2. Blood and Nerves
13 June 1916, Berlin
In spiritual science we consider all matter or substance to be a manifestation of the spiritual. But the essential question is always how a particular material phenomenon manifests the spiritual. The generalization that all matter is a manifestation of the spiritual really says nothing at all; at most it is an easy philosophy for lazy people. All those who seriously strive for knowledge have to study how the world's specific material phenomena manifest the spiritual.
There is a very ancient, yet ever new, saying to the effect that the human being is a microcosm. Human beings in the physical world are, in the first place, material phenomena. If we seriously believe that the human being is a microcosm, that our physical being contains the secrets of the whole cosmos, then we will think it worthwhile to examine how our physical being reveals the spiritual. If you study the physical aspect of the human being and think about it and you'll have to think if you strive for knowledge — you will see there are two totally different kinds of substance in our physical being. It only takes ordinary thinking and observation to see that there are two fundamentally different kinds of substance in us: the blood substance, or blood material, and the nerve substance.
Of course, you may say that at first glance there are all sorts of other substances too, muscle tissue, bone matter, and so on. But all these substances are actually built up from blood, as you will see when you study them more closely. Thus, their existence does not contradict that we have primarily two substances in us, blood substance, or blood material, and nerve substance.
One of the differences between these two substances can easily be observed; you need only consider that everything connected with the blood is involved from the inside, so to speak, in our metabolic processes. Though generated as a result of external influences, our blood is produced within us, and it in turn generates what is necessary for physical existence.
On the other hand, the most important nerves show themselves to be continuations of our sense organs. For instance, in the eyes you find the optic nerve continuing behind the eye and merging with the nerve substance of the brain. Similarly, all nerves are really continuations of our sense organs. The processes taking place in them are more or less the result of outside influences, of everything working upon us from the outside. We can say that just as magnets have two poles and just as we have positive and negative electricity, so the blood and the nerve substances are the two poles of our physical being. And these two kinds of substance are inwardly very different from each other.
If we perform an autopsy on a human being according to the methods and teachings of modern anatomy and physiology, we can put everything originating directly out of the blood next to everything built up from the outside, namely the nerve substance. Then the substances would appear to be the same. In fact, they are fundamentally different. The great and significant difference between them becomes clear if we trace the gradual development of life. We could quote a great deal from the most modern anatomy and physiology to provide further proof of this difference; however, we will not go into that right now but look at the question from the point of view of spiritual science instead.
Our blood has entered our organism as a result of processes belonging specifically to the earth. Blood is essentially of an earthly nature. You know that the development of the human being had been prepared long before the earth existed during the Saturn, Sun, and Moon phases of evolution. 1These names do not refer to present-day planets but to ancient evolutionary stages and are therefore capitalized. What was prepared there did not yet have any blood. Human blood, as it flows through our veins today, was added during our earth evolution. In contrast to that, the structure and development of the nervous system contains what had long ago been prepared in the Saturn, Sun, and Moon phases of evolution through processes that preceded our earth organization.
If you investigate both the blood substance and the nerve substance in the light of spiritual science, you will readily see the tremendous difference between the two. Our nerve substance is not of the earth, but the blood substance is of the earth. Nerve substance originated in processes that took place before the formation of the earth. Our blood substance, and everything that streams and flows in it, has its origin completely in earthly processes. Our nerve substance is absolutely extraterrestrial, so to speak, and woven into us as something cosmic; it is related to the cosmos.
Our nerve substance has been transferred into the earthly realm; it exists here on the earth where we live as physical beings. Thus, we all bear something of extraterrestrial origin in us that has been transplanted onto the earth. This is a very important fact, for the nerve substance, as it rests in us, is actually dead. You need only open any current anatomy or physiology textbook to see that in terms of substance, nerve substance is the most durable in our body. It is the one most resistant to change and, like the blood substance, least subject to direct, mechanical interference from the outside. Our nerve substance is affected by influences of our sense perceptions, but it cannot be influenced directly and mechanically because it was originally a living substance and is now dead because we as earth beings carry it in us. We might say if it were not paradoxical — though it is true in a spiritual sense regardless of any paradox — that if we could take our nerve substance and raise it to a sphere beyond the influence of earth forces, it would become a marvelous, living, vibrant being.
This nerve substance is, so to speak, designed for life in the heavens, in the extraterrestrial realm, but because it is in our organism and has thus entered the earthly sphere, it dies. This is very strange, isn't it? We have this nerve substance in us that is alive in the realm of the cosmos but dead in the realm of the earth. If we were to take some of this nerve substance up beyond the reach of earthly influences, we would have a wonderful, living, luminous substance. Of course, as soon as we returned it to our earthly sphere, it would revert again to the still, lifeless condition in which it now rests within us. Our nerve substance, then, is alive in the cosmos and dead on earth.
In fact, as far as its material composition is concerned, the nerve substance we have in us is an extraterrestrial element. All this can be very clearly expressed in a symbol. As you remember, I once lectured here on anthroposophy in a more specific sense and listed the human senses. Usually people distinguish only five senses, but we counted twelve then. Human beings have twelve senses if everything that can really be called a sense is taken into account. Ultimately, our senses are nothing but points of departure from which our nerves extend into us.
So, we really have twelve senses. And from these twelve senses nerves extend into us like little trees. This is because the nervous system that belongs to our outer senses is the expression of the passage of the sun through the twelve constellations of the zodiac, which is symbolized in the relation of our entire nervous system to each of the twelve senses. This shows that we carry in us, in the spatial relationship of our total nervous system to the twelve senses, what really exists out there in the cosmos in the sun's passage through the constellations of the zodiac.
When you look at that part of our nervous system located deeper inside us in the spinal cord, you will find the nerve fibers extending through the ring-like vertebrae of the spine. These rings in fact correspond to the months, to the orbit of the moon around the earth. Thus, the passage of each nerve fiber through the opening of the vertebrae in the spine corresponds to each day of the month — another cosmic relationship! The orbit of the moon around the earth is really symbolized in the relationship of our inner nerves to the spinal cord. Our nerve substance is entirely built up out of the heavens, out of the cosmos. We can understand this marvelous organization of the nerve substance within us only when we see in its tree-like arrangement an image of the whole starry firmament. And the forces that flow outside from star to star and express themselves in the movements of the heavenly bodies, those same forces actually flow in our nervous system, which is, however, dead in us. This connection between the organization of the cosmos and the structure of our nervous system, like many other things, reveals that the whole universe is manifest in us. Insofar as our nervous system is built for the heavens, it is alive in the heavens, in the cosmos, but it is dead in us because it has entered the earthly sphere.
Our blood substance is quite different because it belongs entirely to the earth. Due to the inner composition of the blood, the processes taking place in it would really have to be completely earthly processes. The peculiar thing about them, however, is that they are not living processes. As you know, the mineral realm, the lifeless kingdom, developed during evolution on the earth. And the nature of our blood corresponds fully to this lifeless kingdom. Although our blood lives as long as it is in us, it is not destined for life by its inner, earthly nature. Strangely enough, our blood is alive only because it is connected to the cosmic element in us. Our nervous system is actually destined for life in the cosmos beyond the earth but is dead inside us; our blood, on the other hand, is meant to be dead in us and receives its life from outside. In a sense, the nervous system yields its life to the blood. Thus, the nervous system is dead while the blood is alive, comparatively speaking. Our blood is by its very nature dead on earth and has only a borrowed life, a cosmic life forced upon it. Life itself is not at all of our earth. That is why the nervous system must take death upon itself in order to become earthly, and why the blood has to become living to enable us as beings of earthly substance to turn to the world beyond the earth.
This is the point where all we have learned through spiritual science takes on a deeply serious character. For we have to realize that the nerve substance we have in us is by its very nature destined for life, and yet it is dead. Why is that? It is dead because it has been transplanted onto the earth. Death — as you can read in the cycle of lectures I gave in Munich — is actually the kingdom of Ahriman. 2Rudolf Steiner, Secrets of the Threshold, (Hudson, NY: Anthro- posophic Press, 1987). Thus, be cause our nervous system lost its life in its descent into the earthly sphere, we carry an ahrimanic element in us. And because our blood is alive — though by its very nature destined for death, that is, for mere chemical and physical processes — we have a luciferic element in us. Ahriman can exist in us because our nervous system is dead, and because our blood is alive, Lucifer can live in us. Now you can see the significant differences between these two substances; they are polar opposites, just as the North Pole is to the South Pole.
Let us now consider the realm beyond the earth, not condensing spiritual science into an abstract theory but keeping it alive so it can speak to our feelings. We look out into the universe and realize that out there is the spirit that could live in our nervous system if the latter had not descended to the earth. We can sense the spirit out there, filling the universe, the spirit belonging to our nervous system. When we then turn our thoughts to our blood, we understand that by its very nature it is actually destined only for physical and chemical processes, only for the assimilation of oxygen as it is described by anatomy and physiology. However, because it lives in us, it participates in the life of the cosmos. It has, however, a primarily luciferic life.
And now think deeply and with great sensitivity of a recurrent common theme of our talks and remember all we have said about the descent of Christ from the cosmos into our earthly sphere. Then we can link what we remember with the thoughts we have just discussed. We ourselves originated in this universe, in the cosmos. Long ago, in the Lemurian epoch, or in the course of earthly evolution in general, we descended and have connected our evolution with the earth. But by entrusting the development of our nervous system to the earth, we have consigned it to death and left its life behind in the cosmos. That life we left behind later followed us and descended in the Christ Being. In other words, the life of our nerves, which we have not been able to bear in us ever since the beginning of our earthly existence, followed us later in the Christ Being. And what did that life have to lay hold of in earthly existence?
It had to lay hold of the blood! That is why we talk so much about the mystery of blood.
Our nervous system lost its cosmic life and our blood received a cosmic life, that is, life became death and death became life. They live separately in us. Yet, a new connection between them was achieved when the life of our nervous system, which had been left behind, descended to us from the cosmos, became human and entered the blood, which in turn united itself with the earth, as I have explained before. 3Rudolf Steiner, The Gospel of St. Luke, 3rd ed, (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1988). And now we as human beings can reconcile the contrast between blood system and nervous system through our participation in the Christ Mystery.
The polarity we carry in us manifests in various ways. For instance, there is the material science of the outer world. It has found its culmination, its goal, in present-day natural science, which sees the world as built up out of atoms. These atoms, however, are pure fantasy; they are simply not to be found out there. Why then do we talk about atoms? Because we have in us our nervous system built up out of little globules, and we project this structure on the world outside. The world of atoms out there is nothing but a projection of our nervous system! We project ourselves into the world and thus think of it as consisting of atoms, and of our nervous system as composed of many individual ganglion-globules. Science will always tend to atomism for it originates in nerve substance. By contrast, mysticism, religion, and so forth come from the blood and do not look for atoms but always for unity. These two opposites are in conflict with each other in the world. We do not understand their conflict unless we know it is really the struggle in us between nerve substance and blood substance. There would be no conflict between science and religion if there were none in us between nerve and blood substance.
Reconciliation is found if we unite ourselves in the right way with the Christ Being that pulsates through the earth since the Mystery of Golgotha. Every feeling and experience we can have in connection with the Mystery of Golgotha contributes to this reconciliation. We have not yet advanced much in bringing about this reconciliation, but we must continue to strive for it. Even in our circles we see very often that the contrast I described manifests in one way or another. There are many among us who listen to the teachings of anthroposophy and accept them as they would accept conventional science. As a result, many people see no difference between anthroposophy and ordinary science. But we understand anthroposophy rightly only when we grasp it not just with the head, but allow every one of its utterances to kindle our enthusiasm and to live in us so that it finds its way from the nerve system to the blood system. Only when we take warmly to the truths contained in anthroposophy do we really understand it. As long as we approach it abstractly and study it as we study the multiplication tables, an arithmetic book, instruction manuals, or a cookbook, we do not understand it at all! We cannot understand anthroposophy if we study it in the same way as chemistry or botany. Only when it generates warmth in us, replenishes us with its own vibrant life, do we begin to really understand it.
Christ said: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” And He is with us not as one who is dead, but as a living Being among us, revealing Himself continuously. And only people so shortsighted as to fear these revelations can want us to stay with what has always held good in the past. Those who are not cowards know Christ is always revealing Himself; therefore, we may accept what He has revealed in the form of anthroposophy as a true Christ-revelation. Members have often asked me how they can establish a relationship with Christ. This is a naive question; for everything we strive for, every line we read of our anthroposophical science, is an entering into a relationship with Christ. In a certain sense, we really do nothing else. And those who seek an additional, special way of entering into a relationship with Christ are only naively expressing that they would prefer to avoid the more troublesome way of reading and studying.
My talk began like a conventional scientific talk, maybe one about anatomy or physiology, by looking at the substances in the human being, but now we find the transition to the loftiest knowledge we can have on earth: to Christology. You cannot find this transition in any other science. Spiritual science shows you that our nerve substance lost something in becoming earthly substance. But where is what our nerve substance lost? When Jesus of Nazareth was thirty years old, Christ entered his body and went through the Mystery of Golgotha. Try to warm yourselves through and through with this thought. What is lacking in our nervous system because we are living on earth, what has been replaced with an ahrimanic element, is what we find in the Mystery of Golgotha.
It is our task as human beings to take this Mystery into our blood to fill the luciferic element there with Christ, to kindle our enthusiasm so that it can live in us. Our abstract thinking is connected to the nerve substance, while our feelings, our heart and soul, enthusiasm, or mood, are connected to the blood. The relationship between nerve substance and blood substance in our organism is the same as that in our soul between abstract, cold thinking and the enthusiasm we can feel when things do not remain merely cold thoughts for us, but warm us through the spirit. This warming through the spirit does not come naturally; we have to train ourselves to attain it.
Now you can see in spiritual and physiological terms as it were, what the Mystery of Golgotha accomplished. What we had left behind in the cosmos followed us. It can now once again permeate our soul, because it did not permeate our body at the beginning of our earth existence, or we would have become automatons of the spirit. As it was, we went through a period of evolution on the earth before we were to be ensouled by what did not permeate our body right from the very beginning. This great and wonderful connection reveals the activity of the spiritual in matter.
We are not speaking here of the general, vague spiritual element woolly-headed pantheists speak of so glibly, but of the specific and definite spirit we see undergoing the Mystery of Golgotha. That is what I meant when I said that the general truism that all matter is a manifestation of the spiritual really does not say very much. We know something only when we know in detail how a specific, physical being manifests the spiritual. The findings of conventional science are an abundance of facts and material just waiting to be permeated with spiritual understanding. Spiritual understanding can penetrate them so deeply that even the most material science of all can be connected with Christology.
In our age people have difficulties finding the path connecting the nerve system with the blood system. And that is why I have shown you in several lectures how far our age is from such a spiritual understanding of the world. Last time I mentioned Hermann Bahr as an example of a man who had always been striving for the spiritual but was not able to make even the most elementary approach to the spiritual until he was already over fifty years old. I also told you that grotesque phenomena virtually dominate our cultural life, as in the case of the professor of philosophy in Czernowitz whose pronouncement I read to you.
Lest we forget his pronouncement, let me read it again: “We have no more philosophy than animals, and only our frantic attempts to attain a philosophy and the final resignation to our ignorance distinguish us from the animals.” This is the quintessence of his philosophy — well, one cannot really call it philosophy; after all, according to this professor of philosophy, human beings have no more philosophy than the animals! What it amounts to is that we have reached the point where duly appointed professors of philosophy have set themselves the task of representing philosophy as ridiculous nonsense. In this case, we can see clearly how far this fellow goes. Most other philosophers do the same, only not as openly. And this truth applies not only to philosophers ut also to other people who understand their task in life a out as much as this philosopher does his philosophy. Therefore, they ruin every task they are appointed to fulfill as much as this philosopher ruins philosophy. However, with most of them this is not so noticeable except when they rub our noses in it as cynically as Richard Wahle does, this philosopher appointed as professor of philosophy for the destruction of philosophy.
Clearly, it is necessary — to be convinced of this necessity you need only remember my lecture a few weeks ago — to connect our striving with the era in European spiritual life when people tried to approach the spirit, although not yet with the methods of modern spiritual science. For this reason, I have given the lectures of the past winters in these difficult times and have now collected them in a book entitled Vom Menschenrätsel The Riddle of Man”), which will be published shortly. 4Rudolf Steiner, Vom Menschenrätsel (“The Riddle of Man”), vol. 20 in the Collected Works, (Domach, Switzerland: Rudolf Steiner Verlag, 1984). This book summarizes the thinking, reflections, and contemplations of several great minds of the nineteenth century, who were striving for knowledge of the spirit though not yet with the methods of modern spiritual science. I tried to show how these great minds reached out toward the spirit even though they could not yet get there. Time will tell whether this collection of the lectures of the past winters will prove too difficult for people, even though it was written as simply as possible, and whether they will, after all, be content with merely buying it. But the important thing is to read it! Time will tell whether this book, which was written only to serve the times, will have any effect, whether it will enter into people's souls. It is a book everyone can use to prove to those outside our movement that spiritual science represents a demand of the best minds of our recent past. It did not develop arbitrarily, but is truly what the best minds have called for.
Thus, I would like to suggest that you read some of the great, spiritual works our great writers created in the nineteenth century; they are magnificent and important works. However, such good intentions often turn out strangely. As I indicated elsewhere and therefore did not repeat in this book, among the greatest of these works are the philosophical writings of Schiller, for instance, his Letters the Aesthetic Education of Man. 5Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller, 1759–1805, German poet, playwright, and critic. Wrote Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795). Indeed, those who have read these letters with deep sympathy have done a great deal for the life of their soul. Several people have made efforts to draw the public's attention to the philosophical writings of Schiller. One of them was Heinrich Deinhardt from Vienna. 6Heinrich Deinhardt, often mentioned by Steiner. No biographical information available. His Beiträge zur Würdigung Schillers (“Contributions to the Appreciation of Schiller”) were reissued in 1922 in Stuttgart. In the 1860s, he wrote a splendid, extraordinarily profound little book on Schiller's world view. I don't think you can still get it in bookstores, except possibly an old, used copy in a second-hand store. It is out of print and was probably remaindered a long time ago, for nobody read what Deinhardt had to say about Schiller even though his book is one of the best things written about Schiller. Deinhardt was a teacher in Vienna whom the world has forgotten. He once had the misfortune to break his leg. Although his broken leg was set carefully, he could not get well again because he was undernourished. This man wrote one of the best books on Schiller, doubtlessly better than all the nonsense written since then, and yet he had to starve. That's the way of the world.
With my book I tried to show the relevance of great minds such as
Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Troxler, Planck, Preuss, Immanuel Hermann
Fichte and a few others for our age. 7Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 1762–1814, German
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, 1775–1854, German philosopher. Leading figure of German idealism. Clashed with Fichte and later also with Hegel. Wrote on Transcendental Idealism.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1770–1831, German philosopher. Last of the great German Idealist system-building philosophers. Created monistic system reconciling opposites by means of dialectic process. Viewed history as similar process, dialectic of thesis an its implied antithesis leading to synthesis. Exerted influence on Existentialists, Positivists, and Marx.
Immanuel Hermann von Fichte, 1796–1879, son of Johann Got- t ie . Philosopher, exponent of an ethical or speculative theism. Their works provide a completely different kind of nourishment for the soul than the writings people so often turn to in their sincere but misguided quest for the spirit. With an aching heart I have seen again and again sincerely seeking people reach for this or that book in order to find nourishment for their soul and to find a way into the spiritual world. If they had only turned to works such as Schelling's Klara or Bruno, they would have received infinite nourishment for their soul. Granted, it would have required some effort, but that would have been good for them. A certain naive searching of souls has become more and more lively and urgent in recent times. Yet, most people only reach for the soul-gunk produced by Ralph Waldo Trine or for the stuff you get when you lace some formulation or other of Buddhism, Brahminism, or something like that with a sticky sauce. 8Ralph Waldo Trine, American spiritualistic writer. One can have the strangest experiences with such things. For example, I used to know a very dear man — he died recently here in Berlin — who was very enthusiastic about my writings interpreting Goethe when I first published them. Then as he grew older, he began translating a number of such soul-gunk writings, not Ralph Waldo Trine but others, from American English into German — his earlier enthusiasm evidently having been only a flash in the pan. For a long time there, people here in Europe thought they needed American-English nourishment for their souls.
Let us get a sense for what needs to be done to nourish people's souls. In the book I mentioned and also in the booklet Mission of Spiritual Science, which has just been published, I tried to show what can be given even to those who are not members of our circle. 9Rudolf Steiner, Die Aufgabe der Geisteswissenschaft und deren Bau in Dornach (“The Mission of Spiritual Science and its Building in Dornach”), Berlin, 1916. We can certainly hand this booklet to people who are not part of our circle. Then time will tell whether there is any understanding for the task devolving on anyone who has some idea of how necessary it is that spiritual truths stream into our present age.
I can assure you I have not merely made this or that disparaging statement in what I have said to you during these difficult times, but I have substantiated everything with details and verified it. I have not merely said philosophers are only homunculi but have quoted a particularly characteristic statement and a number of other things to give you an idea of how matters really stand and to show you that in this first third of our fifth post-Atlantean epoch everything tends to develop into homunculism, into spiritual emptiness.
People will have to penetrate more and more deeply into the difference between a merely logically correct concept and one that is true to reality. A logically correct concept is not necessarily true to reality. In my new book I have tried to elaborate what it means to think true to reality. So much that is deplorable in our cultural life comes from the belief that anything thought out logically is also necessarily true to reality. However, thinking that is true to reality is very different from merely logical and correct thinking.
For example, when you see a tree trunk lying on the ground, you see an external reality. But if you think about this tree trunk, you will find it is not a reality at all because it cannot exist as such. It necessarily has to contain the shoots that develop into branches, leaves, and blossoms. Thus, it is really a lie, this tree trunk, a “true unreality,” because what it appears to be cannot exist in the nature of things. Only if you are aware that you think of something unreal when you think about a tree trunk, then your thinking is true to reality.
Thus, you see most modern sciences consist of thoughts about unrealities. Geology thinks of the earth as consisting purely of minerals. But there is no such purely mineral earth, just as the tree trunk as such does not exist. For the mineral kingdom of the earth already contains in itself plants, animals, and human beings, and only when we think of these latter kingdoms as connected with the mineral are we thinking about a reality. Geology, then, is a completely unreal science.
The outstanding feature of my new book is that I have tried to elaborate the concept of reality. Another important feature is my attempt to give at least a preliminary sketch of the imaginative thinking we will all have to develop. You will also find all kinds of comparisons and analogies in this book because I did not work with abstract, logically developed concepts. Instead, I said, for example, thinking in terms of the atomistic world view means insisting what the natural sciences think is real. It means believing when we paint a portrait, the subject of the painting can then walk around. In my book I have worked with images like this. It remains to be seen whether this unique style will be appreciated. It is the beginning of a special mode of presentation not readily found elsewhere these days.
We have to realize, however, how far people are from unbiased acceptance of these things. These days people have an incredible faith in authority. They do not look at what stands behind the authorities, but measure authority by title, rank, and official position. However, what matters is what stands behind an authority. I would like to give you a nice example to show the extent to which homunculism and thinking in mere appearances have already advanced. A man told this story as an interesting example of what homunculism in our time considers great and important — he told it with the best of intentions for he is opposed to homunculism though he is not sure what to replace it with.
There are many today who worship technology as their god, and I gave you examples of this a few weeks ago. To show the extent of this adoration of technology let me quote the following monstrosity. This is an outrageous utterance of a serious man of mature years, a doctor and a family man. He is said to be not especially outstanding or profound in any way, that is, he is considered to meet all requirements for pronouncing judgments held to be good common sense. Before the war, when the newspaper world was thoroughly amazed by the daring flight of the French aviator Pegoud, this man — a doctor and family man and in no way outstanding — this man judged the cultural value of the airplane in the style of the period, saying with great seriousness and pathos, “A screw of Pegoud's flying machine is more important than all the philosophy of Kant and Schiller, than all philosophy of all times, if you like.” 10Adolphe Pegoud, 1889–1915, French aviator. Known for acrobatic ying feats; credited with first “looping the loop” in an aircraft. Killed in aerial combat. Now, don't think this is a very unusual and rare statement. It is the sort of attitude prevailing with many people today, and it is growing stronger and stronger.
It is now more than twenty years ago, that a lady invited me to speak in her salon on Goethe after I had just given a series of public lectures. I did so, and from her circle of friends she was able to bring together quite a large audience. So I spoke to them about Goethe's Faust and some of his other plays. 11Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, German poet and playwright. Faust (1808–32), a drama in verse, is his masterpiece. The ladies took it quite well, but most of the men said that Faust was not a drama but science. What they meant was that in a theater one ought to see Blumenthal and not Goethe's Faust. 12Oskar Blumenthal, 1852–1917, German playwright and critic. It is indeed true that people now are moving in a direction culminating in judgments such as the one I just read to you.
You see, today things happen quickly. Not long ago someone published the memoirs of a well-known natural scientist who died recently — at least it was something like memoirs, not really an autobiography but a book written down later by somebody else. Strictly speaking, one cannot call this memoirs. It is indeed interesting to contemplate one of the opinions expressed by this world-famous man; I don't even want to tell you his name, you would be surprised how famous he is. Indeed, he was one of the most renowned people of his day, famous and an expert in his profession, and we certainly don't want to deny his greatness. One of the things he said was, “Philosophy does not concern me at all. It is all the same to me whether the sun moves around the earth or the earth around the sun. I would only be interested in this if I were studying astronomy.” 13It was not possible to ascertain the identity of the person Steiner refers to here. This man has given the world a new medical preparation; his name is on everyone's lips; yet he has never gone outside his very narrow circle and serenely admits being not particularly interested whether the earth moves around the sun or the sun around the earth. He would concern himself with that only if he were an astronomer!
I don't want to denounce or criticize anyone; this man has doubtlessly earned his fame in his own field. He liked to have his wife play the piano for him in the evening; yet he considered music merely a means to improve his concentration and was not really listening to it at all. So she played the piano for him, but he understood nothing of it and merely enjoyed his enhanced concentration. Only on Saturdays he did not want any music because then he was waiting for something still more important to him. He was fervently expecting the arrival of a detective novel, a blood-curdling detective story in a lurid cover. He used to read such novels with special pleasure and preferred them to piano music. He loved these detective novels, the kind of trashy literature peddled on the backstairs!
Now, as I said, I am not telling you this to denounce anyone but simply to show what our times are like. We must remember that these are the authorities behind laboratory tables, behind dissecting tables. This is the spirit permeating what can indeed be very useful in the outer world and what will inevitably lead our whole culture step by step into technologization, that is, into homunculism. We must realize this danger, and, based on this insight, we have to find ways to allow the spirit to approach people. What I said here this winter was not said out of a subjective bias in favor of spiritual science, but out of insight into its inevitable significance for the present age. I believe it will be good if you will take into your souls what has been said.
We can probably meet again for another talk next Tuesday because it will surely take still another week before my book is finished.