Human Life in the Light of Spiritual Science
The following remarks formed the content of a lecture I delivered on the 16th of October, 1916, at Liestal. It was, to some extent, a sort of continuation of another lecture, given also at Liestal on the 11th of January, entitled “The Task of Spiritual Science and its Building at Dornach.” My endeavor in both lectures was to designate, as briefly as possible, the ways in which knowledge is gained, which is embodied in the system to which I have given the name “Anthroposophy” or “Spiritual Science.” I also tried to give a short description, derived from this knowledge, concerning the spiritual nature of the human soul and matters connected therewith. I have also alluded, in this lecture, as in others, to the kind of objections raised by many people against spiritual science, when in an anthroposophical setting. These objections often arise in a very peculiar way. They do not consist in first considering what Spiritual Science asserts, and then attacking it, but they consist in setting up a caricature of what Spiritual Science is supposed to say, and then attacking that. In this way we are frequently assailed, not because of the actual objects we had in view, but because of their very opposite, which we never had in mind. This type of opposition usually has no serious intention of really learning to understand what it condemns. In the face of such attacks as these, there is hardly anything to do save continually to strive to present the actual methods and aims of Spiritual Science in an anthroposophical setting from various angles. Concerning certain points therefore this has been done also in the present lecture.
Dornach near Basle,
Human Life in the Light of Spiritual Science
16 October 1916, Liestal
The object of my remarks today on Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, is no more intended to be what is ordinarily meant by the word “propaganda,” than it was the object of my lecture delivered in this same place in January of the present year. Then as now, it was my desire to answer certain questions which must arise in this particular locality where the Dornach building, devoted to the service of this Spiritual Science, stands directly before our eyes.
Outsiders whose attention is drawn to the anthroposophical movement might quite properly inquire whether there is any reason, in the spiritual life of the present day, why such a movement is necessary. And it is easy to understand why such outsiders come to a negative conclusion at the outset. They may believe that a few people, with little to do in their daily lives, gather together in order to occupy themselves with all sorts of things which are of no use in real life, and which are no concern of those who are obliged to spend their time in hard work for the service of mankind. Yet this opinion can only be held by whose who have failed to acquaint themselves thoroughly with the conditions of human progress in the course of the last three or four centuries, and especially during the nineteenth century right up to our present day. Just cast an eye over all the changes which have taken place in human life during this period in comparison with the requirements of earlier times. New discoveries have been made relating to the operation of natural forces, and these discoveries have brought about a fundamental change in human existence and in the conditions of daily life. How different is the environment in which we find ourselves placed today when compared to that of a not very distant past! If we envisage human life today, from infancy to old age, we obtain a very different picture from the one presented by that vanished era. Such a survey would show us the life environment in which the individual finds himself, and how the work, for which preparation has been made during childhood and youth, has to be carried out. It would show further the individual awaking to the need of knowing something about the meaning and essential significance of life. He cannot be content with what he sees through his senses or what he must acquire by his own handiwork. In the course of life, attention is drawn to the voice of the in-dwelling soul, and the individual is led to ask: what sense has this soul life within the outer physical world? A perfectly justifiable answer can be made, viz: that the world really satisfies all human queries which may arise. Besides outer experiences, in connection with daily tasks and daily life, it brings to the individual the element of religious life. In this way the eternal meaning is disclosed of what occurs in the human being's physical surroundings, and thus the door which seems to close upon physical life is transformed for him into the portal to the everlasting and immortal life of the soul.
This answer is perfectly correct, generally speaking. Accordingly it seems quite reasonable to ask why something further should be required which will, in the form of Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy, force its way between outer life in the physical world and religious revelation, religious annunciations concerning the eternal being of man.
Yet anyone who is satisfied with the general terms of this quite correct opinion concerning contemporary human life, fails to take into account that recent centuries, and more especially our modern era, have given a particular form to this life which compels us today to regard all questions affecting life in a way which must extend beyond the limits of generalities. Just consider the education and schooling of today, how after passing through them we adopt viewpoints and receive impressions which are quite different from those of earlier times, inasmuch as they are based upon the great advances made during the recent centuries and the immediate present. It is of the essence of the historical progress of mankind that conditions of life should change completely during definite periods of time, and that not until after such change has reached a certain stage does the human being attain the ability to adjust individual soul life to the change. Consequently it is not until the present time that the human soul is beset with questions which are the outcome of changes in the conditions of human life which have taken place during the past three or four centuries. Only today are those questions taking on tangible form. Prime evidence of this fact is to be found in the belief held by many individuals during the 19th century and which has been unveiled and shown to be erroneous only in our own age.
Spiritual Science certainly does not underestimate the great progress made by natural science; it tenders it complete and admiring recognition; but doubts its claims. Only a little while ago it was possible to hold the belief that natural science would be able to solve the great riddles of human existence by the means at its disposal. But anyone possessed of intensified powers of soul, and familiarizing himself with the more recent accomplishments in the way of scientific achievement, becomes increasingly aware that, so far as the ultimate problems of human existence are concerned, science is not bringing us answers but on the contrary a perpetual series of new questions. Human life is enriched by the possibility of asking such questions today; in the domain of natural science they remain just questions. People who lived during the 19th century, even the men of learning, took far too little account of this. They believed they were obtaining answers to certain riddles, whereas in reality it was necessary to put the questions in a new way. Such questions have now been instilled into us, so to speak. They are present in the soul as soon as the individual has to face the facts of life, and they demand an answer.
Now the individuals who unite to form the Anthroposophical Society are in a certain sense those who are conscious of the riddles presented by life in the natural course of events, riddles not arbitrarily presented but which are, of necessity, presented by the life in which the human being finds himself enmeshed at the present time. These questions become especially evident in connection with modern science, yet do not exclusively concern those who occupy themselves seriously with science, but they affect everyone who takes an all-round interest in modern life. If it were impossible to obtain answers to these questions, certain consequences must inevitably ensue in human existence which would permit a sad light to be cast on the future. Anyone today speaking about these consequences may appear to be a visionary. But he will only seem so to those who allow themselves to be dazzled by the greatness of human progress, and who do not comprehend that this progress must be followed by progress in another realm, if the preparation of certain events below the surface, is to be prevented.
We might of course imagine that we could make ourselves insensitive to the riddle-questions referred to, turn a deaf ear to them and avoid asking them. But if we did so we would paralyze certain of our spiritual energies which require the very conditions presented by modern times for their development. Human soul life would then reach a condition comparable to that of having hands and feet but without being able to use them because they are fettered. Powers which we possess but cannot utilize have a very paralyzing effect on us. And the continual spread of this feeling of partial paralysis of certain soul forces would gradually bring about a state of indifference, nay even apathy toward religious emotion. Nor would it stop there. A state of indifference toward the concerns of the soul is only tolerable as long as human interest is strongly attracted by the other factor which obscures the concerns of the soul. But this interest also ceases after a while. It might persist in the case of individuals who were being directly impressed by the astonishing achievements of science; but it would be extinguished eventually. And then, save in the case of those directly impressed, apathy regarding external life would follow upon indifference to the concerns of the soul and be its further consequence. Joy in life and joy in work would be clouded. Life would be felt a burden.
The precursors of indifference to religious life were plainly perceptible during the 19th century. I will not cite as an illustration anything taken from the contributions made by the numerous scholars who believed themselves capable of answering spiritual questions from the standpoint of science. I am going to speak about a simple son of the soil caught in the toils of this belief. The man I refer to was a peasant who lived a martyr's existence in the upper Austrian Alps during the 19th century. Konrad Deubler was his name. Deubler was enthralled by the successful achievements of science during the 19th century. During his youth he devoted himself for awhile to the spiritual ideas advanced by Zschokke. But acquaintance with Darwinism as well as with the writings of Haeckel, Buechner and others weaned him away. He allowed himself to be captivated by the materialism of Darwin, to be completely carried away by the teachings of Haeckel, and finally came to believe that it was pure folly to imagine that any other sources save scientific ones could be relied upon for information concerning any sort of spiritual world. He believed that the world was fashioned from purely material substance and energy. For Deubler as an individual we can well feel admiration. He became a veritable martyr to his convictions, for he spent much time in prison on account of them between 1850 and 1860, an era when such things were still possible. Deubler was certainly a man whose views were not the product of any superficial attitude, but one who in consequence of being completely led astray by the currents of his century came to reject all spiritual sources of knowledge. True, he enjoyed life up to the hour of his death; but this was due to his living during the age in which it was still possible to be dazzled by the splendor of purely scientific achievements. Only those who lived later, could manifest in their souls the results of such ideas as he conceived them. In Deubler we have a famous example of a certain type of soul, characteristic of our modern age. Many such examples might be cited. They would go to prove that many people of today believe that natural science could give a comprehensive explanation of the meaning of the world. It will not be possible to arrest the advance of scientific knowledge, nor do we wish to hold it back, for its life consists in the conquests needed by modern man, in all the useful things which he must introduce into his existence. But if the human mind is directed one-sidedly toward natural science, contact with spiritual life, and with the individual, in-dwelling soul, is lost. People like Deubler did not see through the whole process, did not see how science gives birth to new questions for the living soul, but not to new answers. His mental attitude would have to be adopted more generally, if in addition to natural science, a fully qualified Spiritual Science were to come into being.
There are those therefore who have become united within the Anthroposophical Society, inspired by the belief that in modern Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, a bond should be created between life, as it has advanced, in the light of natural science, and the life of religion. If the meaning of natural science is correctly fathomed it may be said that such science leads to a picture of the world in which the essential being of man finds no place. In making this statement I am not just voicing my personal opinion, but expressing something which unprejudiced observation of scientific research can discern very clearly, and concerning which, deception is only possible in an age which accords scientific achievements the admiration, which is their just due, is yet unable to recognize their limitations. Individual investigators have long been aware of the existence of certain limitations. So the address made by du Bois-Reymond at Leipsic about 1870 has become famous. It closed with “Ignorabimus”: — No matter how closely nature's secrets are explored by the scientific method, it is never possible to discover what it is that inhabits the human soul in the form of consciousness; nay more, we cannot even find a way of comprehending what underlies matter. Natural science is incapable of understanding matter and consciousness, the two poles so to speak of human life. It may be said that natural science has in a sense driven human beings, so far as they are spiritual entities, out of the cosmos upon which it is working. This becomes apparent on investigating the ideas concerning the evolution of the earth planet, which have grown up on scientific soil.
I am quite aware that these ideas have undergone considerable change up to the present day, and that many people might label the points to which I am referring as out of date. But that is not the subject under consideration. The things which are being said today in this connection are a result of the same spirit which produced the already antiquated concept of Kant-Laplace, about which I am going to speak. According to that concept the earth and the whole solar system were fashioned out of a sort of primeval nebula, which contained nothing but forces belonging to a misty form. The rotation of this nebula is supposed gradually to have fashioned the planetary system and within this system the earth, so that through the continuous evolution of the forces originally contained in this nebula, all the things upon the earth which we admire, came into being, man included. This view is considered highly illuminating, and it is taught to our school children. People delude themselves into finding it illuminating, for one has only to perform a simple experiment for the children in order to believe that the process has been entirely elucidated. And visual elucidation is much admired by many who desire to find an adequate concept of the world in natural science. It is only necessary to take a drop of some substance that floats on water, pass a tiny strip of cardboard through the equatorial plane of this substance and stick a pin in the cardboard perpendicular to the equatorial plane. This floating drop on the surface of some water is then revolved by means of a pin. And behold! tiny particles do actually sever themselves from the main body! A cosmic system in miniature comes into being. How is it possible not to be able to say that here you have the entire process of the world's creation in miniature? The children think they understand; the experiment seems so illuminating. Yet there is one factor which always escapes notice in the experiment. And while it is sometimes a good thing to forget oneself in the world, it is not a good thing to do so in conducting a scientific experiment.
For observe, the drop would not throw off particles from itself, were the class teacher not standing there, revolving the pin. But since everything necessary to accomplish the result must be taken into account, the one presenting this experiment to an audience should give them to understand that a great professor or teacher, a giant professor, ought to be located in the universe outside, who has passed a gigantic pin through the nebula and is now causing the whole mass to rotate. And furthermore: what has come into being out of the drop? Nothing whatever, save that which was already there in the undivided state. Empiricism often leads us astray in our search for knowledge.
It is true that people possessed of really healthy impressions about the universe, decline to accept such an appeal to the eye, all scientific authority notwithstanding. I will give you an example, the same one which is mentioned in my latest book “The Riddle of the Human Being.” Herman Grimm, the great authority on art, set forth his conviction that Goethe at no time in his life would have committed himself to such a purely superficial explanation of cosmic evolution. This is what Herman Grimm says: “The great fantasy of Laplace and Kant concerning the origin and eventual fate of the earth ball had established itself firmly even at the time when Goethe was a youth. As a product of the rotating cosmic nebula — even the school children are now being taught this — the central gaseous sphere is formed which eventually becomes the earth, and as a densifying globe it passes through all the stages of evolution, becoming the habitation of the human race during inconceivably long periods of time, only to fall back headlong into the sun at last, a burnt out heap of slag. It is a lengthy process, but one quite intelligible to the public, since it demands no further external intervention than efforts on the part of some outside force to maintain the sun's heat at a constant temperature. No more barren perspective of the future can be imagined than this, which we are being forcibly urged to accept as a scientific necessity. A carrion bone, avoided even by a hungry dog, would be an invigorating and appetizing morsel compared to this final excrement of creation, the final form in which our earth would eventually be returned to its home in the “sun.” The avidity with which our generation swallows such things, and pretends to believe them, is a symptom of diseased fancy, an historical phenomenon of our time to explain which the scholars of future eras will some day have to expend much acumen. Goethe never opened his door to hopeless speculations of this kind . . .”
The feeling thus expressed by Herman Grimm, in an age when it was not yet possible to speak of Spiritual Science, or Anthroposophy, as we can now, deserves our careful attention. For it points to the presence of a human feeling which urgently demands a solution of the great problems of the universe quite different from the one offered in good faith by natural science, as the result of its remarkable achievements and here I should like to repeat that Spiritual Science has no hostility toward natural science. The real course, however, of scientific evolution of recent date, shows that this evolution can raise profound questions into consciousness, but that the answer to these questions must come from a different quarter. And it is these answers which Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy desires to give. Yet of course it must appeal to faculties of cognition which are quite different from faculties which are recognized today. I spoke about the evolution of these super-sensible faculties of knowledge in the previous lecture which I was privileged to give here. That lecture has been printed in pamphlet form bearing the title “The Mission of Spiritual Science and its Building at Dornach.” I shall not repeat what I said in that lecture, but shall merely draw attention to the fact that in addition to the ordinary soul forces possessed by the human being, which he also employs in the conduct of his scientific studies, others can be developed, and that these other powers have the same relationship to the ordinary powers of cognition, by way of comparison, that the musical ear has to the perception which is focused merely upon the vibrating strings of musical instruments. In the external world the point of view which disregards the ear will describe a symphony in terms of string vibrations, etc. But the musical ear receives a very different message from these vibrations. A spiritual researcher is a man who has developed, as it were, perceptive ability concerning the world. This ability is related to the natural scientific concept in much the same way that the musical ear is related to the concept which only concerns itself with the vibrating processes of space. The spiritual researcher uses faculties through which the spiritual world is manifested just as the symphony manifests itself through the phenomenon of vibrations. And I must emphasize the fact that by no means everyone desiring to make Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy fruitful for his soul need become a spiritual researcher himself. The relationship between the Spiritual Science researcher and the human being who carries on no research himself, but depends on the results of spiritual research of others, is different from the relationship between the natural science researcher and the human being who accepts the results of natural science. The relationship is a different one and will be here figuratively presented. The spiritual researcher himself prepares, so to say, only the means which communicate the knowledge of the spiritual world. Because he has developed certain faculties, the spiritual researcher is in the position to form such means by which everyone who is sufficiently unprejudiced to employ this instrument properly, can penetrate into the spiritual world. The only requisite is a correct concept of the nature of this means. While on the one hand anyone who constructs the apparatus required for an external chemical or clinical experiment has to assemble external things by means of which some secrets of nature may be revealed, on the other hand the spiritual researcher constructs a purely psycho-spiritual apparatus. This apparatus consists of certain ideas and combinations of ideas which, when correctly employed, unlock the door to the spiritual world.
For this reason the literature of Spiritual Science has to be conceived differently from other literature. Scientific literature imparts certain results with which we acquaint ourselves. The literature of Spiritual Science is not of this type. It can become an instrument in the soul of each human being. After thoroughly steeping ourselves in the ideas which are indicated there we have more than a mere dead result about which information has been gained. What we have before us is something uniting human beings, by virtue of their inherent life, with the spiritual world for which we are seeking. Anyone who reads a book attentively, written through Spiritual Science, will observe — provided the book is read with the right sort of attention — that the living ideas contained in it can become a means in the individual soul life of bringing this same soul life into a kind of synchronous vibration with spiritual existence. Henceforth such a person will conceive things spiritually which up to that time had been conceived by means of the senses alone, and of the intellect bound fast to the senses. Though this fact is little recognized, and the literature of Spiritual Science is regarded just like other writings, the reason is simply and solely the fact, that we are only now witnessing the commencement of spiritual-scientific evolution. When this evolution has progressed, it will be increasingly recognized that we possess something in the content of a book written according to the true principles of Spiritual Science, not at all like the content of other books, but we possess something resembling an instrument which does not merely impart results of knowledge, but we can secure by means of it such results by an activity of our own. But it must be clearly understood that the instrument of Spiritual Science is composed of soul and spirit only, and that it consists of certain ideas and concepts which have a quite definite life of their own, distinguishable from all other ordinary concepts and ideas by not being pictures, as is the case with ordinary thought and conceptual life, but living realities. Emphasis too must be laid on the point that even at the stage Spiritual Science has reached today everyone who earnestly strives can become, up to a certain point, a spiritual researcher himself. Yet this is not essential in order, as set forth above, to make the knowledge derived from Spiritual Science fruitful for the soul.
And for the very reason that Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy is still only at the beginning of its development, it is intelligible, nay self-evident, that the results obtained by the developed faculties of the spiritual researcher should encounter doubt and mistrust, perhaps even laughter and derision. But this doubt and derision will tend to disappear by degrees in the course of time, as soon as the needs awaken to which attention has already been called, and which at present slumber in the majority of human beings. So general recognition will be accorded to Spiritual Science also, just as it has been accorded to various other things which have taken place in humanity during its evolution.
The first thing apparent to a spiritual researcher is that the human being, as he appears to the senses, and to the intellect guided by those senses, and also as far as he can be examined by natural science employing external methods, represents merely one part, one member of the entire human entity; and that within this entire human nature, in addition to the man of the senses, the physical external man, there exists a super-physical man, active and alive within the man of the senses and alone capable of preventing the sense man from becoming a decaying corpse at any moment. For the spiritual researcher discovers that even as we behold color by means of the physical eye we can perceive — to adopt an expression of Goethe's — by means of the “spiritual eye,” within this physical man, what is called the “Etheric Body.” (The term “Etheric Body” is in itself of no special importance, so I beg you not to take this expression amiss; I could have used another just as well.) Within the physical human body lies the super-sensible etheric body not perceptible to physical eyes but visible to the spiritual eye only. People may scoff at the idea of the addition, by a spiritual researcher, of an etheric man to the physical man. Nevertheless, just as the physical human being consists of the matter and energy, together with their activities, which are present in his physical earthly environment, so does he also consist of spiritual forces which he possesses in common with a surrounding spiritual world. We shall begin by considering the forces of the so-called etheric body. This body consists of certain forces that may be termed super-sensible. And it is possible to discover these forces in our environment just as distinctly as the physical forces within us can be discovered by natural science within our earthly surroundings. But of course the spiritual element of our environment must be perceived by the “spiritual eye.”
Let us begin by speaking of an event which establishes a certain connection which actually exists between the processes in the world surrounding us and the forces constituting the etheric body within us. Ordinary human observation can note, during the course of the year, how plants shoot up in the spring time, become increasingly clothed in green, later on developing colored blossoms and finally fruit. Then we see them wither and pass away We are aware of active growth during the summer succeeded by rest and repose during the winter Thus the succession of the seasons of the year appears to outer sense observation. But for this sensible observation, what is represented here, is related to the spirit, just as the vibrating strings are related to the expanding tone volumes. The “spiritual eye” adds a kind of spiritual hearing and spiritual sight to this alternation between activity and repose; and the spiritual researcher compares it with the effect of vibrating strings upon a musical ear. And during the time when we see the plants physically shoot up out of the earth and become perceptible to the physical eye, the spiritual researcher beholds an extra-terrestrial being — whose approach to the earth from without is proportionate to the amount of plant growth. However paradoxical it may sound to the modern ear, it is an actual fact that this “spiritual eye” really beholds a stream of rich life entering the earth from the outside with every spring, which does not flow in during the winter. And while with our physical sight we see only physical plants growing out of the soil, spiritual sight beholds spiritual beings, etheric beings, growing downward, so to speak, out of the entire cosmic environment of the earth. And in the same proportion that the physical plants attain fullness of growth, we see, so to speak, just as many living spiritual beings disappear out of the etheric environment of the earth, as descend into the plant life growing up out of the ground. And it is not until the fruit begins to develop, and the flowers to fade, and autumn to draw near, that we see what has united itself with the earth, and has disappeared within the plant world, in a certain sense, returning to the regions of space surrounding the earth. So the inflow and the outflow of a super-sensible element into the being of the earth is spiritually visible from spring until autumn. You might describe it as super-sensible living plants growing out of the etheric realm and disappearing within the physical plants.
Winter presents a different spiritual scene. Anyone who is only aware of winter because of seeing the snow and feeling the cold does not know that the earth, as earth, is quite different during the winter from what it is in summer. For the earth enjoys a much more intense and active spiritual life of its own during the winter than during summer. And if these relations become a living experience we begin to share this alternation of etheric life during winter and summer. We experience a spiritual phenomenon comparable in a certain sense with the alternations in human experience brought about during the period of going to sleep and waking. (These short explanations do not allow me to show that the experiences I have described are not contradicted by the motions, proper to the earth globe. Anyone who begins to study Spiritual Science seriously will soon recognize the lack of significance in objections such as this: yes, but the earth revolves, you know, etc.)
In this way we learn to recognize that certain beings are not connected with the earth during the winter, but are to be found only in the cosmic environment of the earth, and that these beings descend to earth during the spring time, unite themselves with plant life, and enjoy a kind of repose by uniting themselves with earth life. But the repose which these beings find within the earth, stimulates earth life itself by reason of spirit having united itself with the earth, and during the winter the earth itself, as a being, has something resembling a memory of this summer contact with beings from extra-terrestrial space. Things otherwise unimaginable are revealed to spiritual perception by our natural environment. It is like suddenly receiving the gift of hearing, with sounds pouring in volume from vibrating strings, sounds which we could not hear previously on account of our deafness.
We become acquainted with etheric life. This etheric life shows that certain beings belonging to the earth's environment, but linked to other heavenly bodies, link themselves with the earth during the summer and withdraw again during the winter. This life causes the earth as a being (not that celestial object which geology, or the other natural sciences, regard as a dead body), to go to sleep during the summer, but to awaken in the winter, to live again in the memories of the spiritual visitations of the previous summer. Just the contrary of what we should like to think, as it were, about earth life, is correct — using in the process all sorts of analogies. Such analogies would lead us to believe that the earth awakens in the spring and goes to sleep in the autumn, but Spiritual Science brings us the knowledge that the warm and sultry summer is the earth's sleeping season, and that cold weather which wraps the earth in snow is the season when the earth is awake. (Anyone who achieves a right comprehension of such an experience as this will be unaffected by the superficial objection, that the comparison made with musical hearing, shows Spiritual Science to be merely a subjective phenomenon like taste in art. For the results which occur in the earth's organism as a consequence of what was seen taking place during summer prove the process to be an objective one.)
I wish to state emphatically that Spiritual Science gives voice to none of the anthropomorphic ideas uttered by some 19th century philosophers (Fechner, for instance), but does give imaginative descriptions of real spiritual perceptions, which for the most part are very different from anthropomorphic ideas. That fact alone should enable certain opponents of Spiritual Science to see how indefensible it is to confuse it with philosophy of an anthropomorphic type. By permeating ourselves with the knowledge which flows from such observations we learn to understand how human life moulds itself. For of all the riddles confronting us in the outer world, human life itself is the greatest. I can, in the course of a brief lecture, give only a mere sketch of some small part of what Spiritual Science or Anthroposophy has to say concerning the enigma of human life. But I shall indicate how spiritual sight observes a continuous rhythm in human life. Spiritual sight beholds in the period of childhood the first member of this rhythm. (For the present, we omit the time between conception and birth, interesting to observe on its own account.) The period of childhood from birth to the coming of the second teeth, that is, to the sixth or seventh year, is a period of special interest for spiritual methods of research.
During this first period, the amount of development in the human being is incalculable, hence teachers gifted with insight have declared that human beings learn from mother or nurse during the first years of life more than they can learn from everyone else during the rest of their lives, even if they were to circumnavigate the globe. All else aside, within this period the faculties of erect posture, of speech, of thought and memory, and finally the work of those inner forces which reach a kind of termination in the production of the second teeth are developed. Now all these processes of development present themselves to the spiritual researcher in a way that indicates that they were brought about by earthly forces. Of course he is obliged to add what is beheld by the “spiritual eye” in the evolution of the earth to what sense perception beholds in earth life. But that which takes place in us up to the age of about seven is comprehensible as a product of a complex of forces to be found within the earth domain. (It is hardly necessary to state that in saying this it is not meant to imply that Spiritual Science has already discovered all the secrets connected with this particular period of human development, but rather that no bounds be set to the amount of research which matters such as this may require in earthly life.)
From the change of teeth onward begins a second section of human life lasting until about the fourteenth year, when we become physically mature. Concerning this section of human life Spiritual Science knows that the processes which reveal themselves in the physical body are no longer to be explained by what is active upon the earth itself, but by extra-terrestrial forces, similar in kind to those which have been described in connection with plant life during the course of the year. This particular spirit life (etheric life) which characterizes the plant world is active during the second human life period, but its activity is of such a nature that the process which occurs in plant development in a single year, in reciprocal relationship with the extra-terrestrial forces, is accomplished by the human being during his earth life in about seven years. (All of this is not being said with a sidelong mystical glance at the number seven, but merely as a result of a spiritual observation.)
It must be specially remarked that the forces active during the second period of human life are only similar in kind to those coming from outside the earth to activate plant growth. In the case of the plant the extra- terrestrial forces actually work on the plants from within. These same forces are active within the human organism yet without an actual spatial entrance being effected from outside the earth. Accordingly, the etheric energy which operates to unfold and wither the plant world in the course of a year, lives in the human organism in the form of an enclosed etheric body. The evolutionary processes during the second life period from the seventh to the fourteenth year of the general life rhythm, take place under the influence of these forces. By reason of the human being containing the forces needed for these evolutionary processes within himself, he appears no longer as a purely earthly being, but a copy of something extra- terrestrial, although this particular extra-terrestrial element is present in the world of sense. It is the special evolutionary task of the earth forces to develop what comes to expression in the human brain.
Strange as this may sound when compared with the ideas in vogue today, the brain is chiefly a product of the earth. This shows itself externally through the evolution of the brain, coming to an end, to a large degree, at about the seventh year, naturally, not in regard to the development consisting of reception of concepts and ideas, but in regard to the brain's inner formation and structure, in the solidifying of its parts, etc., etc.
Something must now be added to what took part in the development of the human body up to the seventh year, something not contained within the earthly realm, but originating in the extra-terrestrial regions, and which causes the impulses, among other things, which the human being develops from the seventh to the fourteenth years in the rest of the body, apart from the head and brain, to force their way up into the development of the head and face as well. When we are seven years old, we give birth, as it were, to a super-terrestrial etheric man within, who works inwardly, alive and free. Just as man's physical body comes into physical existence at birth, so now does an etheric, a super-terrestrial body come into existence. The result is, that what is expressed in the features becomes more clearly defined. The etheric body furthermore influences the breathing and circulatory systems in a more individual manner. However, as a result of the earthly forces no longer being the only ones at work, and because the etheric body takes hold of the physical organization and forges an extra-terrestrial element into union with the human nature, an inner life makes its first appearance which continues to accompany us throughout the remainder of our lives as the bodily expression of our temperament and emotions. Spiritual research perceives this etheric body which human nature possesses in common with the plants, but this by no means exhausts the possibility of further discovery. When spiritual research is directed toward the animal world it finds there another super-sensible element, one not found in the extra- terrestrial environment, as is the case with the super-sensible element of the plant world. A spiritual reality is to be encountered there which is to be found neither within the earthly region nor within that super-terrestrial region which still reveals itself through the senses. It is a super-sensible element present in the human being from birth, and indeed from conception, but its activity in the bodily organization only commences about the fourteenth year. This super-sensible element is not active, as is the case with the etheric element, in the space which surrounds human beings upon earth. Just now I pointed out how Spiritual Science enables us to have knowledge of the earth, so that we may be aware how, during the winter, it retains its summer experiences connected with super-terrestrial forces, in the form of memory. When this perception of a spiritual element in the earth is followed up further, it will become evident that the earth body, upon which we now live, is just as much the offspring of a preceding planetary being, as a child is the son of his father. While the son resembles the father, the earth body comes forth like the offspring of another planetary being to whom it bears but little resemblance. We learn to observe this planetary being by observing the earth during the winter when it awakens to a certain extent and develops a kind of memory. For the spiritual element which reveals itself within the earth at that time still retains a memory picture of the conditions passed through by the particular heavenly body which later became our earth.
Such things sound paradoxical today; many people find them absurd or even foolish. But then all the things, which science has eventually acclaimed as self evident, were considered ridiculous at the outset. In the heavenly body out of which the earth subsequently took form, that which is now the mineral kingdom was not to be found. The road is a long one over which spiritual research has to travel in order to gain the knowledge that the earth evolved from a planetary predecessor on which there was no mineral kingdom. That element which is active extra-terrestrially today as a etheric element, and which unites with the body of the earth only in summer, was not so widely separated from the planetary ancestor of the earth as it is at present from the body of the earth. This ancestor, previous to the development of the mineral kingdom, was a living being itself. It was a living being in its entirety. When the “spiritual eye” beholds how our present earth evolved from a living body which preceded it, it gains the faculty of perceiving the super-sensible element acting in both man and animal; this element which is discoverable neither in earthly space nor yet at the present time in super-terrestrial space, is active already in the animal, yet it is active in the human being in a higher way. The human organism is the bearer of this super-sensible element from the commencement of its life, and is formed to be its bearer. However, about the fourteenth year, and thence onward, this super-sensible element manifests a particular and independent activity in the bodily processes not present up to that time. Observation of this activity by means of the “spiritual eye” offers one of the ways (we shall here leave others out of consideration) of recognizing a third member of human nature, the astral or soul body. Please bear in mind that the name in itself is of no importance; any other could replace it. It will not at first be easy for those unaccustomed to deal with ideas of this kind to discriminate between the astral body as it exists before and after the fourteenth year of human life. This and similar difficulties can only be overcome by a fairly long familiarity with spiritual research.
From about the age of twenty-one a further super-sensible member lays hold upon the organism of the human body in a particular fashion. It is the member which is the actual bearer of the Ego, i.e. the human Self. This human member elevates him above the animal level. The question now arises, in relation to this especial member of our being, what does Spiritual Science mean by declaring that the ego does not display independent activity until the fourth stage of life, since it is evident that we must be indebted to this member for the characteristics which elevate us even in childhood above the animal, e.g. upright posture, ability to speak etc.? The solution of this apparent contradiction is found when a knowledge has been gained of the special super-sensible nature of the human ego. It happens that the human being is organized in such a way, on the one hand, that the independent governing activity of the ego within the bodily organization does not develop until the fourth life stage. But on the other hand, the ego carries on its evolution throughout a series of incarnations. If the ego possessed only such forces as it could develop during one earth life, it would have to wait until the fourth stage of bodily life made the unfolding of the ego forces possible. But it enters this earthly life after having spent several complex lives in other bodies. And the forces which make it capable of repeated incarnations on earth, empower it to act upon certain parts of the bodily organization in such a way that the abilities, of which I have spoken, develop earlier than the fourth life stage. The same circumstance accounts for the astral body being brought into activity in the physical body by the ego earlier than was destined by the being of the essential astral body itself. Just through the fact that the spiritual researcher focuses his attention upon the difference in the activity of the ego in the human organism, prior to the advent of the fourth life period, and after it, he knows that the earth man passes through repeated earth lives, between which lie long periods of time in a purely spiritual existence, between death and new birth.
I have now described to you some of the things contained in the cosmic conception of Anthroposophy. Of course this description has been a very sketchy one, for I should have to talk for many hours in order to make any kind of approximately adequate statement concerning the path of research leading to the utterance of such thoughts as have been here expressed. Yet it may be that what has been stated will suffice to convey the idea that such statements are based upon careful, conscientious research, which presumes the employment of especially developed modes of cognition, and which in no way represent the arbitrary dominance of any fantastic speculations or philosophy. This sort of research adds the element of spirit — which surrounds us just as definitely as the physical outer world surrounds our physical being — to the of knowledge which natural science has been able to collect concerning the bodily part of man.
In this world, which becomes manifest through spiritual research, we encounter, to begin with, beings that grow downward etherically toward the earth just as plants grow upward, physically out of the earth. We have in these ether plants the earliest forerunners, so to speak, of spiritual beings and spiritual forces into which we grow even as through our senses we grow into the world of sense. But in the act of learning to know the spiritual world, the world out of which human astral life and the human ego originate, we learn to know a spiritual world within our environment, containing real spiritual beings. To this world our souls belong, just as our bodies belong to the physical world, the world inhabited by mankind. Once again I wish to emphasize that it must not be believed that spiritual investigation is actuated by any arbitrary human purpose in seeking for a relationship with the dead. This subject was touched upon by me in my previous lecture. If we are to draw near to any dead individual, the impulse for it must originate in the dead personality itself. In such a case it will of course be possible for a manifestation to come within the field of our “spiritual eye,” prompted by the will of the dead individual, just as we can receive other kinds of knowledge from the spiritual world. Yet everything coming out of this domain belongs to a type of research upon which the spiritual researcher will only embark with awe and reverence. But that which we can learn from the spiritual world by means of the deliberate development of our own faculties is something that concerns ourselves, and contains answers desired by the individuals who feel, in the manner described in this lecture, the need of spiritual help, a need which is entirely natural for the epoch of human evolution in which we live today.
As this evolutionary epoch has led of necessity to the discoveries of modern science it will lead of necessity to Spiritual Science as well. More and more persons will discover that Spiritual Science, contrary to widespread contemporary scepticism on this point, does not impair in the faintest degree human religious feelings or religious life. On the contrary, it will form the bond of union between those of us who grow up during the scientific era, and the secrets that can be imparted to us by religious revelation. Genuine Spiritual Science does not contradict natural science in anyway, nor can it estrange anybody from the life of religion.
Natural science has led in the course of recent time to a recognition of the fact that science itself is a great problem, to which something must be added if it is really to become intelligible to human beings. I should prefer not to base what I am now saying about natural science, which already today points beyond its legitimate boundaries when it contemplates the riddle of human existence, upon my personal opinion of this science. Spiritual research leads one away from personal views as they are generally understood, inasmuch as it continually tends to avoid expressions based upon subjective considerations, and to allow facts as they develop to speak for themselves. Therefore I should like here to speak about a point which the historical growth of natural science itself brings out in its latest phase. I should like to point to something which will serve as an interesting elucidation of the latest development of natural science.
The great expectations based upon Darwinism, the hopes coming from the results of spectro-analysis, and also the progress made in chemistry and biology, were especially developed in the middle of the 19th century. And then at the close of the sixties of that century Eduard von Hartmann wrote his “Philosophy of the Unconscious.” It was not even a spiritual researcher who expressed himself in this book, but a man was calling attention — primarily by hypotheses and occasionally even by means of quite illogical hypotheses — to a fact which Spiritual Science alone will actually achieve for humanity. Eduard von Hartmann thus points to a spiritual reality behind the physical world, and he calls it — though the term is open to objection — the “Unconscious.” He anticipates philosophically a thing that Spiritual Science can actually demonstrate. Because he postulated spirit as a philosophic necessity, he was unable — despite the amazing proportions already assumed by materialistic Darwinism and natural science as a whole during the sixties — to agree with the view held by so many natural scientists, viz. that present knowledge concerning the physical forces of chemistry and the biological externally perceptible forces made a perception of spiritually active forces appear unscientific. So he endeavored to show how the knowledge acclaimed by Darwinism everywhere points to spiritual forces at work in the activities and development of living beings.
How did certain scientists receive the views presented by Eduard von Hartmann? In much the same fashion that certain people today receive the statements set forth by Spiritual Science, particularly people who have so accustomed themselves to the views held by natural science concerning the universe that they regard everything which does not accord with their own ideas as a grotesque caricature. With the appearance of Eduard von Hartmann on the scene, there were those who believed themselves to be in sole possession of a science, which was true and genuine, who expressed themselves approximately thus: — Eduard von Hartmann is nothing but an amateur; he knows nothing concerning the central facts of scientific achievement; there is no need to be disturbed by such a layman's utterance as the “Philosophy of the Unconscious.” Many were the rejoinders which appeared, and all of them represented Hartmann as being an amateur. They were all designed to show that he simply did not understand the things that natural science had to say.
Among the many rejoinders one was written by a man who at first did not give his name. It was a thoughtful article, written in a genuinely scientific spirit from the standpoint of those scientists who had decisively rejected Hartmann. This criticism of Hartmann's scientific folly seemed to be one that annihilated him. Eminent scientists thereupon delivered themselves approximately as follows: — What a pity that this unknown author has not told us his name, for he has the mind of a true scientist who knows the essential requisites of scientific research. Let him announce his name and we will welcome him into our ranks. This verdict of the scientists was largely influential in exhausting the first edition of the article very rapidly. A second edition was soon required, and this time the previously unknown author announced his name. This author was Eduard von Hartmann. That was a proper lesson given to all those who, like Hartmann's scientific opponents, criticize unfamiliar matters in such an unfriendly spirit. Just as Eduard von Hartmann at that time showed that he could write as scientifically as the scientists themselves, so could the spiritual investigator of today without much effort, present all the arguments very generally used by those who denounce him as a visionary and quite unfamiliar with scientific thought. I am relating this story here not for the sake of saying something which will hit any particular critics of mine, but to draw attention to the sort of controversial arguments championed by the world which holds itself to be truly scientific when it is examining facts which are strange to it.
But this does not exhaust the matter. One of the most distinguished of Haeckel's pupils — Haeckel being the man who represented the materialistic trend of Darwinism most radically — Oskar Hertwig, who has written a whole series of books about biology, presents in his most recent and highly important work: “The Genesis of Organisms, a Rebuttal of the Darwinian Theory of Chance,” an exposition of the utter scientific impotence of materialistically colored Darwinism, when confronted with the problems of life. Proof is adduced in this book from the standpoint of the scientist himself, that the hopes entertained by Haeckel and others, that Darwinism would solve the problems of life, were unfounded. (Here I should like to state emphatically that I cherish the same high respect today for Haeckel's magnificent scientific achievements within the cosmic scheme, proper to natural science, as I did years ago. I still believe and always have believed that a correct appreciation of Haeckel's achievements is the best means of transcending a certain one-sidedness in his views. It is entirely intelligible that he could not attain to this insight himself.) Oskar Hertwig often quotes Eduard von Hartmann in the book mentioned above, and even draws attention to judgments of Hartmann, which completely annihilate the former Darwinistic opponents of this philosopher.
Facts such as these serve to show the manner in which the scientific “Weltanschauung” concerning the cosmos has taken shape; its foremost representatives today announce quite distinctly how totally erroneous the recent views of science have been.
That is a fact that will be recognized with increasing frequency. And along with the recognition of this fact will come an insight not alone into past utterances of Eduard von Hartmann and other speculative philosophers which transcend the scope of natural science, but into the additions which Spiritual Science can make to what natural science has achieved. There is no limit to the amount of additional material which could be brought forward in support of the views going to show that genuine scientific thought is in complete accord with Spiritual Science. Even as there is no contradiction between natural science and Spiritual Science, so is there no justification for saying that Spiritual Science contradicts the life of religion. In this connection I brought out points of importance in the first lecture I gave here. It is my conviction that no one (who has seriously weighed the mental attitude expressed by me in that lecture) can raise any objections to Spiritual Science from a religious point of view. Today I shall enter into some details to show that no one rooted in the scientific life of a particular religious faith can raise any objections to Spiritual Science, as long as an attitude of good will is maintained by that person. I am going to show how someone who has embraced the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, a Christian philosopher absolutely recognized as such by the Catholic Church, can think about Spiritual Science as here defined. And the things I venture to say in this regard are also applicable to the relations between any Protestant line of thought and Spiritual Science.
Thomas Aquinas' philosophy distinguishes between two kinds of knowledge: - first, facts unconditionally deriving from divine revelation and accepted because this, revelation is man's warrant for their truth. Such truths, in the teaching of Thomas Aquinas, are the Trinity; the doctrine that the earth's existence had a beginning in time; the doctrine of the fall and the redemption; the doctrine of the incarnation of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth and the doctrine of the sacraments. Thomas Aquinas is of the opinion that no human being who comprehends the nature of human powers of perception would endeavor to discover the above named truths by means of knowledge developed within himself.
Besides these truths of pure faith, Thomas Aquinas admits others which can be attained by man's own powers of perception. Such truths he denominates “Praeambula Fidei.” These include all truths dependent upon the existence of a divine spiritual element in the world. The existence therefore of a divine spiritual element which is the creator, ruler, upholder and judge of the world is not merely a truth to be accepted on faith, but a fact of knowledge which human powers can acquire. To the realm of Praeambula Fidei belong furthermore all things relating to the spiritual nature of human existence, as well as those leading to a correct discrimination between good and evil, and finally the kinds of knowledge which form the basis for ethics, natural science, aesthetics and anthropology.
It is entirely possible for us to accept the point of view of Thomas Aquinas, and to admit that on the one hand, Spiritual Science does not affect the character of these truths of pure faith, and that on the other, all the statements presented by Spiritual Science come under the head of Praeambula Fidei, as soon as we understand this concept in the correct sense of the Thomistic philosophy. For Spiritual Science there are fields of knowledge, even in domains lying very close to the human being, which must be treated exactly as the truths of pure faith are treated in a higher domain. In ordinary life we have to accept facts which are communicated to us which, by the very nature of the communication, cannot fall within our experience, viz. information concerning what befell us between the earliest point of time which we remember and the time of our birth. If the researcher develops spiritual powers of cognition, he is able to look back upon the period prior to this point of time; but prior to the point where memory begins, the “spiritual eye” does not behold events in the forms of the sense world, but it does perceive what has occurred in the spiritual realm, while the corresponding events are occurring in the physical world. Events perceptible by the senses, can as such, when they cannot enter consciousness through personal experience, be accepted by spiritual research only through the ordinary channels of communication. For instance no healthy minded spiritual researcher will believe it possible to do without communications from fellow human beings, and to substitute spiritual vision for the things that can be learned by ordinary means. Thus there are for Spiritual Science already knowable facts in the realm of everyday life, which can only be acquired by being communicated. In a higher domain the truths of pure faith recognized by Thomas Aquinas are those relating to events inaccessible to the grasp of human knowledge when it is compelled to rely on its own powers alone, because they lie in a domain which is withdrawn from ordinary existence and which, like the events occurring in physical existence during the years directly after birth, does not fall within the field of spiritual vision. Even as those physical occurrences can be received only through human communication, so can the events corresponding to the truths of pure faith be received only through communication (revelation) from the spiritual domain. Although Spiritual Science uses such terms as trinity and incarnation in the domain of spiritual perception, this fact has nothing to do with the application of these terms in relation to the domain to which Thomas Aquinas refers. Moreover everyone acquainted with Augustine knows that such a mode of thinking cannot be called non-Christian.
Thomas Aquinas' views regarding the Praeambula Fidei are likewise compatible with Spiritual Science. For everything accessible to unassisted human powers of perception must be admitted to belong to the Praeambula Fidei. For instance, he includes the spiritual nature of the human soul in that domain. Now when Spiritual Science, by extending the boundaries of knowledge, increases the information concerning the soul beyond the limits within which mere intellect confines it, it expands only the compass of a form of knowledge coming under the head of Praeambula Fidei; it does not go outside that domain. It thus wins its way to truths which support the truths of faith more actively than do the truths obtainable by mere intellect. Thomas Aquinas is of the opinion that the Praeambula Fidei can never find a way into the domain of the truths of faith, but that the former can defend and support the latter. What Thomas Aquinas desired of the Praeambula Fidei will be done still more intensively through their extension by means of Spiritual Science than through the mere intellect.
These observations of mine concerning the Thomistic system are made with the sole object of demonstrating that even the strictest adherent of this particular branch of philosophical thought can find the conclusions of Spiritual Science compatible with it. Of course I have no intention of proving that everybody who accepts the conclusions of Spiritual Science must become a disciple of Thomas Aquinas. Spiritual Science does not disturb the religious confession of anyone. The fact that one individual leans to one type of religious faith and another to a different one has nothing to do with what they know, or think they know, about the spiritual world, but is due to other conditions of life. The better these facts are really comprehended the more will opposition to Spiritual Science cease.
But all of us who have already worked their way through to the recognition of spiritual research will feel some degree of consolation in face of the antagonism which confronts us because of our knowledge of what has occurred in other things to which we become more easily accustomed in the external world, because they are in harmony with the principle of utility. You are aware that the railroads were incorporated into external civilization during the 19th century. A board of directors, whose membership included several recognized authorities, had to decide whether or not a railroad should be built in a certain locality. The story has often been told. According to reports, their decision was to the effect that no railroads should be built, because the people who would travel on them would of necessity incur injury to their health. And if in spite of this there should be people willing to take such a risk, and railroads should be built for their convenience, high board fences should at least be built to the right and left of the roads, to prevent damage to the health of the people past whom the train would have to go. I am not relating things of this kind in order to make fun of people whose one-sidedness could lead them into such an error as this. For it is quite possible to be a distinguished individual and still make such a mistake. Anyone who finds that work done by him is arousing opposition should not instantly accuse his opponent of folly or malice. I am telling you about actual cases of opposition encountered in various instances, because in considering such cases the right kind of feeling and attitude is aroused in anyone confronted by opposition of this kind.
It would not be easy today, no matter how wide a range the enquiry covered, to find a person who is not delighted by a performance of the Seventh Symphony of Beethoven. When this art-work was given for the first time the following opinion was expressed not by an individual without importance, but by Weber, the famous composer of “Der Freischütz”: — “The extravagances of this man of genius have at last reached the non plus ultra; Beethoven is now fit for a lunatic asylum.” And Abbé Stadler, who heard this Seventh Symphony at that time, commented as follows: — “The E is repeated interminably; the poor chap is too lacking in talent to have any ideas.”
It is quite true that those who observe no decrease in the amount of human folly will find special satisfaction in calling attention to phenomena of this kind in the evolution of mankind. And it is obvious that such phenomena do not prove anything, when dealing with a particular case of opposition. But they are not adduced here for the purpose of proving anything. Their intent is rather to stimulate people to examine rather closely what appears strange to them, before condemning it. In such a connection it is allowable to refer to a greater event. And I should like to do so, though obviously without any absurd intention of comparing the work of Spiritual Science, even distantly, with the greatest event which has taken place in human evolution. Let us cast a glance upon the development of the Roman Empire at the beginning of our Christian Era, and observe the rise of Christianity from that time on. How far removed was this Christianity at that time in Rome from any of the subjects considered worthy of an educated person's attention. And let us turn our gaze aside from this Roman life and look at what was unfolding literally underground, in the catacombs; let us look at the Christian life beginning to burst into flower in those caverns. Then let us direct our eyes to what was visible at this place some centuries later. Christianity had ascended from the caverns, it was being clutched eagerly in circles where previously it had been despised and rejected. The sight of such phenomena may serve to strengthen the confidence of any individual who deems it a duty to enlist in the service of a truth which has to struggle and strive for victory in the teeth of opposition. — No one in whom anthroposophical truth has taken permanent root will be surprised to find that it awakens hostility. But it will also appear to be that individual's bounden duty never to desist, in the face of such hostility, from presenting what Anthroposophy strives to be in the spiritual life of the human being.