Chance, Necessity and Providence
8. Death, Physical Body and Etheric Body
6 September 1915, Dornach
If you think over the change that had to be described in advancing from perception of the external, physical world to perceiving the elemental world next above it, you will see that the worlds from which our physical universe and everything in it issued differ greatly from this physical world. A person who adopted the materialistic point of view more for convenience than for the sake of his conviction might say, Well, why should I bother with all these worlds spiritual science speaks of? The world I'm living in now is enough to satisfy me. There may be other worlds, but I'm not going to bother my head about them.
Such a statement is as far from reality as it is possible to get, for it is impossible for anyone to disregard the worlds of the spirit. And it is just when someone says that they don't exist and that he won't trouble himself about them that he is very markedly under their influence. A statement of this sort is made only when the speaker has been led astray by ahrimanic forces.
Not if he had them by the neck, I vow,
Would e'er these people scent the devil.
This accurately states the fact of the matter, though he who stated it did so in a thoroughly ironic spirit.
Ignorance of the spiritual worlds will never enable a person to deal with them. For that, it is necessary to know them. But we must always remember how strongly the physical world colors not only our concepts and ideas, but the way we sense and feel as well. Even when we want to get to know the spiritual world, we have a need, even a longing, to find it resembling the physical world, a wish, at least, to find that we can characterize it adequately with the concepts we have grown used to in physical existence. But I have already called your attention to the fact that the conceptions we form based on the physical world do not suffice to characterize the spiritual world. If more of our members came to understand this, it would be possible to introduce more new ways of expressing things and this is indeed necessary. I made use of an isolated case yesterday in contrasting growing old with growing young. Similar terms could and should be found to express the totally different nature of the spiritual world.
Now I want to call your attention right away to something that demonstrates how vitally necessary it is to arrive at a new terminology if we are to grow into the spiritual world in the right way. Many aspirants would find themselves perceiving the spiritual world relatively sooner if they could free themselves from the habit of depending on words.
When we go through the portals of death, the first phenomenon, the first fact, to appear is the laying aside of the physical body. We know that this physical body then undergoes dissolution into the earth element, regardless of the form of disposal chosen.
So the physical body undergoes dissolution into earthly elements. We can refer to it simply as dissolution. The observable fact is that the physical body disintegrates into its smallest particles, which are then incorporated into earthly matter. That is the physical situation, and we can speak of dissolution of this body into earthly matter if we take into account everything we know about matter and substance. We know too that this dissolution process is a spiritual one as well, but we don't need to go into that any further at the present moment. What is important for us now is the situation as it appears to physical observation.
Now it is of the greatest importance to realize clearly that this dissolution of the physical body is by no means merely the process which our physical organs perceive; it has far greater significance. We must consider the following to form a concept of it.
Human beings spend all of their waking life between birth and death with their ego and astral body enclosed within the physical body. It has always been more or less the case that the ego and astral body inhabited the physical body when people were awake. I will draw the physical body as a vase containing them. There are other ways of drawing this too, but that isn't important.
Let's be quite exact in picturing our ego and astral body contained here in the physical body. They are enclosed in the etheric body too, but for now we will concern ourselves with the physical body only. When we go to sleep we are no longer thus enclosed, as I've often shown. But then we normally lose our ego-awareness, and even our awareness of the astral body; this awareness is restored only when we press ourselves back, so to speak, into the physical body. It is this pressing into the physical body between birth and death that gives our souls a sense of ego-hood, that allows us, as I might also express it, to feel our souls ego-permeated.
At death the physical body disintegrates into earthly matter. This is of significance. All the time we are asleep, a desire to return to the physical body lives in us, as I've often described. It dominates us from the moment of falling asleep to our awakening; we long to get back into it. When, at death, we have laid it aside, we can't go on longing to do this; we are unable to press ourselves back into it again. The result is that from now on we cannot develop the desire to return to the physical body, so the longing we have during sleep now falls away, and something else takes its place. Its place is taken by the thought of the physical body that now makes its appearance in the astral body and our ego. We contemplate our physical body. It lives in our consciousness and becomes part of its content. And the disintegration of our physical body into its elements results in our maintaining awareness of our physical body during the time between death and rebirth.
This remembering of our physical body is the means whereby we are enabled to know ourselves as egos during the entire time between death and rebirth. Instead of having a physical body, we have knowledge of it; a state of awareness replaces it. The sense of possessing a physical body that we have for the period from birth to death is replaced after death by an awareness of this body. And this awareness, which is a purely spiritual condition, gives us the necessary further connection with the life we lived on earth.
We know that the next outstanding event to take place after death is the laying aside of, the separation from, the etheric body. As I said yesterday, it is the etheric body that connects us with the surrounding cosmos, just as it is the physical body that connects us with the earth.
You can gather from various things I've said that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world when we lay it aside after death, just as the physical body is absorbed into the earth world.
But it would be a misconception to picture this absorption of the etheric body into the etheric world as exactly analogous to the disintegration of the physical body into physical matter, for the process is not one of dissolution; instead, what we have imprinted into the etheric body remains there. The etheric body expands. In certain special cases, however, when the etheric body is kept intact because of an early death, it can have a special task too, as I've been describing in the course of these lectures. Generally speaking, however, we can say that the etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, but that it takes with it the fruits of the life between birth and death, thus enriching the etheric world. We enrich the etheric world at death with what we have given our etheric bodies. It is therefore incorrect to describe the etheric body as dissolving into the surrounding ether. Instead, we need to try to picture a process quite different from any that could take place in the physical realm. It is desirable to find a term for this that could not apply to any physical process, and I have thought much about this, and if I now wish to describe the way this etheric body is absorbed into the etheric world, I can best do so with the phrase “in-binding.” The physical body, then, is subject to dissolution, the etheric body to “in-binding.” This means that the content we have given it is bound up with, embedded in the whole etheric universe; “in-binding” is thus the polar opposite of dissolution. When we are trying to find the fitting term for something that does not exist in the physical, it is good to find an expression descriptive of the actual fact and inapplicable to the physical world.
“In-binding” is the term to use here because of what actually happens. Let us assume that someone has built this or that into his etheric body. The etheric body is connected with everything extraterrestrial, as I have said. Now insofar as a person has some experience of things beyond the merely earthly in his life here (and everybody has such experiences, even materialists, only they're not aware of it), that content lives in his etheric body. It is incorporated into the etheric world, embedded in it. And if we observe a person's abandoned etheric body with clairvoyant vision, we discover in it the answer to a certain question, namely, what were the heavens (taking the term “heavens” to include everything supra-earthly) able to derive for themselves from that person during his lifetime?
What they were able to take for themselves is totally different from what physical observation can see the earth deriving. If we consider somebody's earthly remains, they amount for physical eyes to nothing more than a little heap of earth like other earthly substances. And people assume, though not quite correctly, that the earth would remain just the same if this little heap of earth, the physical body, did not become part of it at the person's death. They assume that it is of little significance for the earth to receive back that part of itself that was a person's body during his lifetime.
But those who contemplate the developing postmortem relationship of the etheric body to what I have called the heavens come to a different view of the matter. They would have to say that the content a person has created for himself as the fruit of his thinking, feeling, and willing, of his work, of his whole existence, of everything that has happened to him and that has, during his life on earth, been incorporated into his etheric body is something for which the heavens are full of gratitude when they receive it. A cloud of gratitude sweeps over those who direct their clairvoyant gaze upon the abandoned etheric body of a deceased human being. The heavens' attitude is the exact opposite of that of the earth with its total lack of gratitude. When our gaze falls on the graves of human beings, not an earthly word of thanks is heard, acknowledging the return to the earth of the materials it provided for man's fashioning, whereas thanks resound from the heavens for everything with which the human being has endowed his etheric body during his lifetime. The heavens have bound man's etheric body into themselves. This too is part of what was brought up yesterday, when the statement was made that when we make a proper study of spiritual science, every concept we derive from it takes on an ethical aspect, brings about a moral deepening of our souls, while at the same time suffusing us with living warmth.
Now let us focus on what has been stated in these lectures: that a person who ascends into spiritual worlds (which he does also in his life after death) possesses a completely different kind of consciousness, a very different view of things. I have already suggested how inwardly mobile thinking then becomes. But this inner mobility is only the first stage of ascent into the spiritual world. On ascending further after death, upon laying aside our etheric bodies, our consciousness is of an entirely different sort than it is here in the physical world. Here, objects are outside us; we perceive them from outside. But when we have ascended as high into the spiritual world as I am now describing, we no longer confront such objects. What for us here in the physical world is the most impenetrable aspect of animals and human beings, their inner life of soul, is their most easily penetrable aspect for beings of the higher worlds. We participate in the soul life there. We have a world of beings rather than a world of objects surrounding us. That is the significant thing about it.
When we stand beside one another here on the physical plane, you stand there and I over here, both of us holding on to an object, say a table. And now we have to eliminate all objects from our consciousness, picturing ourselves in a world occupied by souls, in inner touch with them in the way we relate on the physical plane to our thoughts and feelings. We have to picture it this way. We don't establish contact with a being of the angelic hierarchy by taking its hand, but rather by living in its being as we live in our thoughts and feelings. I have often described the situation as an entering into our thoughts and feelings by these beings. We express this correctly when we say that these beings live in us.
You will find what I've just been saying in my book, An Outline of Occult Science 1">1Rudolf Steiner, An Outline of Occult Science, (Spring Valley, N.Y.: Anthroposophic Press, 1985). There is described in detail how we live in the life after death in a much more intimate relationship with the other beings there than can ever be the case with our fellow human beings on the earth, for we are inwardly as connected with them as we now are with our thoughts and feelings. And we can also approach the dead with our souls while we are here on earth if we work towards that by doing the suggested reading to them. We have to develop the capacity for it, but we will be aware of the dead really coming closer to us. It is a matter of making the effort to achieve an inward living together with them in the way we live in our thoughts and feelings.
Materialistically-minded spiritualists best demonstrate how little inclined people are to enter into these higher concepts of true inner reality. The term “materialistically-minded spiritualists” may sound odd, but it is a fact that large numbers of spiritualists are much more materialistically-minded than ordinary materialists. The latter say, “There's no such thing as spirit,” and they call matter “matter.” But a lot of spiritualists are intent upon perceiving spirits materially, either as apparitions of light, a material substance, or through the sense of touch. Such are the nuances in their encounters with spirits, a materializing of the entire spiritual world. We must acquire the ability to look for deeper reality than that transmitted by the senses. There is even something quite absurd in the materialistic spiritualist's seeking to see the dead with physical eyes when he can't expect to see them with physical eyes after his own death. To see a dead person, we have to try to see him as though we were ourselves dead, that is, of course, without physical eyes.
The fact that we must confront the spiritual world with a consciousness wholly different from the one that confronts the physical world is usually expressed as “we see the physical world objectively, the spiritual world subjectively” — meaning that we see the spirit when we extend our subjective experience to include the spiritual world. This is a much more intensive exercise of sight than physical seeing, but it remains subjective, in intimate connectedness with what is perceived. Very few people of recent times have had any inkling of the fact that this spiritual world must really be described in such a way. Those who have had a premonition of it have had to struggle with terminology. One of them, Berkeley, immediately went too far in his attempt to express how the spiritual world must be related to. It was clear to him that a person perceiving the so-called outer world of matter can certainly not say, “There is something behind what I am perceiving,” but only, “When I open my eyes, I see colors, etc.; when I use my ears to listen, I hear tones, and so on. But I cannot say whether anything material exists beyond and behind these perceptions.” It seemed utter nonsense to Berkeley to state anything beyond “There is no existence independent of perception.”
Berkeley was both right and wrong; right, insofar as it is a crude idea that prompts a person to assume that some form of matter accounts for what we perceive; what we perceive is the universe. Nothing exists beyond our perceptions; minds and their perceptions are all there is. Radically stated, the situation as Bishop Berkeley sees it is the following: Here we have so and so many individuals. Judged on the basis of ordinary life, we say that one, two, three, four or however many people are sitting here, with bodies, etc. But Berkeley would declare this to be untrue and say that only souls are present, their bodies being merely what these souls perceive. They are an illusion; only souls exist. Or, every soul here is harboring something like an external illusion of everyone else's body. But Miss M., for example, should not allow herself to believe that Mrs. K. is really sitting there bodily. Miss M. has a picture in her soul of Mrs. K., and Mrs. K. has one of Miss M. All else is illusion; only souls exist. “Nothing exists independent of perception.”
Bishop Berkeley was right only up to a certain point. He was not a spiritual scientist, and could therefore not be aware of something I can most easily express as follows: Let us suppose that Mrs. K. is not observing Miss M., but instead contemplating some event that took place five days ago and that has popped into her mind again just this moment. An event, such as the breaking of a vase five days ago, is not a spirit. Let us picture her reviewing the whole business, how she held the vase in her hands, how it toppled, how it was shattered into fragments. The whole picture rises up within her. We can certainly say that this picture is not another soul. Still, taking the entire soul as presently constituted, this process now rising up in it is something perceived as objectively as any other object existing outside it. In the one case, the object is beheld in confrontation, while in the other it is a past process rising up and becoming conscious. This latter, too, cannot be said to exist within the soul; it had first withdrawn from it. Otherwise we would have had to keep on picturing the breaking of the vase every minute of our waking life during the past five days. Let us take it as a blessing that the picture existed outside our souls and only now returns to consciousness. It existed outside the soul in just the same sense that everything else does. It existed originally inside it, but then withdrew. Here you have something that is not a spirit, for the breaking of the vase is neither of the spirit nor of the soul, but simply re-enters the soul as an objective element.
If you relate this to what I've been saying in these lectures, namely that what is out there in the universe is really of the past, something long forgotten, you will be able to picture what the external world is insofar as we perceive it as an external world rather than as another soul.
I'll make a schematic drawing. Let's picture a soul here, with various earlier events contained within it, such as that involving the broken vase. And it will contain other events as well, but I won't put them all in separately.
All immediate conscious experience is comprised within the circular area. The fact that the broken vase can be remembered is due to its having disappeared from conscious experience; it can return to consciousness only as a memory-image. The event has been thrust into the objective realm. Just think how great the longing of many people is to thrust into the objective realm such events as broken vases, to forget them if possible and not allow them to break through into consciousness! They can be submerged to ever greater depths of objectivity. And when they've reached the ultimate degree of submersion, they live outside us.
The things and processes in our environment are there only because they were thought and then pressed into objectivity by beings during the ancient sun and moon periods. Now they have objective existence. Everything we confront was once thought and felt and existed as conscious content, and was then thrust out of consciousness. We might say that the objective world is what gods and spirits once thought and forgot and thrust out of themselves.
Berkeley is therefore obviously incorrect in stating that there is no world outside us, only souls. For what is outside us is the product of forgetting. Of course, the bodies of the individual souls here have not been forgotten by each soul, for their first beginnings were created and thought by spirits on ancient Saturn, then objectified, and so on. We must be quite clear that consciousness preceded existence, that what exists externally had its origin in consciousness, just like what we have in our memories in the first stage of objectification. The objectification process in the case of the individual souls of today goes only as far as in the case of the broken vase. In the case of beings that developed through the Saturn, Sun, and Moon periods it is so far advanced that the thoughts they had have now achieved the solidity of our mountain ranges. Since we are connected with the whole spiritual world, we perceive what the gods thought so long ago.
It will become clear to you as you think this over how important it is that an objective world emerges from subjective realms. I've often stressed the fact that our memories have to remain intact if we are to maintain ego-consciousness, and the gods had to create a world out of themselves for the same reason. The gods thrust out the entire universe in order to preserve their consciousness, just as we carry memory-images for the period of time since we began remembering. And we human beings thrust out our physical bodies and ether bodies in order to attain a higher level of consciousness.
As I've emphasized from another standpoint, death is a terrible thing only from the perspective of the physical world. Looked at from the standpoint of the spiritual world, where we find ourselves from the moment we have died, death is the launching of our entire later consciousness. To look back to death illumines the consciousness we possess between death and rebirth. Though we cannot look back to our birth into the physical world, we can look back continuously to our death as to the most glorious moment of our past life. Looking back during the time after death, we encounter the moment of dying, and this encounter, visible to us in this time-perspective, provides us after death with a continuous ego-consciousness in the nature of a mirror- image, reflected from the fact of death (See drawing).
As we pass through death, then, we grow out of the way of seeing things that, in the physical world, forces us to look upon objects, and we grow into an outlook experienced as our being increasingly harbored by other spiritual beings, coming closer and closer to them. While we live in our physical bodies here, our thoughts, our feelings, our impulses of will are restricted to ourselves alone. But when we pass through death, these flow out into the world, into the other spiritual beings who then live in us. We reproduce ourselves; our consciousness expands. From a single unit we become a multiplicity, a oneness in the many, and the multiplicity reveals itself as it absorbs our oneness.
So our growing to participation in the world ordinarily referred to as the world of the hierarchies is the process that takes place as soon as we enter the spiritual world. Here on earth we speak of objects and of the experiences we have with them, whereas the dead speak exclusively of beings and of the communications made to them by beings about other beings, speak of a lesser or stronger connection with them, and the like.
Much effort is required to convey an even partially adequate conception of such matters as this growing into the spiritual world. Now that we have tried to form at least a slightly more exact idea of the manner of this growth, let us turn our attention to the facts we spoke about yesterday: those involving death in younger and in maturer years.
A person dying in his youth passes through the gate of death. His physical body disintegrates, his etheric body “in-binds” itself. When this happens to a boy or girl, to someone who is still a child, that individual is granted a particularly strong impression of the inner harmony of the marvelous structure that we feel our physical body to be. It is one of the most outstanding experiences of those who die young that they carry through the gates of death a marked inner conceptual awareness of the marvelous build of the human body. It would be impossible to imagine anything as magnificently built as this human physical body, this great work of art, this world-wonder. I have often spoken about this. But those who die young are filled to overflowing with it.
And this conception, this inner saturation with such an impression, first brings those who die young together with members of the hierarchy of the spirits of form so that their souls become intimately interwoven with those spirits. So we see these souls being received by the spirits of form with particular grace and favor. Furthermore, those souls grow inwardly together with the beings belonging to the hierarchy of the spirits of will. If I may put it thus, the relationship of these spirits of will and of form to the universe is such that they continuously convey to a person privy to their secrets that “those who have to abandon their earth-lives early belong to us, for what they bring us is an essential ingredient of our creative work on mankind's evolution.” Those who die in old age are less suffused with impressions of the marvelous build of the human body, but are the more permeated by a sense of the marvelous build of the entire universe, of the cosmos as a whole. The thinking and feeling content of those dying in maturity is directed more to the external, and they grow together particularly quickly and easily with those beings whom we call the spirits of wisdom, by whom they are received with grace and favor.
Anyone who investigates this in detail receives a strong impression of how human beings live with higher spiritual beings after death. To enter lovingly into what spiritual science can reveal is truly not to end up with empty abstractions, vague talk about the spirit, vague statements that human beings are received by the spiritual world. It is possible to point instead to the fact that one individual is received by the spirits of movement or by the spirits of wisdom, while someone else is received by the spirits of form and of will. And this means getting a conception of how, in inner reality as observed from a higher standpoint, everything that happens is actually good, and how what remains incomprehensible from the standpoint of the physical world becomes fully understandable when seen from a higher level. For the beings of the higher hierarchies know what can be accomplished, not only with those of maturer years, but above all with those who have died young. There is no one who has lived in vain! And the entire evolutionary process in which humanity is involved could not go on if everything were not to happen as it actually happens.
But a concept, a constantly extended concept of all these matters can be attained only by really entering into spiritual science, by really being able to grasp that it is only our epoch that is so God-forsaken, and that in our time only those individuals think truly materialistically who are either unable to think at all or else don't want to think.
I once told you of the case of a philosopher who really thought, and I quoted a remark of his to show you how far a truly thinking philosopher can go — one who doesn't know everything, but who mulls over how much a person can know as the result of his experience on the physical plane. It is legitimate to say that for the most part the stupider people are, the smarter they consider themselves to be. The smarter they are, the more they know how much it takes to discover life's meaning. That is why, a little while ago, I read you the statement of a person who had thought a lot and had said that “someone could claim that there are invisible specters in hens' eggs in addition to the whites and yolks.” This was a man who had really taken great pains over philosophizing and who really knows how little ordinary ideas contribute to insight. He therefore says that it is possible for someone to make the quoted assertion about eggs containing invisible specters along with whites and yolks, and to say, “‘These specters materialize and take on a body, and when the materialization process is completed, they break through the hard eggshell with their sharp beaks and run to the grains scattered for them and eat them.’ Nothing can actually be objected to such a bizarre assertion except that the preposition ‘in’ (‘in hen's eggs’) is used in an unusual way, not in a geometric but in a metaphysical sense. If taken in the latter sense, the assertion is correct.”
The same philosopher, Otto Liebmann, who was a thorough thinker but wanted to limit himself to an outlook on the physical plane alone, goes on to say in his book Thoughts and Facts (quoted here because it enables us to see how people who really think notice what can be perpetuated as a result of relying on thinking restricted to the external), 2Otto Liebmann, 1840–1912, German philosopher and professor of philosophy. Leader of Neo-Kantianism. Published Thoughts and Facts in 1882.
It is not only children, but superstitious barbarians and fantastic poets, who since time immemorial have regarded the material world as ensouled throughout. Thales, who like other natural philosophers of ancient times, attributed a soul to magnets and amber because of their magnetism, is credited with the statement that the cosmos is ensouled, and that everything has gods in it. 3“The cosmos is ensouled and all full of gods.” De Anima I, 5. Aristotle, 384–322 B.C., Greek philosopher. De Anima, one of his major works, was published in 322 B.C. Plato calls the stars “divine animals” and speaks in Timaeus of the world-soul. 4Plato, 427–347 B.C., Greek philosopher. Teacher of Aristotle. Aristotle and the Peripatetics thought there were astral spirits, and the doctrine of the ensoulment of the heavenly bodies has been handed down in an essentially unbroken chain of tradition, right down to recent and indeed present times. Kepler talks of the “anima” (soul) of the planets, and in his Harmonices mundi he describes our earth as a gigantic animal whose “whale-like respiration, in alternating periods of sleep and waking dependent on the sun, brings about the tidal rise and fall of the ocean.” 5Johannes Kepler, 1571–1630, German astronomer. Giordano Bruno enthusiastically depicted the details of this hylozoistic concept, and in his essay Della causa, principio ed uno, as well as elsewhere, expresses his firm conviction that everything in the universe is alive, holding that all corporeal motion in space is the visible expression of the collective life pulsing throughout the world. 6Giordano Bruno, 1548–1600, Italian philosopher and Dominican monk. Was burned on the stake as heretic for teaching that the world is infinite in space and time and that all matter is ensouled. The stars and their inhabitants were, in his view, ensouled beings, our earth one gigantic organism, springs and streams the arteries of its divine body. He held the rise and fall of the tides to be effects of the earth's breathing. Volcanic outbreaks and earthquakes are clearly analogous to certain processes in animal organisms, and Goethe bore witness to this when he said to Eckermann (April 1827): “I conceive of the earth with its vapor mantle as a huge animal eternally breathing in and out.” 7Goethe and Eckermann, see Lecture VI, note 2. Fechner's Zend-Avesta, 8Gustav Theodor Fechner, 1801–1887, German physicist, psychologist, and philosopher. an extremely strange book, also tends in this direction; like other works of his, it combines jesting with serious commentary, occasionally leading the reader to wonder just how he meant it to be taken. 9See Liebmann's book Thoughts and Facts, p. 279.
Gustav Theodor Fechner was really jesting in much he said; he had an inborn tendency to joking. You know, for I mentioned it on one occasion, that he wrote a book called Professor Schleiden and the Moon. 10Gustav Theodor Fechner, Professor Schleiden and the Moon, Leipzig, 1856. Fechner undertook a study of the moon's effect on the weather, and he wrote a good deal about it. Schleiden, a botanist of materialistic persuasion, made fun of him. 11Matthias Jakob Schleiden, 1804–1881, German natural scientist and professor. But then Fechner took up the cudgels against Schleiden with his book, Professor Schleiden and the Moon. This was the same Fechner who, in his youth a long time before this, had lashed out in a beautiful little piece of writing against the scientific way of thinking. There is a short work by him in which he proceeds strictly scientifically to prove in all seriousness that the moon is made of iodine. 12Fechner wrote a booklet entitled Proof that the Moon consists of Iodine and published it under the pseudonym Dr. Mises in 1832. His intention was to demonstrate that it can be strictly scientifically proven that the moon consists of iodine. It is possible to prove this with the very same methodology used in scientific proof of other findings.
When the two men were totally unable to see eye-to-eye in the matter of Fechner's assertions on the subject of the moon's influence on weather, Fechner proposed letting their wives put these to the test. Household arrangements were simpler in those days: pails were set out in the rain to collect water for laundry purposes. Fechner said, “The good Professor Schleiden refuses to believe that it rains less in certain phases of the moon than it does in others. Perhaps we might make a detour via Frau Schleiden.” Since her spouse was unconcerned with differences in the weather at various moon-phases, she could put out her water-catching pails during those phases in which Fechner had reckoned that little rain would fall, whereas Frau Fechner would set hers out at times when Fechner had reckoned on more rain. I won't go on to report that the two wives found agreement no easier than did their husbands, for Frau Professor Schleiden was a bit envious of Frau Professor Fechner for always getting more rain water than she did.
The previous quote from Otto Liebmann continues,
But considering our total ignorance on the score of the sources of spiritual life, we might repeat the question posed by the serious-minded Lessing at the end of his Education of the Human Species regarding the ancient Egyptian, ancient Indian and Pythagorean doctrines of the transmigration of souls: “Is this hypothesis to be thought absurd because it is the most ancient view, because human reason immediately adopted it before schooling had sophisticated and weakened reason?” 13Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, 1729–1781, German poet, playwright, and critic. Published essay entitled Education of the Human Species in 1780.
What more can we ask? Otto Liebmann comes out with the quite dry statement that no thinking is acute enough to protect us from the doctrine of the transmigration of souls! This shows us that those who have learned to think know how little the thinking restricted to the physical plane can enlighten us about the actual facts of life.
All these things obviously show those able to enter totally seriously into the inner impulses of our spiritual scientific movement how essential this movement is for the present epoch and the near future, and it is not superfluous to give thought again and again to the seriousness that must underlie our movement. This seriousness is what must actually hold us together. We must truly meditate on the subject over and over again to be able to acquire the right feeling for much that causes our movement problems of this or that nature.
And I want to leave nothing untried to make clear to you how vital it is for us to nurture this seriousness, and that we ought really to take the greatest pains to exemplify this seriousness of our movement before the outer world, and to maintain it.
It is fair to say that the breath of life of our movement is rendered difficult in several ways by the carelessness of some of our members, and it is not an easy matter to face the necessity of expressing intimate, significant and weighty truths of spiritual science in spite of such things. It can be noted time and again that some individuals take their connection with our movement much too lightly. I will not cite details today of how hard and sour some of our members make life by taking their membership in the Society with utmost unconcern. I am not talking of private affairs, but it is a fact that we are living today in abnormal times, and it should not happen that many members fail to realize how improper it is to write all sorts of things and send them across national borders; that is so unnecessary. I'm not talking now of private matters that are no concern of the Society. Nor is it, of course, a question of giving away anything in the wrong direction, for the Society does not include anything wrongful in its enterprises. But the way some things are handled by members causes difficulties.
It is essential for us to have some slight awareness of the uniqueness of our movement; we need to guard it as a holy undertaking. We cannot make any progress if we continue to look upon our movement in the way that is typical of the world around us. Though that may make it easy for us, it blocks progress. We need to keep in mind that for a great variety of reasons our movement is most unfavorably regarded by the surrounding world, and will be attacked by it wherever the possibility presents itself.
We need to look at this world around us against the background of the right feeling for our movement if we want to find our way properly, and we ought not to forgive ourselves if we fail to be keen and alert enough to do so. All kinds of things can render life endlessly miserable for us if we don't do the right thing. It could go so far in the way it has gone as to bring the movement to a halt. You see that we really cannot take these things lightly. We must not remain oblivious of the fact that our movement has some extremely odd enemies.
I have often emphasized how little pleasure it affords me to have members continually coming to report things and saying that someone or other has spoken from on high in a thoroughly theosophical manner, and shares our view of the world. What has been adjudged theosophical in these reports is, for the most part, rubbish. We should not take our movement as lightly as is often done. As you can see, the need for a movement that takes things seriously is demonstrated by many hundreds of observable facts.
[Steiner ended this lecture with more details about events that were known to his audience and that had occurred shortly before these lectures were given. However, these events cannot be fully reconstructed, and as this passage thus lacks a concrete context for modern readers, it has been moved to this section. Steiner continued:
I'll cite some facts experienced during the last few days, hoping that no member sitting here will be so indiscreet as to spread abroad what is discussed here in our intimate circle. At a conference of teachers held in this area, somebody recently spoke who had written about our movement without knowing anything about it. The teachers association in question was asked to let one of our members listen to the talk and maybe even reply to it. The way this request was refused is characteristic of our times. The letter denying our request to be present where one of our neighbors speaks about our movement contains among other sentences the following “...because if one of you came, that person would probably feel that the speaker does not know your movement sufficiently. Therefore, to avoid unpleasant feelings for the speaker due to the presence of a person from your movement, we ask you not to send anybody. For there will not be enough time for a discussion and the matter would only lead to unpleasant feelings as the man who will speak to us does not know you.”
This is the reason for denying our request; let's take note of that. It has to be said again and again that it is possible today that people say they do not want anyone from our movement to be present because somebody will be speaking about us who does not know anything about us. This is indeed possible, my dear friends; it is a fact.
It has come to the point where people not only think such things but even write them down, and even write them as justification for denying a request. That is the current condition of morality. However, this is not the only instance of such morality; it can be found everywhere. Unfortunately, we had to decide to show our building to that same group, so that those people could not say we were as impolite to them as they were to us. And unfortunately at just the time when they were taken on a tour of our building, a eurythmy lesson was apparently in progress. I don't want to speak about what this eurythmy evoked in the dirty minds of those who were shown through our halls. I regret that it is necessary to mention these things at all. I do not mention them to characterize or criticize the outer world, the people around us. I can only pity them from the bottom of my heart. Rather I mention these things for your sake, so that you become accustomed to finding the right standpoint and to knowing that opposition, enmity, and meanness lurk everywhere. The fact that something is sacred to some people does not protect it against being pulled down, dragged down, by others to the most profane level.
When we are confronted with hate for some reason, we must become conscious of it. This is necessary because we are much too careless about the way we place ourselves in relation to the world around us. Granted, it is inconvenient to place oneself rightly in relation to the outer world, but it is worse to close one's eyes and be ignorant of the hate and opposition lurking everywhere.
Above all we must realize that opposition based on facts cannot ever harm us. We can deal with opposition based on facts. But it is difficult when the opposition is such that one wants to wash one's hands every time one has looked at it. This is the case, for example, with those people in Leipzig who do not base their opposition to us on facts but work only with seemingly plausible slander. Even if you were to write to them in a factual tone, people there will answer out of a fundamental attitude that belongs on the same level as the attitude I have just characterized.
We can foresee that as we are increasingly being noticed in the world, and as we complete our building, opposition and yet more opposition will be called forth; for envy and resentment grow enormously the more our building is noticed in the world. From this, special obligations arise for us.]