17 June 1923, Dornach
Today we will have to reach some kind of conclusion in our deliberations. Clearly that will have to include drawing the consequences which arise for the future action of the Anthroposophical Society. In order to gain a better understanding of what this action might be, let us take another look at the way anthroposophy emerged in modern civilization.
From the reflections of the last eight days, you will have realized how an interest in anthroposophy was at first to be found in those circles where the impulse for a deeper spiritual understanding was already present. This impulse came from all kinds of directions. In our context, however, it was only necessary to look at the way homeless souls were motivated by the material which Blavatsky presented to the present age in the form of what might be called a riddle.
But if the Anthroposophical Society can be traced back to this impulse, it should, on the other hand, also have become clear that this material was not central to anthroposophy itself. For anthroposophy as such relies on quite different sources. If you go back to my early writings, Christianity As Mystical Fact and Eleven European Mystics, you will see that they are not based in any way on material which came from Blavatsky or from that direction in general, save for the forms of expression which were chosen to ensure that they were understood.
Anthroposophy goes back directly to the subject matter which is dealt with in philosophical terms in my The Philosophy of Freedom, as well as in my writings on Goethe of the 1880s. 1Goethe the Scientist. Translated by O. D. Wannamaker. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1950. See also Rudolf Steiner. A Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethes World Conception (1886). Translated by O. D. Wannamaker. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1940. If you examine that material, you will see that its essential point is that human beings are connected with a spiritual world in the most profound part of their psyche. If they therefore penetrate deeply enough, they will encounter something to which the natural sciences in their present form have no access, something which can only be seen as belonging directly to a spiritual world order.
Indeed, it should be recognized that it is almost inevitable that turns of phrase sometimes have to be used which might sound paradoxical, given the immense spiritual confusion of language which our modern civilization has produced. Thus it can be seen from my writings on Goethe 2See, for example, Goethean Science. Translated by W. Lindemann, Mercury Press, New York, 1988. Chapter XI: Relationship of the Goethean Way of Thinking to Other Views. that it is necessary to modify our concept of love, if we are to progress from observation of the world to observation of the divine-spiritual. I indicated that the Godhead has to be thought of as having permeated all existence with eternal love and thus has to be sought in every single being, something quite different from any sort of vague pantheism. But there was no philosophical tradition in that period on which I could build. That is why it was necessary to seek this connection through someone who possessed a richer, more intense life, an inner life which was saturated with spiritual substance.
That was precisely the case with Goethe. When it came to putting my ideas in book form, I was therefore unable to build a theory of knowledge on what existed in contemporary culture, but had to link it with a Goethean world conception, 3Note 1 above. and on that basis the first steps into the spiritual world were possible.
Goethe provides two openings which give a certain degree of access into the spiritual world. The first one is through his scientific writings. For the scientific view he developed overcomes an obstacle in relation to the plant world which is still unresolved in modern science. In his observation of the vegetable realm, he was able to substitute living, flexible ideas for dead concepts. Although he failed to translate his theory of metamorphosis into the animal world, it was nevertheless possible to draw the conclusion that similar ideas on a higher level could be applied. I tried to show in my Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethes World Conception how Goethe's revitalizing ideas made it possible to advance to the level of history, historical existence. That was the one point of entry.
There is, however, no direct continuation into the spiritual world, as such, from this particular starting-point in Goethe. But in working with these ideas it becomes evident that they take hold of the physical world in a spiritual way. By making use of Goethe's methodology, we are moving in a spiritual environment which enables us to understand the spiritual element active in the plant or the animal.
But Goethe also approached the spiritual world from another angle, from a perspective which he was able to indicate only through images, one might almost say symbolically. In his Fairy Tale of the Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily, 4See Lecture One, Note 6. See also Goethes Marchen von der grunen Schlange und der schnen Lilie with nine drawings by Assia Turgenieff, drawn according to a chiaroscuro technique set out by Rudolf Steiner. Dornach, 1929. he wished to show how a spiritual element is active in the development of the world, how the individual spheres of truth, beauty and goodness act together, and how real spiritual beings, not mere abstract concepts, have to be grasped if we want to observe the real life of the spirit.
It was thus possible to build on this element of Goethe's world view. But that made something else all the more necessary. For the first thing we have to think about when we talk about a conception of the world which will satisfy homeless souls is morality and ethics. In those ancient times in which human beings had access to the divine through their natural clairvoyance, it was taken for granted that moral impulses also came from this divine spiritual principle. Natural phenomena, the action of the wind and the weather, of the earth and of mechanical processes, represented to these ancient human beings an extension of what they perceived as the divine spiritual principle. But at the same time they also received the impulses for their own actions from that source. That is the distinguishing feature of this ancient view of the world. In ancient Egyptian times, for example, people looked up to the stars in order to learn what would happen on earth, even to the extent of gaining insight into the conditions which governed the flooding of the Nile to support their needs. But by the same means they calculated, if I may use that term, what came to expression as moral impulses. Those, too, were derived from their observation of the stars.
If we look now to the modern situation, observation of the stars has become purely a business in which physical mathematics is simply transferred into the starry sky. And on earth so-called laws of nature are discovered and investigated. These laws of nature, which Goethe transformed into living ideas, are remarkable in that the human being as such is excluded from the world.
If we think in diagrammatic form of the content of the old metaphysical conceptions, we have the divine spiritual principle here on the one hand (red). The divine spirit penetrated natural phenomena. Laws were found for these natural phenomena, but they were recognized as something akin to a reflection of divine action in nature (yellow). Then there was the human being (light colouring). The same divine spirit penetrated human beings, who received their substance, as it were, from the same divine spirit which also gave nature its substance.
What happened next, however, had serious consequences. Through natural science the link between nature and the divine was severed. The divine was removed from nature, and the reflection of the divine in nature began to be interpreted as the laws of nature.
For the ancients these laws of nature were divine thoughts. For modern people they are still thoughts, because they have to be grasped by the intellect, but they are explained on the basis of the natural phenomena which are governed by these laws of nature. We talk about the law of gravity, the law of the refraction of light, and lots of other fine things. But they have no real foundation, or rather they are not elevating, for the only way to give real meaning to these laws is to refer to them as a reflection of divine action in nature.
That is what the more profound part of the human being, the homeless
soul, feels when we talk about nature today. It feels that those who
talk about nature in such a superficial way deserve the Goethean —
or, actually, the Mephistophelean — epithet: and mock themselves
I, in the scene of Faust's Study. In the Penguin Classics edition of
Faust/Part One, Philip Wayne translates the relevant passage as
To docket living things past any doubt
You cancel first the living spirit out:
The parts lie in the hollow of your hand,
You only lack the living link you banned.
This sweet self-irony, in learned thesis,
The chemists call naturae encheiresis. People talk about the laws of nature, but the latter are remnants from ancient knowledge, a knowledge which still contained that additional element which underlies the natural laws.
Imagine a rose bush. It will flower repeatedly. When the old roses wither away, new ones grow. But if you pick the roses and allow the bush to die the process stops. That is what has happened to the natural sciences. There was a rose bush with its roots in the divine. The laws which were discovered in nature were the individual roses. These laws, the roses, were picked. The rose bush was left to wither. Thus our laws of nature are rather like roses without the rose bush: not a great deal of use to human beings. People simply fail to understand this in those clever heads of theirs, by which so much store is set in our modern times. But homeless souls do have an inkling of this in their hearts, because the laws of nature wither away when they want to relate to them as human beings.
Modern mankind therefore unconsciously experiences the feeling, in so far as it still has the capacity to feel, that it is being told something about nature which withers the human being. A terrible belief in authority forces people to accept this as pure truth. While they feel in their hearts that the roses are withering away, they are forced into a belief that these roses represent eternal truths. They are referred to as the eternal laws which underlie the world. Phenomena may pass, but the laws are immutable. In the sense that anthroposophy represents what human beings want to develop from within themselves as their self-awareness, natural science represents anti-anthroposophy.
We need still to consider the other side, the ethical and moral. Ethical and moral impulses came from the same divine source. But just as the laws of nature were turned into withering roses, so moral impulses met the same fate. Their roots disappeared and they were left free-floating in civilization as moral imperatives of unknown origin. People could not help but feel that the divine origin of moral commandments had been lost. And that raised the essential question of what would happen if they were no longer obeyed? Chaos and anarchy would reign in human society.
This was juxtaposed with another question: How do these commandments work? Where do we find their roots? Yet again, the sense of something withering away was inescapable. Goethe raised these questions, but was unable to answer them. He presented two starting-points which, although they moved in a convergent direction, never actually came together. The Philosophy of Freedom was required for that.
It had to be shown where the divine is located in human beings, the divine which enables them to discover the spiritual basis of nature as well as of moral laws. That led to the concept of Intuition presented in The Philosophy of Freedom, to what was called ethical individualism. Ethical individualism, because the source of the moral impulses in each individual had to be shown to reside in that divine element with which human beings are connected in their innermost being.
The time had arrived in which a living understanding of the laws of nature on the one hand and the moral commandments on the other had been lost; because the divine could no longer be perceived in the external world it could not be otherwise in the age of freedom. But that being so, it was necessary to find this divine spiritual principle within human beings in their capacity as individuals. That produced a conception of the world which you will see, if you only consider it clearly, leads directly to anthroposophy.
Let us assume that we have human beings here. It is rather a primitive sketch but it will do. Human beings are connected with the divine spirit in their innermost selves (red). This divine spiritual principle develops into a divine spiritual world order (yellow). By observing the inner selves of all human beings in combination, we are able to penetrate the divine spiritual sphere in the same way as the latter was achieved in ancient times by looking outward and seeing the divine spirit in physical phenomena, through primitive clairvoyance.
Our purpose must be to gain access to the spirit, not in an outer materialistic way, but through the real recognition of the essential human self.
In fact The Philosophy of Freedom also represents the point when anthroposophy came into being, if our observations are guided by life rather than by theoretical considerations. Anyone who argues that this book is not yet anthroposophical in nature is being rather too clever. It is as if we were to say that there was a person called Goethe who wrote a variety of works, and this were then to be challenged by someone claiming that it was hardly a consistent view, on the grounds that a child was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1749 who was blue at birth and not expected to live, and that Goethe's works had no logical connection with that child. That is not a particularly clever standpoint, is it? It is just as silly to say that it is inconsistent to argue that anthroposophy developed from The Philosophy of Freedom. The Philosophy of Freedom continued to live, like the blue baby in Frankfurt did, and anthroposophy developed from it.
Those who are involved in the contemporary development of so-called logic and philosophy have lost the capacity to include real life in their considerations, to incorporate what is springing up and sprouting all around them, what goes beyond the pedantic practice of logic.
The task, then, was to make a critical assessment of those representatives of contemporary life who were endeavouring to bring progress to human civilization.
As you are aware, I concentrated on two important phenomena. The first was Nietzsche, who, in contrast to everyone else, was honest in his response to the direction in which modern thinking was developing.
What was the general verdict in the 1890s? It was that natural science was, of course, right. We stand on the terra firma of science and look up at the stars. There was the instance of the conversation between Napoleon and the great astronomer Laplace. 6Could not be traced. Napoleon could not understand how God was to be found by looking at the stars through a telescope. The astronomer responded that this conjecture was irrelevant. And it was, of course, irrelevant when Laplace observed the stars with a telescope. But it was not irrelevant from the moment that he wanted to be a human being. Microscopes allowed the investigation of micro-organisms and the smallest components of living things. You could look through a microscope for as long as you wished, but there was not the slightest trace of soul or spirit. The soul or the spirit could be found neither in the stars nor under the microscope. And so it went on. This is what Nietzsche came up against.
Others responded by accepting that we look through a telescope at the stars and see physical worlds but nothing else. At the same time they said we also have a religious life, a religion which tells us that the spirit exists. We cannot find the spirit anywhere, but we have faith in its existence all the same. The science which we are committed to believe in is unable to find the spirit anywhere. Science is the way it is because it seeks reality; if it were to take any other form it would be divorced from reality. In other words, anybody who undertakes a different type of research will not find reality! Therefore we know about reality, and at the same time believe in something which cannot be established as a reality. Nevertheless, our forefathers tell us it should be reality.
Such an attitude led to tremendous dilemmas for a soul like Nietzsche's, which had maintained its integrity. One day he realized he would have to draw the line somewhere. How did he do that? He did it by arguing that reality is what is investigated by natural science. Everything else is invalid. Christianity teaches that Christ should not be sought in the reality which is investigated with the telescope and the microscope. But there is no other reality. As a consequence there is no justification for Christianity. Therefore, Nietzsche said, I will write The Anti-Christ.
People accept the ethical commandments which are floating around or which authority tells us must be obeyed, but they cannot be discovered through scientific research. Under his Revaluation of Values Nietzsche therefore wished to write a second book, in which he showed that all ideals should be abandoned because they cannot be found in reality.
Furthermore, he argued that moral principles certainly cannot be deduced from the telescope or the microscope, and on that basis he decided to develop a philosophy of amorality. Thus the first three books of Revaluation of Values should have been called: first book, Anti-Christ; second book, Nihilism or the Abolition of Ideals; third book, Amorality or the Abolition of the Universal Moral Order.
It was a terrible stance to adopt, of course, but his standpoint took to its final and honest conclusion what had been started by others. We will not understand the nerve centres of modern civilization if we do not observe these things. It was something which had to be confronted. The enormous error of Nietzsche's thinking had to be demonstrated and corrected by returning to his premises, and then showing that they had to be understood as leading not into the void but into the spirit. The confrontation with Nietzsche 7Rudolf Steiner. Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom. Translated by M. Ingram de Ris. Rudolf Steiner Publications, New Jersey, 1960. was thus a necessity.
Haeckel, too, had to be confronted in the same way. 8See Rudolf Steiner's essay and lecture of 5 October 1905 in Two Essays on Haeckel. Rudolf Steiner Publishing Co. and Anthroposophic Press (undated), GA 54 and GA 30. Haeckel's thinking had pursued the approach of natural science to the evolution of physical beings with a certain consistency. That had to be utilized in my first anthroposophical lectures with the help of Topinard's book. 9See also Lecture 2, Note 10. This kind of procedure made it possible to enter the real spiritual world. The details could then be worked on through further research, through continuing to live with the spiritual world.
I have said all this in order to make the following point. If we want to trace anthroposophy back to its roots, it has to be done against a background of illustrations from modern civilization. When we look at the development of the Anthroposophical Society we need to keep in mind the question: Where were the people who were open enough to understand matters of the spirit? They were the people who, because of the special nature of their homeless souls, were prompted by Blavatsky and theosophy to search for the spirit.
The Theosophical Society and anthroposophy went alongside one another at the beginning of the twentieth century simply because of existing circumstances. That development had been fully outgrown in the third stage, which began approximately in 1914. No traces were left, even in the forms of expression. Right from the beginning the thrust of anthroposophical spiritual work included the aim of penetrating the Mystery of Golgotha and Christianity. The other direction of its work, however, had to be to understand natural science by spiritual means. The acquisition of those spiritual means which would once again enable the presentation of true Christianity in our age began in the first phase and was worked on particularly in the second one.
The work which was to be done in a scientific direction really only emerged in the third stage, when people working in the scientific field found their way into the anthroposophical movement. They should take particular care, if we are to avoid the repeated introduction of new misunderstandings into the anthroposophical movement, to take full cognizance of the fact that we have to work from the central sources of anthroposophy. It is absolutely necessary to be clear about this.
I believe it was in 1908 that I made the following remarks 10In 1907 and 1908 Rudolf Steiner delivered public lectures in various cities on the subject “Natural science at the crossroads”. The one in Nuremberg took place on 1 December 1907. The reference could not be traced more precisely. in Nuremberg, in order to describe a very specific state of affairs. Modern scientific experimentation has led to substantial scientific progress. That can only be a good thing, for spiritual beings are at work in such experimentation. The scientist goes to the laboratory and pursues his work according to the routines and methods he has learnt. But a whole group of spiritual beings are working alongside him, and it is they who actually bring about results; for the person standing at the laboratory bench only creates the conditions which allow such results to emerge gradually. If that were not the case, things would not have developed as they have in modern times.
Whenever discoveries are made they are clothed in exceedingly abstract formulae which others find incomprehensible. There is a yawning gap today between what people understand and what is produced by research, because people do not have access to the underlying spiritual impulses.
That is how things are. Let us return once more to that excellent person, Julius Robert Mayer. 11See Lecture 3, Note 5. cf. Kleinere Schriften und Briefe von Robert Mayer nebst Mitteilungen aus seinem Leben. Ed. Weyrauch. Stuttgart, 1893. Also Weyrauch. Robert Mayer. Stuttgart, 1890. Today he is acknowledged as an eminent scientist, but as a student at Tubingen University he came close to being advised to leave before graduating. He scraped through his medical exams, was recruited as a ship's doctor and took part in a voyage to India. It was a rough passage; many people on board became ill and he had to bleed them on arrival.
Now doctors know, of course, that arterial blood is more red than venous blood which has a bluer tinge. If one bleeds someone from the vein, bluish blood should therefore spurt out. Julius Robert Mayer had to bleed many people, but something peculiar happened when he made his incisions. He must have cursed inwardly, because he thought he had hit the wrong place, an artery, since red blood appeared to be spurting out of the vein. The same thing happened in every case and he became quite confused. Finally he reached the conclusion that he had made his incisions in the right place after all but, as people had become sick at sea, something had happened to make the venous blood more red than blue, nearer the colour of arterial blood.
Thus a modern person made a tremendous discovery without in any way seeking the spiritual connections. The modern scientist says: Energy is transformed into heat and heat into energy, as in the steam engine. The same thing happens in the human body. Since the ship had sailed into a warmer, tropical climate, the body needed to burn less oxygen to produce heat, resulting in less of a transformation into blue blood. The blood remained redder in the veins. The law governing the transformation of matter and energy, which we recognize today, is deduced from this observation.
Let us imagine that something similar was experienced by a doctor not in the nineteenth, but in the eleventh or twelfth century. It would never have occurred to him to deduce the mechanical concept of heat equivalence from such observations. Paracelsus, 12Theophrastus Bombastus Paracelsus von Hohenheim, 1493–1541. cf. Rudolf Steiner's lecture in Berlin on 26 April 1906, “Paracelsus”, in GA 54; typescript (NSL 154) in Rudolf Steiner House library, London. Also Eleven European Mystics, pp. 100ff. for instance, would never have thought of it, not even in his sleep, although Paracelsus was a much more clever, even in sleep, than some others when they are awake. So what would a hypothetical doctor in the tenth, eleventh or twelfth centuries have said? Or someone like Paracelsus in the sixteenth century?
Van Helmont 13Johann Baptist van Helmont, 1577–1644. Great Dutch doctor and philosopher. His works appeared under the title Ortus medicinae, Amsterdam 1648, and Opuscula medica inaudita, Cologne 1644. speaks about the archeus, what today we would call the joint function of the etheric and astral bodies. We have to rediscover these things through anthroposophy, since such terms have been forgotten. In a hotter climate the difference between the venous and the arterial blood is no longer so pronounced and the blue blood of the veins becomes redder and the red blood of the arteries bluer. The eleventh or twelfth century doctor would have explained this by saying — and he would have used the term archeus, or something similar, for what we describe as astral body today — that the archeus enters less deeply into the body in hot climates than in temperate zones. In temperate climates human beings are permeated more thoroughly by their astral bodies. The differentiation in the blood which is caused by the astral body occurs more strongly in human beings in temperate zones. People in hotter climates have freer astral bodies, which we can see in the lesser thickening of the blood. They live more instinctively in their astral bodies because they are freer. In consequence they do not become mechanistically thinking Europeans, but spiritually thinking Indians, who at the height of their civilization created a spiritual civilization, a Vedic civilization, while Europeans created the civilization of Comte, John Stuart Mill and Darwin. 14Auguste Comte, 1798–1857. Positivist philosopher. John Stewart Mill, 1806–1873. Philosopher who attempted to provide the logical justification for the positivist method. Charles Darwin, 1809–1882.
Such is the view of the anthropos which the eleventh or twelfth-century doctor would have concluded from bleeding his patient. He would have had no problem with anthroposophy. He would have found access to the spirit, the living spirit. Julius Robert Mayer, the Paracelsus of the nineteenth century if you like, was left to discover laws: nothing can arise from nothing, so energy must be transformed; an abstract formula.
The spiritual element of the human being, which can be rediscovered through anthroposophy, also leads to morality. We return full circle to the investigation of moral principles in The Philosophy of Freedom. Human beings are given entry to a spiritual world in which they are no longer faced with a division between nature and spirit, between nature and morality, but where the two form a union.
As you can see, the leading authorities in modern science arrive at abstract formulae as a result of their work. Such formulae inhabit the brains of those who have had a modern scientific training. Those who teach them regard as pure madness the claim that it is possible to investigate the qualities of red and blue blood and progress from there to the spiritual element in human beings.
You can see what it takes for real scientists who want to make their way into anthroposophy. Something more than mere good intentions is needed. They must have a real commitment to deepening their knowledge to a degree to which we are not accustomed nowadays, least of all if we have had a scientific training. That makes a great deal of courage essential. The latter is the quality we need above all when we take into account the conditions governing the existence of the Anthroposophical Society. In certain respects the Society stands diametrically opposed to what is popularly acceptable. It therefore has no future if it wants to make itself popular. Thus it would be wrong to court popularity, particularly in relation to our endeavours to introduce anthroposophical working methods into all areas of society, as we have attempted to do since 1919. 15A detailed list of the institutions in the fields of science, education, curative education, medicine, publishing, the economy, and theology which were established on the basis of anthroposophy can be found in GA 37/260a, pp.712–724. cf also the lecture in Dornach on 2 March 1923 in Awakening to Community. Instead, we have to pursue the path which is based on the spirit itself, as I discussed this morning in relation to the Goetheanum. 16At the tenth general meeting of the Goetheanum Association on 17 June 1923 in Dornach. Reproduced in Aufbaugedanken und Gesinnungsbildung. Dornach, 1942.
We must learn to adopt such an attitude in all circumstances, otherwise we begin to stray in a way which justifiably makes people confuse us with other movements and judge us by external criteria. If we are determined to provide our own framework we are on the right path to fulfilling the conditions which govern the existence of the anthroposophical movement. But we have to acquire the commitment which will then provide us with the necessary courage.
And we must not ignore those circumstances which arise from the fact that, as anthroposophists, we are a small group. As such we hope that what is spreading among us today will begin to spread among a growing number of people. Then knowledge and ethics, artistic and religious development will move in a new direction.
But all these things which will be present one day through the impulse of anthroposophy, and which will then be regarded as quite ordinary, must be cultivated to a much higher degree by those who make up the small group today. They must feel that they bear the greatest possible responsibility towards the spiritual world. It has to be understood that such an attitude will automatically be reflected in the verdict of the world at large.
As far as those who are not involved with anthroposophy are concerned, nothing can do more profound harm to the Anthroposophical Society than the failure of its members to adopt a form which sets out in the strictest terms what they are trying to achieve, so that they can be distinguished from all sectarian and other movements.
As long as this does not happen, it is not surprising that people around us judge us as they do. It is hard to know what the Anthroposophical Society stands for, and when they meet anthroposophists they see nothing of anthroposophy. For instance, if anthroposophists were recognizable by their pronounced sensitivity to truth and reality, by the display of a sensitive understanding to go no further in their claims than accords with reality, that would make an impression! But I do not want to criticize today but to emphasize the positive side. Will it be achieved? That is the question we have to bear in mind.
Or one might recognize anthroposophists by their avoidance of any display of bad taste and, to the contrary, a certain artistic sense — a sign that the Goetheanum in Dornach must have had some effect. Once again people would know that anthroposophy provides its members with a certain modicum of taste which distinguishes them from others.
Such attitudes, above and beyond what can be laid down in sharply defined concepts, must be among the things which are developed in the Anthroposophical Society if it is to fulfil the conditions governing its existence.
Such matters have been discussed a great deal! But the question which must always be in the forefront is how the Anthroposophical Society can be given that special character which will make people aware that here they have something which distinguishes it from others in a way which rules out any possibility of confusion. That is something anthroposophists should discuss at great length.
These things are a matter of conveying a certain attitude. Life cannot be constrained by programmes. But ask yourselves whether we have fully overcome the attitude within the Anthroposophical Society which dictates that something must be done in a specific way, which lays down rules, and whether there is a strong enough impulse to seek guidance from anthroposophy itself whatever the situation. That does not mean having to read everything in lectures, but that the content of the lectures enters the heart, and that has certain consequences.
Until anthroposophy is taken as a living being who moves invisibly among us, my dear friends, towards whom we feel a certain responsibility, this small group of anthroposophists I must say this too will not serve as a model. And that is what they should be doing.
If you had gone into any of the Theosophical Societies, and there were many of them, you would have encountered the three famous objects. The first was to build universal fraternity among mankind without reference to race, nationality and so on. I pointed out yesterday that we should be reflecting on the appropriateness of setting this down as dogma.
It is, of course, important that such a object should exist, but it has to be lived. It must gradually become a reality. That will happen if anthroposophy itself is seen as a living, supersensory, invisible being who moves among anthroposophists. Then there might be less talk about fraternity and universal human love, but these objects might be more active in human hearts. And then it will be evident in the tone in which people talk about their relation to anthroposophy, in how they talk to one another, that it is important to them that they too are followers of the invisible being of Anthroposophia.
After all, we could just as well choose another way. We could form lots of cliques and exclusive groups and behave like the rest of the world, meeting for tea parties or whatever, to make conversation and possibly assemble for the occasional lecture. But an anthroposophical movement could not exist in such a society. An anthroposophical movement can only live in an Anthroposophical Society which has become reality. But that requires a truly serious approach. It requires a sense of alliance in every living moment with the invisible being of Anthroposophia.
If that became a reality in people's attitude, not necessarily overnight but over a longer time-span, the required impulse would certainly develop over a period of perhaps twenty-one years. Whenever anthroposophists encountered the kind of material from our opponents which I read out yesterday, for example, the appropriate response would come alive in their hearts. I am not saying that this would have to be transformed immediately into concrete action, but the required impulse would live in the heart. Then the action, too, would follow.
If such action does not develop, if it is only our opponents who are active and organized, then the right impulse is clearly absent. People clearly prefer to continue their lives in a leisurely fashion and listen to the occasional lecture on anthroposophy. But that is not enough if the Anthroposophical Society is to thrive. If it is to thrive, anthroposophy has to be alive in the Anthroposophical Society. And if that happens then something significant can develop over twenty-one years. By my calculations, the Society has already existed for twenty-one years.
However, since I do not want to criticize, I will only call on you to reflect on this issue to the extent of asking whether each individual, whatever their situation, has acted in a spirit which is derived from the nucleus of anthroposophy?
If one or another among you should feel that this has not been the case so far, then I appeal to you: start tomorrow, start tonight for it would not be a good thing if the Anthroposophical Society were to collapse. And it will most certainly collapse, now that the Goetheanum is being rebuilt in addition to all the other institutions which the Society has established, if that awareness of which I have spoken in these lectures does not develop, if such self-reflection is absent. And once the process of collapse has started, it will proceed very quickly. Whether or not it happens is completely dependent on the will of those who are members of the Anthroposophical Society.
Anthroposophy will certainly not disappear from the world. But it might very well sink back into what I might call a latent state for decades or even longer before it is taken up again. That, however, would imply an immense loss for the development of mankind. It is something which has to be taken into account if we are serious about engaging in the kind of self-reflection which I have essentially been talking about in these lectures. What I certainly do not mean is that we should once again make ringing declarations, set up programmes, and generally state our willingness to be absolutely available when something needs to be done. We have always done that. What is at stake here is that we should find the nucleus of our being within ourselves. If we engage in that search in the spirit of wisdom transmitted by anthroposophy then we will also find the anthroposophical impulse which the Anthroposophical Society needs for its existence.
My intention has been to stimulate some thought about the right way to act by means of a reflection on anthroposophical matters and a historical survey of one or two questions; were I to deal with everything I would run out of time. And I believe these lectures in particular are a good basis on which to engage in such reflection. There is always time for that, because it can be done between the lines of the life which we lead in the everyday world.
That is what I wanted you to carry away in your hearts, rather like a kind of self-reflection for the Anthroposophical Society. We certainly need such self-reflection today. We should not forget that we can achieve a great deal by making use of the sources of anthroposophy. If we fail to do so then we abandon the path by which we can achieve effective action.
We are faced with major tasks, such as the reconstruction of the Goetheanum. In that context our inner thoughts should truly be based on really great impulses.