enquire what might have happened if we had actually gone out as we had planned. What is it that has been changed?
I have already spoken here in greater detail about such matters. From observation of the negative in our life — which can, however, bear witness to the wisdom guiding it — to observation of the Angel weaving and working in our astral body there is a direct path, a direct and unerring path that can be trodden.