The Life, Nature, and Cultivation of Anthroposophy
VII. The Work in the Society
2 March 1924
In the lectures to the Anthroposophical Society which I am now giving at the Goetheanum, I am seeking to give expression to the root-questions of the inner life of Man. The underlying point of view has been indicated in the first five ‘Leading Thoughts’ published in the News Sheet. My object has been to meet the fundamental need of an anthroposophical lecture. The listener must feel that Anthroposophy is speaking of what he, when he holds counsel with himself most deeply, realises as the essential concern of his soul. If we can thus find the right way of representing Anthroposophy, there will arise among the members the feeling that in the Anthroposophical Society the human being is truly understood.
And this is the fundamental impulse in those who become members. They want to find a place where the understanding of Man is duly cultivated.
When we earnestly seek to understand the human being, we are indeed already on the way to recognition of the spiritual being of the World. For we are made aware that, as to Man himself, our knowledge of Nature affords no information but only gives rise to questions.
If in representing Anthroposophy we tend to lead the soul away from love of Nature, confusion alone is the result. The true starting-point of anthroposophical thoughts cannot lie in the belittling of what Nature reveals to Man. To despise Nature, to turn away from the truth which flows to Man from the phenomena of life and the world, or from the beauty that pervades them and the tasks they offer to man's will: this frame of mind can at most produce a caricature of spiritual truth.
Such a caricature will always be tinged with the personal element. Even if it is not composed of dreams, it will be experienced in a dreaming way. In waking life man lives with other men, and his effort must be for mutual understanding on things of common interest. What one man states must have some meaning for the other; what one achieves by his work, must have a certain value for the other. Men who live with one another must have the feeling that they are in a common world. But when a man is living in his own dreams he cuts himself off from the common world of men. The dreams of another — even his nearest neighbour — may be utterly different from his. In waking life men have a world in common; in dreaming each man has his own.
Anthroposophy should lead from waking life, not to a dreaming, but to a more intense awakening. In everyday life we have community indeed, but it is confined within narrow limits. We are banished to a certain fragment of existence, and only in our inner hearts we bear a longing for life's fullness. We feel that the true community of human life extends beyond the confines of the everyday. We look away from the Earth to the Sun when we would see the source of light common to all earthly things. So too we must turn away from the world of the senses to the reality of the Spirit to find the true sources of humanity where the soul can experience the fullness of community it needs.
Here it may easily happen that we turn away from life instead of entering it more fully and more strongly. The man who despises Nature has fallen a victim to this danger. He is driven into that isolation of the soul, of which ordinary dreaming is a good example.
Let us rather educate our minds by contact with the light of truth which streams into the soul of man from Nature. Then we shall best develop the sense for the truths of Man, which are at the same time the truths of the Cosmos. The truths of Nature, experienced with free and open mind, lead us already toward the truths of the Spirit. When we fill ourselves with the beauty, greatness and majesty of Nature, it grows in us to a fountain of true feeling for the Spirit. And when we open our heart to the silent gesture of Nature revealing her eternal innocence beyond all good and evil, our eyes are opened presently to the spiritual world, from whence — into the dumb gesture — the living Word rings forth, revealing good and evil.
Spirit-perception, brought up in the loving perception of Nature, brings to life the true riches of the soul. Spiritual dreaming, elaborated in contradiction to true knowledge of Nature, can but impoverish the human heart.
If one penetrates Anthroposophy in its deepest essence one will feel the point of view here indicated to be the one from which all anthroposophical descriptions should take their start. With this as our point of departure, we shall come into living touch with the reality, of which every member will say, ‘There lies the true reason why I entered the Anthroposophical Society’.
It will not be enough, for the members who wish to be active in the Anthroposophical Society, to be theoretically convinced of this. Real life will only enter their conviction when they unfold a warm interest in all that goes on in the Society. As they learn of what is being thought and done by active individuals in the Society, they will receive the warmth they need for their own work in it. We must be filled with interest in other human beings, to meet them in an anthroposophical way. The study of ‘What is going on in the Society’ must gradually form the background of all our activity in it. Those above all who wish to be active members will stand in need of this.