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The Fall of the Spirits of Darkness
GA 177

13. The Fallen Spirits' Influence in the World

27 October 1917, Dornach

We are going to continue on the same theme, as this will provide a background for the evaluation of the significant events which now present themselves to the human mind, events in which humanity is now caught up and which are more significant than is often realized today. I have sought to show that momentous occurrences in the spiritual world form the background to these events. I have also spoken of the profoundly significant battle which took place in the spiritual regions of the world between the early 1840s and the autumn of 1879. This was one of the battles which occur repeatedly in world and human evolution and are customarily represented by the image of Michael or St George fighting the dragon. Michael won one such victory over the dragon on behalf of the spiritual worlds in 1879. At that time the spirits of darkness who worked against the Michaelic impulses were cast down from the spiritual realm into the human realms. As I said, from that time onwards they have been active in the feeling, will and mind impulses of human beings. Present-day events can therefore only be understood if one turns the inner eye to the spiritual powers which are now moving among us.

Inevitably the question must arise as to the actual nature of the battle which raged in the spiritual regions between the 1840s and the 1870s, and of the activity of the spirits of darkness since November 1879.

The story of what was behind this significant battle, or we might say behind the scenes of world history, can only unfold slowly and gradually. Today we shall first of all consider some ways in which a reflection of the battle was cast on human regions. I have often drawn attention to the great turning-point in the evolution of modern cultural spheres which came in the early 1840s. This was the turning-point which brought the full impulse for the development of materialism. Materialism could only develop in consequence of major occurrences in the spiritual world which then continued in a downward direction and gradually caused materialistic impulses to be instilled into humanity. If we consider how events in spiritual regions were reflected here on earth, two things are particularly evident.

The first is that the purely physical intellect and a culture based on this showed a tremendous upsurge in the 1840s, 50s, 60s and 70s, much more so than people imagine today—future observers will see this more clearly. It is reasonable to say that anyone who studies the evolution of humanity and has an eye for more subtle elements in human life will note that there has never been such an upsurge in subtlety of conception, acumen and critical faculties for the adherents of materialism as during those decades. All the thinking I have characterized, thinking that leads to technical inventions, to criticism and to brilliant definitions, is physical thinking and is bound to the brain. A materialist who wanted to describe human evolution would have reason to say: ‘Humanity has never been as clever as during those decades.’ It really was clever. If you study the literature—here I mean not only fine literature—you will find that at no other time were ideas so well defined and critical thinking so well developed as in those years, and this was in all kinds of areas. We see a mirror-reflection develop in human souls of the aims certain spirits of darkness were seeking to achieve in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s of the last century, always hoping for victory.

They sought to get possession of an ancient inheritance of humanity. This was something we referred to yesterday: Through millennia, the progressive spirits of light guided humanity by means of blood bonds. They brought people together in families, tribes, nations and races, uniting those who belonged together on the basis of truly ancient human and world karma. With their feeling for those blood bonds people then also had a feeling for missions which went a very long way back in the world, missions designed to make the blood bonds—which, of course, came from the earth—part of the general human karma. If one turns one's attention to the spiritual world during the 1820s and 1830s, when the souls which were later to enter into human bodies were still in that world, one finds that the souls which were about to descend had certain impulses which, among other things, were due to the fact that for millennia they had been bound to particular families, tribes, nations and races each time they were on earth. From the 1840s onwards these souls were meant to make the decision to enter into particular bodies. For the spirits of light who sent their impulses into human souls were, of course, guiding human evolution according to the old blood bonds. And so the human souls in the spiritual worlds had certain impulses to follow the ancient human karma on entering into bodies which were to be the population in the second half of the nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. The spirits of light were using the old measures of controlling and guiding those souls.

The spirits of darkness wanted to gain control over this. They wanted to drive the impulses of the spirits of light from those human souls and bring in their own impulses. If the spirits of darkness had won the battle in 1879, the relationship between human bodies and souls would have been utterly different from what it actually has become in people born after 1879. Different souls would have been in different bodies, and the plan according to which human affairs on earth were ordered would have been according to the ideal of the spirits of darkness. But it is not. Thanks to the victory that Michael won over the dragon in the autumn of 1879, this could not happen.

During the 1840s, 50s, 60s and 70s, the battle was reflected on earth in the particular acumen, critical faculty and so on, which I have described. As I have said before, mere speculation does not get us anywhere; it needs genuine spiritual observation. Speculation could never show that the very qualities of the physical intellect which I have mentioned are a reflection here on earth of the battle over reproduction, over the way in which generation follows generation. These things have to be observed. Anyone who thinks that the right connections between the physical and the spiritual worlds can be found by using the physical intellect is very much in error. This approach will normally give the wrong result, because the rules of logic used are those of the physical sciences. These apply only to the physical world, however; they do not apply to the relationship between the physical and the spiritual worlds. This, then, was one way in which the battle for the blood was reflected.

The other way—this again is something I have mentioned before—was the emergence of spiritualism in the 1840s and later. Certain groups, and they were far from small, sought to explore the connections with the spiritual world by using mediums, that is essentially by physical means. If this had succeeded, if the spirits of darkness had been strong enough to gain the victory over Michael's adherents in 1879, spiritualism would have spread enormously. For spiritualism gets its impulses not only from the earth, but is also governed by influences coming from the other world. It is important to be very clear that this is not a matter of choice; it is not possible to be easygoing and say: ‘Either we accept such things or we refuse to accept them.’ It certainly is not like this. The things that happened in spiritualistic circles partly represented a significant intrusion of the spiritual world; they certainly arose from impulses which came from the spiritual world and were often closely bound up with human destinies. They were nevertheless a mirror-reflection of the battle which had been lost in the spiritual region. This is also why spiritualism lost momentum and became so strangely corrupted after that point in time. It would have been the means by which people's attention would have been drawn to the spiritual world, and it would have been the only means if the spirits of darkness had gained the victory in 1879. If they had won, we would live in a world of indescribable acumen which would apply to all kinds of different spheres in life. Speculations on the Stock Exchange, which are sometimes quite dimwitted nowadays, would have been made with incredible acumen. This is one aspect. On the other hand, people far and wide would have sought to satisfy their spiritual needs by using mediums. So there you have what the spirits of darkness intended: physical acumen on the one hand, and a way of seeking connection with the spiritual world based on reduced consciousness on the other. Above all else, the spirits of darkness wanted to prevent spiritual experiences, living experience of the spirit, from coming down into human souls; this was bound to come about gradually after their fall in 1879.

The kind of spiritual experience which is utilized in the spiritual science of anthroposophy would have been impossible if the spirits of darkness had been victorious, for they would then have kept this life and activity in the spiritual regions. It is only because of their fall that instead of merely critical, physical intelligence and the mediumistic approach, it has been and will increasingly be possible to gain direct experiences in the spiritual world. It is not for nothing that I recently told you how the present age is dependent on spiritual influences to a far greater extent than people believe. Our age may be materialistic and want to become even more materialistic, but the spiritual worlds reveal themselves to human beings in many more places than one would think. Spiritual influences can be felt everywhere, though at the present time they are not always good ones.

People often find it embarrassing to admit to others their knowledge of spiritual influences, but many things they do, or initiate, are done because something appeared to them in a dream which was a genuine spiritual influence. Ask poets why they have become poets. Speaking of the time when they first began to be poets they will tell you that they had spiritual experiences which came as in a dream, and this gave them the impulse to be creative. Ask people who have started journals why they did so—I am giving you facts—and they will speak of what they call dreams, though this was actually the transmission of impulses from the spiritual to the physical world. And there is much more of this, also in other areas, but people will not admit to it, for they think if they tell someone: ‘I've done something or other because some spirit or other appeared to me in a dream,’ the other person will call them idiots. This, of course, is not a nice thing to hear. It is the reason why we know so little about what really goes on among people today. The things which now happen sporadically in one place or another are merely the vanguard of what will happen more and more: spirituality will come to human beings because Michael won his victory in 1879. The fact that we have a science of the spirit is also entirely due to this. Otherwise the truths concerned would have remained in the spiritual worlds; they could not have come to dwell in human brains and would not exist for the physical world.

You have been given images which may serve to demonstrate the intentions of the spirits of darkness in the 1840s, 50s, 60s and 70s when they fought the followers of Michael. These spirits have been down here among human beings from the autumn of 1879. They have failed to achieve their aims: spiritualism will not become the general human persuasion; people will not grow so clever from the materialistic point of view that they fall over themselves with their cleverness. The spiritual truths will take root among human beings.

On the other hand, the spirits of darkness are now among us. We have to be on guard so that we may realize what is happening when we encounter them and gain a real idea of where they are to be found. The most dangerous thing you can do in the immediate future will be to give yourself up unconsciously to the influences which are definitely present. For it makes no difference to their reality whether they are recognized or unrecognized.

It will be the main concern of these spirits of darkness to bring confusion into the rightful elements which are now spreading on earth, and need to spread in such a way that the spirits of light can continue to be active in them. They will seek to push these in the wrong direction. I have already spoken of one such wrong direction, which is about as paradoxical as is possible.1See fourth to last paragraph of lecture 5. I have pointed out that while human bodies will develop in such a way that certain spiritualities can find room in them, the materialistic bent, which will spread more and more under the guidance of the spirits of darkness, will work against this and combat it by physical means. I have told you that the spirits of darkness are going to inspire their human hosts, in whom they will be dwelling, to find a vaccine that will drive all inclination towards spirituality out of people's souls when they are still very young, and this will happen in a roundabout way through the living body. Today, bodies are vaccinated against one thing and another; in future, children will be vaccinated with a substance which it will certainly be possible to produce, and this will make them immune, so that they do not develop foolish inclinations connected with spiritual life—‘foolish’ here, of course, in the eyes of materialists.

A beginning has already been made, though only in the literary field where it is less harmful. As I have mentioned,2See lecture 5. learned medical experts have published books on the abnormalities of certain men of genius. As you know, attempts have been made to understand the genius of Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Viktor Scheffel, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Goethe, by showing them to suffer from certain abnormalities. And the most astounding thing in this field is that people have also sought to understand Jesus Christ and the Gospels from this point of view. Two publications are now in existence in which the origins of Christianity are said to be due to the fact that at the beginning of our era there lived an individual who was mentally and psychologically abnormal; this individual went about in Palestine as Jesus Christ and infected people with Christianity.

These, as I said, are the beginnings in the field of literature. The whole trend goes in a direction where a way will finally be found to vaccinate bodies so that these bodies will not allow the inclination towards spiritual ideas to develop and all their lives people will believe only in the physical world they perceive with the senses. Out of impulses which the medical profession gained from presumption—oh, I beg your pardon, from the consumption they themselves suffered—people are now vaccinated against consumption, and in the same way they will be vaccinated against any inclination towards spirituality. This is merely to give you a particularly striking example of many things which will come in the near and more distant future in this field—the aim being to bring confusion into the impulses which want to stream down to earth after the victory of the spirits of light.

The first step must be to throw people's views into confusion, turning their concepts and ideas inside out. This is a serious thing and must be watched with care, for it is part of some highly important elements which will be the background to events now in preparation.

I am choosing my words with great care. I am saying ‘in preparation’ because I am fully aware that to say ‘in preparation’, after the events which have taken place in the last three years, is something significant. Anyone who is able to see more deeply into these matters knows them to be preparations. Only superficial people can believe that this war, which is not a war of the old kind, will tomorrow or the day after be followed by a peace of the old kind. You have to be very superficial to believe this. Many will believe it, of course, if outer events appear to be in accord with the notions some people have; they will fail to realize what actually lies dormant beneath the surface.

It is interesting to consider the decades from the 1840s onwards, both in general and in detail. We have had a general characterization of them in these last weeks, and I have to some extent gone over this again today. A study of representative figures—the spiritual impulses which power evolution come to expression in such figures—will show that the general insights gained also prove true in individual instances. Let me give you an example which may seem to be a minor one. It is something I also mentioned last year.3Geisteswissenschaftliche Erlaeuterungen zu Goethes “Faust”. Band I. GA 272. Not available in English.

Numerous commentaries have been written on Goethe's Faust. Oswald Marbach's4Oswald Marbach (1810–1890), Professor of Technology in Leipzig, poet and writer; head of ‘Balduin zur Linde’ Freemasons' Lodge. Goethes Faust, Teil I and II erklaert, 1881. commentaries do not lack depth; they are in some respect profound. It is fair to say that the people who have been least profound are the literary historians, for it is their academic duty to understand such matters, which, of course, tends to be an obstacle to real understanding. Oswald Marbach wrote well about Faust because he was not really a literary historian. He lectured on Goethe's Faust, mathematics, mechanics and technology at Leipzig University, and at the present time the mysteries of the cosmos are easier to penetrate by studying Marbach's mechanics and technology than by applying the ‘modern science’ of historians and literary historians. However, we do find something quite peculiar in the case of Oswald Marbach. He spoke on Goethe's Faust during the 1840s but had ceased to do so by the end of the 1840s, nor did he speak about it in the 50s, 60s and 70s. He only started to lecture on Goethe's Faust again in the late 70s. In between he spoke only on mathematics, mechanics and technology, that is he devoted himself to the sciences which offered the best opportunity, especially at the time, to foster one's acumen and critical faculties. It is most interesting to see how he refers to this in his preface: “Thirty or forty years ago, I used to lecture on Goethe's Faust at Leipzig University—the book was published in 1881—but I have only taken the subject up again in recent years (1875). Why such a long interval? Many factors were involved, outer and inner ones, both subjective and objective. I grew older and finally old and so did my students: semester by semester they grew more and more morose. (People were getting more clever, but for anyone who looked more deeply also more morose!) Open interest of the spirit in the spirit was getting less and less and we lived in an age when usefulness counted more than beauty. For thirty years I yielded to necessity rather than to my own inclination and put philosophy and poetry aside, teaching the exact sciences of mathematics, physics and mechanics instead.”

This was the time of materialistic acumen. One sentence in the preface is tremendously interesting, for it points directly to what mattered at this time. Marbach states that in his conscious mind he always thought he was doing exactly what he wanted to do in the past, whether interpreting Faust or lecturing on technology. However, when he took up Faust again to interpret the work, he had to confess he had been under an illusion, for he had merely obeyed the spirit of the time. It would be good if many people could realize the extent to which they are under illusions. For it was the ideal of the spirits of darkness before 1879, and has been even more so since they walk among us in the human realms since 1879, to spin a web of illusion over human beings and into human brains and let illusions stream through human hearts.

Something else is of interest when one considers such an individual who is representative, as it were, of the influences which heaven brought to bear on earth. He says—and this is in accord with history—that in the 1840s he would mostly speak about Faust, Part 1 at the university, for there was no interest in Part 2. When he started to lecture on Faust again—and we can now say this was after Michael's victory over the dragon—his exposition would mostly be on Part 2. The age of acumen and critical faculties was indeed a time when access to Part 2 of Goethe's Faust was difficult. Even today this work, which is one of the greatest affirmations of Goetheanism, is relatively little understood. Efforts at understanding are, of course, liable to make us feel ill at ease, for nowhere else is the atmosphere in which people live today treated with such humour, such irony, as in Part 2 of Goethe's Faust. People live in a social atmosphere today which has been gradually evolving since the sixteenth century. They hail everything which has been achieved from the sixteenth century onwards as great and glorious achievements of our time and positively wallow in those achievements. Goethe was not only a man of his time; he was inwardly able to look ahead to the twentieth century and wrote Part 2 of Faust for the twentieth, twenty-first and later centuries. This will be only understood in the future. Hidden below the surface is a humorous and ironical look at developments since the sixteenth century, written in grand style. Consider the way Goethe lets the much admired advances on which civilizations live today be presented to Faust as a contrivance of Mephistopheles. Thus not only the paper spectre of the golden florin,5Faust 2, Act 1, Scene 2: in the imperial palace, Mephistopheles tells the emperor and his advisers that paper money will solve the financial crisis. Scene 4 describes the rapid spread of paper money. but all the glorious developments from the sixteenth century onwards were the creation of Mephistopheles. In time to come, humanity will see the magnificent irony with which the creations of that time are treated in Part 2 of Faust. On the one hand, we have Faust in his quest for the spirit, and on the other, Mephistopheles, representative of the spirits of darkness, who invents everything humanity has come to depend on and will depend on more and more, especially in the twentieth century.

Much which will help us to be on our guard may be found hidden in Part 2 of Faust. It is a profoundly significant symptom that someone who had used physics, mechanics, mathematics and technology to learn the secrets of the age felt drawn to speak about Part 2 exactly when the victory had been won over the dragon. For decades before this he would speak only of Part 1, which alone could be understood at the time.

We have seen, especially also in the course of last year, that anthroposophy is gradually helping us to bring life into things which Goethe was only able to present in images, and to discover their deeper meaning in Part 2 of Faust.6During 1916, the work on stage productions with eurythmy of scenes from Part 2 of Goethe's Faust which had started in 1915, culminated in a number of performances. See the lecture of 4 November 1916 (GA 172) in The Karma of Vocation, tr. by 0. D. Wannamaker, rev. by G. Church. Anthroposophic Press, Hudson NY, 1984. Anthroposophy clearly cannot be derived from a study of Faust, but it is certainly true that anthroposophy throws a new and much clearer light on the impressive images Goethe has given in Part 2, and in his magnificent discourses in Wilhelm Meister's Journeyman Years.

Here we touch on a trend which will have to gain ground under the influence of the progressive spirits of light as time goes on, to counter the efforts of the spirits of darkness; and it will gain ground if human beings are on their guard against the spirits of darkness. These last three years have been a challenge to be watchful and on our guard, though the numbers of souls able to perceive the call are as yet far from adequate. We have been able to see the opposite trend at work here, there and everywhere. It is particularly when spiritual life is beginning to be possible that the spirits of hindrance are very much to the fore. We have seen characteristic things and we shall see more of them. Even just to hint at such things is liable to create continuous misunderstanding. The spiritual atmosphere in which people live today is impregnated with the will to misunderstand to such an extent that one's words are immediately interpreted as something different from what they actually mean to convey. One has to use human words, and these have all kinds of associations.

Today, so many people base their judgement on national passions that if one has in some way to characterize someone who belongs to a particular nation, simply as a human individual who is here on earth, this is taken amiss by people who also belong to that nation, despite the fact that something said about individuals who are involved in current events, for example, has nothing to do with one's views of some nation or other. The belief that the tempest now raging is caused by the things that everybody is talking about today is especially harmful because it is especially senseless. The causes are much more deeply hidden and initially have really nothing to do with national aspirations in some respects—please note I am saying in some respects. National aspirations are merely made use of by certain powers, but the majority of people are so superficial that they do not want to know about this. It will be some time before an objective view is taken in this area.

Large sections of humanity find it easiest to ascribe greatness and far-sightedness to ideas which have arisen in a brain as limited as that of someone just out of teacher training college who is let loose not just on a class of school children, but in this case on the whole of humanity. As I said on a number of occasions, it did not need this terrible time which has come upon us to form an objective opinion on Woodrow Wilson from the point of view of spiritual science. I spoke of this in the lectures I gave in Helsingfors in 1913; you can read it up in The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita.7Steiner, R. The Occult Significance of the Bhagavad Gita. Tr. by G. M. Adams, rev. by D. M. Bugbey. Anthroposophic Press, Hudson NY, 1984. There I spoke of the world schoolmastery of Woodrow Wilson and the shallow superficiality of the man. In those days, however, you were outside the Spirit of the time when you spoke about Woodrow Wilson like this, for his grammar-schoolboy essays on independence, culture and literature were then still being translated into European languages. It will be a long time yet before people will feel embarrassed at taking seriously the grammar school level policies of Woodrow Wilson.

Spirits of darkness are at work everywhere to befog human minds. One day people will waken from the mists and vapours in which they are now asleep and they will find it hard to understand how people could have allowed themselves to be kept on leading-reins by Woodrow Wilson and his wisdom in the early twentieth century without feeling embarrassed. A moment of waking will only come when people begin to feel embarrassed at policies which are possible today.

It is difficult to say truth-inspired things today because they sound too much in opposition to the ideas which have been inculcated into people's heads. And it is difficult to form an independent judgement in the atmosphere which has been produced not only during the last three years, but also through everything I have called a social carcinoma in the lectures I gave in Vienna.8See Note 2 of lecture 1. It is necessary to take these things with profound seriousness and not apply to them the concepts and ideas which people have been in the habit of using as their criteria. It will be necessary to realize that the present time demonstrates the inadequacy and indeed the utter uselessness of the ideas humanity has come to accept, and that in terms of world history it is indecent for people to base their judgement on the very ideas which have led to present events when those events clearly show them to have been wrong. Do people think they can cure the ills of the present time by applying the same principles which have brought them about? If so, they are utterly deceiving themselves.

Humanity has a certain sum total of cultural achievements which come from older times. These are now being used up. Every day brings evidence of their being used up without anything new taking their place. People are so little prepared today to understand and see through such things in their full seriousness. Many are still thinking exactly the as they did in 1913, in the belief that the understanding they had in 1913 will also be adequate for 1917; they do not have enough sense of reality to see that this kind of thinking has a great deal to do with the events of the year 1917, having brought them about, and that it cannot cure the ills we experience now, in 1917.

The need of the present time is that we go deeply into the events which have occurred since the fall of the spirits of darkness; we must gain as much insight as possible into the events of the 1880s, 1890s, and the first two decades of the twentieth century. People are utterly confused in their judgement with regard to them.

Neither do they have a real idea of the radical difference in the way people felt and reacted after 1879 compared to the way they did before 1879. Going into something like Part 2 of Goethe's Faust will also help us to progress; this work could not be understood in Goethe's time because it is a critique of what Goethe perceived to be the content of the twentieth century. Characteristically, someone like Oswald Marbach only found access to Part 2 after the fall of the spirits of darkness.

These are the insights and impulses which will help us to grow inwardly so that we may meet the needs of our time. Many of the needs sown before 1879 have not come to fruition, and in connection with this there is a significant question which should really cast its shadow on every human soul. Today I want to put it merely as a question.

The events in which we are caught up today indicate where humanity stands now. What matters now is not merely to understand them, but to find a way out of them. Yet while there is so little will to penetrate the deeper, real impulses which have led to the present age, practical minds will not be able to understand these matters. It is wrong to think that no one has sufficient insight into the current situation. People simply do not want to listen to them, just as they do not want to know about such a thing as Goetheanism, which is also like the voice of the twentieth century. Yet this voice will only be rightly understood if people seek to understand, seriously and in all dignity, the profound significance of the fall of the spirits of darkness in the autumn of 1879. To understand the present time, it will be necessary to understand the spiritual evolution of humanity. That is why I spoke of Oswald Marbach, whose poem I gave you last year to let you see how he looks at the past and ahead to the future. He wrote the poem to mark the anniversary when Goethe found entry into communities then called Masonic or the like, though in the eighteenth century this meant something different from what it means today. Goethe's viewpoint allowed him insight into many of the mysterious impulses which go through the world, things that people are too superficial to want to see. Oswald Marbach wrote these verses to mark the anniversary of Goethe finding his way to the world of the spirit:

With you, my brother, father, sublime master,
We now join hands across a hundred years
To mark the steadfast love which does unite
And closely bind all independent minds;
Greatest of spirits, mind most independent,
All our endeavour is to reach your heights;
We dedicate ourselves to you! We dedicate our sons,
So that one day achievement be the crown.
You strove as we now strive; yet the soul of your endeavour
To gain self-knowledge that will lead to wisdom
Was always life itself with vigour lived,
Was power creative, actively progressing
To works which rise into the light,
In glorious beauty for eternity:
Like Israel you struggled against God
Until you won the victory o'er yourself!
The mystery which now for ever binds us
Will not be told to unenlightened souls;
Yet make it known to all the world
In deeds of purest love that never tire,
In the clear light which spirit gives to spirit,
In life eternal which shall never fade.
Lead on then, Master! Where you went before
We're drawn to follow in most ardent longing.

Such is the mood that must unlock the ‘gates of fulfilment’.