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Behind the Scenes of External Happenings
GA 178

Lecture II

13 November 1917, Zürich

Translated by Dorothy S. Osmond and Owen Barfield

In the lecture here a week ago I dealt with a theme of vital importance in view of the events that are breaking with such tragic consequences into the life of mankind. This theme may be indicated, briefly, by saying: “It is urgently necessary for mankind once again to know and realise that the physical world is connected with spiritual realities, to become conscious of the fact that a spiritual world is working into the actual details of physical existence.”

Our age, above all, must be alive to the necessity for the spreading of this consciousness among mankind. The human being of the present time does not differ so very markedly in outward, physical appearance from human beings living in those past ages with which ordinary history deals. History, after all, goes no farther back than the Third Post-Atlantean period. What lies before that is a very vague chapter in the only kind of historical scholarship that is recognised by modern man. Although in the intervening period, man's life of soul has undergone very great changes indeed, it cannot be said that equal changes have taken place so far as the external, physical organism is concerned. Therefore people neither notice, nor try to notice, what is really happening as the outcome of impulses from the spiritual world. We are living in very momentous times. This has nothing to do with the trivial remark, so often heard, that this age is an age of transition. Naturally, every age is one of transition. The point is to know what is in transition in any particular age.

We become particularly conscious of what is thus in transition in our time—that is to say, of what is assuming new forms and undergoing great change—when we are able to observe not only the life of beings moving about the Earth in physical bodies, but also the beings who do not belong to the physical world—among them, the Dead. In the world in which the human being lives between death and a new birth—there, the changes, especially the transformation that is proceeding during this present age, are to be observed in all their deep significance. But modern man is loath to take in earnest matters concerning the spiritual world. The fact that this is so gives rise to many reflections in regard to the growth and existence of Anthroposophy. It really is the case that one need not be particularly biased in favour of the ideas represented in the Anthroposophical Movement before being willing to advocate them. In other Movements—and countless numbers of leagues, unions and the like are founded today, all of them convinced that they represent the most urgent needs of the world—in all such Movements people have the subjective fanaticism of their particular cause. They are infatuated with their own programme, maintaining that it will bring universal happiness, that it is an absolute necessity. In the case of the Anthroposophical Movement, such infatuation is simply not necessary, for the urge to advocate such ideas may come from something quite different. Briefly—and I must be brief because we can only be together for such short intervals—let me say the following: When a man has become convinced of the truth of the idea of Anthroposophy, he is impelled to do everything he can to spread them by the feeling of compassion for those who need these ideas at the present time—in other words, practically every human being with whom one comes into contact—compassion for men who need these ideas and without them will fall upon evil times.

In the last lecture here I tried to give you a conception of how a great deal that is unintelligible on the physical plane only begins to be intelligible when it can be viewed in its connection with the spiritual world. Today I want to put before you certain other points of view, which to begin with will appear to relate to quite different matters. We will start from a very common experience. Many people who consider themselves qualified to pass judgment on such matters, regard it as sign of religious enlightenment to repudiate ideas presented in Anthroposophy, for example, that on the other side of the threshold of the spiritual world, many Spiritual Beings, whole Hierarchies of Spiritual Beings are to be found ... Angeloi, Archangeloi, and still higher Hierarchies. It is considered to be a sign of enlightenment to dwell upon the One God and aspire to establish an intimate and direct relationship with Him. This is regarded as the only possible form of Monotheism and many people evince something like horror at a teaching that speaks of many Spiritual Beings.

Let us be quite clear about what this really implies. When a man's attitude to the spiritual world is merely that of the “enlightened” Church today, his relationship to the spiritual world—even if it is only in his feeling—is of a definite kind; it is simply a relationship with his Guardian Angel, the Angelos with whom he is, in fact, connected. And this Angelos—the only Being with whom he is able to feel related—he calls his God; if he is a Christian he calls him Christ; he confuses his Angelos with Christ. This may be difficult to understand, but it is so. Protestant theologians who claim to be enlightened and inveigh against Polytheism, urging men to establish direct relationship with the one Being, Christ—whatever they may preach concerning Christ, the truth is that what they say has only to do with the relationship of the human being to his Angelos. Monotheism in our time is in danger of becoming a worship of the Angelos of each individual human being.

Men are still unwilling to admit many things that are nevertheless there. Even the crudest circumstances, however, prove to an objective observer that such illusions set men well on the path to calamitous ideas. This worship of man's own Angelos is the reason why each individual has his own God, merely imagining that he shares with others a Godhead who is common to them all. The truth is that the monotheist of today has only his own individual Angelos and because there is such uniformity in the words with which each human being describes his own egotistical relation to the Angelos, people imagine that they are speaking of the Divinity who is the one God of them all. If this state of things were to continue, individuals would develop, still more strongly, the tendency that is taking such a terrible form among the nations today. Although the nations still theorise about the one universal Godhead, they do not—and this holds good above all at the present time—really acknowledge this one Godhead, because each of them prefers to have its own special God.

This, however, is merely what comes to light in crude, external form. In reality, every human being today wants to have his own God and he gives the name of “Monotheism” to the relationship between himself and his own Angelos. And because conditions are so clouded in an age when men's only desire is for perception of the Material, the truth of what I have just said does not occur to them.

Today there is evidence on all hands that when one speaks of man's concrete relationship with the spiritual world to those who as yet know nothing about Anthroposophy, they are unwilling to go into such matters; they are afraid of it all. They will not summon up courage to think about impulses that are said to come from the spiritual world. The same tendency has always existed in times of crisis and we are living in one such time nowadays. It is grievous to see how utterly inattentive men are to the momentous and tragic events of the present time, how disinclined to pay the necessary heed, except when driven to it by material considerations. The individual has to be trained, so to speak, before his attention is aroused to the fact that in the events of our time, deep and trenchant impulses in the life of mankind are placed before the soul.

That, after all, is why people simply did not listen when it was said that momentous, incisive thoughts and undertakings are called for by men if the world is to be lifted out of its present pitiable state—and that such thoughts and undertakings must be born from spiritual knowledge, real spiritual knowledge. Constant references to the universal Spirit, all the talk about inner, spiritual deepening and the like—none of it leads anywhere. What is essential is that men of the present time shall establish real and concrete relations with the spiritual world. It is not difficult for us to realise that even in earlier times when men were in closer contact with the spiritual world, their attention was directed to those concrete relationships which are no longer understood today. In earlier times men did not speak vaguely of swarms of human beings on the Earth below with some kind of Godhead up above, but they spoke in terms of concrete realities.

The most beautiful and significant fruits of these concrete relationships with the spiritual world are prophetic utterances like those of Daniel, of the Apocalypse, where men are not merely bidden to trust in a God, to believe in a God, but where they are told of the first heavenly kingdom, the second, the third ... told in all concrete reality of the connection of the spiritual world with the physical, material world. Humanity has lost all aptitude for speaking thus concretely of the relation of the Spiritual to the Physical, would prefer that everything should be painted the same colour, if I may put it so. Men like best of all to devise theories according to which human beings the Earth over can find equal material happiness. The socialist of today insists that certain ideas are right and proper for the life of man—right for England, for America, for Russia, for Asia; he thinks that if one and all arranged their national affairs according to socialist principles, the happiness which is the dream of modern man would come to the Earth of itself. All these ideas are abstract, unreal. Ignorance of the fact that something quite specific arises in one region of the Earth out of a particular people, something quite different in another region out of another people, the inability to understand the great difference between the West and the East—this is what causes endless confusion and chaos. For only when a man is able to build a bridge from his soul to the objective realities, can he co-operate fruitfully in shaping earthly existence.

People are unwilling to build such a bridge. Inner reasons have lately caused me to speak to friends in very many places of an event—momentous in its effect upon evolution—which took place in the last third of the nineteenth century; it is an event known to all occult schools although they are not always able to give accurate details of its actual course. I will speak of it briefly, again today. From the year 1841 onwards, a battle was waged in regions of the spiritual world, between certain Beings of the higher Hierarchies and other superior Beings. The Beings who rebelled and waged war from 1841 to 1879 had been used, before that time, in the service of the wise guidance of worlds. Even those Beings who rebel and become evil Beings of Darkness may, at certain other times, serve good and useful purposes. I am speaking, therefore, of Beings who up to the year 1841 had been used by higher Spirits in the service of the wise guidance of worlds but whose aims, from then onwards, ran counter to the aims of the Beings superior to them. These Beings of lower rank fought a great battle in the spiritual world—one of those battles that often take place—but at different levels—and are portrayed in legend and symbolism as the battle of Michael with the Dragon. In the autumn of 1879 this battle ended by certain Spirits of Darkness being cast down from the spiritual world to the Earth. Since then they have been working among men, creeping into their impulses of will, into their motives, into their ideas, indeed into all human affairs. And so, since the autumn of 1879, certain Spirits of Darkness have been among humanity and if men wish to understand earthly happenings, they must be alive to the presence of these Beings.

It is absolutely correct to say that in the year 1879 these Beings were cast down to the Earth. This made the heavens free but the Earth full of them. From that time onwards their habitation is no longer to be found in the heavens—they are on Earth.

If I am to describe the aim pursued by these Beings in their war of rebellion from 1841 to 1879, I must say the following:—They wanted to be able to prevent the spiritual wisdom, which will be revealed from the twentieth century onwards, from flowing into the souls of men. Only by the removal of the hindering Spirits of Darkness from the spiritual realm could the minds and hearts of men be opened to receive, from the twentieth century onwards, the spiritual knowledge destined for them; only so was the flow of this spiritual knowledge possible. Wandering as they now do among men, these Spirits of Darkness make it their business to spread confusion; from their arena here, on Earth, they want to prevent the establishment of the right attitude vis-à-vis the spiritual truths, they want to withhold from men the blessings which it is the purpose of the spiritual truths to bring.

Intimate and penetrating knowledge of these things is the only means whereby the aims of the Spirits of Darkness may be counteracted. Certain occult brotherhoods, however, make it their business to work in exactly the opposite sense; they want to retain the wisdom exclusively within their own narrow circles, in order to exploit it in connection with their lusts for power. We are living in the midst of this struggle. On the one side there is the necessity for men to be led along the right paths by the assimilation of the spiritual truths; on the other side there are enclosed occult brotherhoods of an evil kind, desiring to prevent these truths from finding their way to men, with the result that they remain dull and stupid as regards the spiritual world, and thus make it possible for those within narrowly enclosed brotherhoods to carry on their intrigues from there.

Events of the present time bristle with such intrigues and machinations, and calamity looms ahead if men will not realise that these machinations are in full swing. You will feel at once that light is shed upon the real background of these things when I tell you of certain truths which have matured in our time—truths which must fall as it were like ripened fruit from the spiritual world into the kingdom of men but are prevented from spreading—against which, moreover, men are instinctively prejudiced because they are afraid of them.

In this connection I want to speak as concretely as possible. The fact that in 1879 a number of Spirits of Darkness were cast into the kingdom of men, has weighty and significant consequences—one of which is that since that time, clear thinking has assumed a far, far greater importance than it ever had before. At no other period could it have been said, having regard to the inner necessities of evolution, that clarity of thinking is as essential as eating and drinking are to the maintenance of physical life. For if man's thinking lacks clarity in the age in which we are actually living and in the times to come, he will not be able to see in their right light the ripened truths which are to fall from the spiritual world. Above all, he will fail to realise the vast and profound significance of the Mystery of Golgotha, of the Coming of Christ, for the whole evolution of humanity. Many there are who speak of Christ Jesus. Modern theology, however, would actually like to prevent anyone from speaking of the deep purpose imparted to the earthly evolution of mankind by the Mystery of Golgotha. In the nature of things, fulfilment of what was to come to pass through the Mystery of Golgotha has been, and is, both slow and gradual. And in our present century, for the first time, this becomes intensely evident.

Previous epochs still enjoyed a heritage from the days when spirituality pervaded the atavistic inner life of man. Now, for the first time, man must strive for spirituality—if he desires it. And so, in our day, and actually only from the year 1879 onwards, very definite phenomena appear. Because external observation has become so crude, they are really only clearly to be perceived when the eyes of the soul are directed to that realm which the human being enters on passing through the Gate of Death. For souls born before the year 1879 and those born afterwards pass into the spiritual world in different ways. Truly, it is a momentous event of which we are here speaking.

One consequence of this event is that in their souls, human beings more and more come to resemble the thought, to resemble that which they regard as knowledge. This will seem a strange truth to the modern mind, but it is so, nevertheless. To see certain things in their proper light, with clarity of thought, with thoughts saturated with reality—that is vitally important. It is good to see Darwinism in the proper light—as I tried to present it in the public lecture yesterday. [1] To regard Darwinism as the one and only valid conception of the world, believing the only possible truth to be that man descends from the animals—and reiterating the thought: I descend from the animals, I descend entirely from forces which also produce the animals ... such thoughts, in our age, tend to make the soul resembles its own conceptions of itself. This is really an important matter! When the body is discarded, the soul is then confronted with the sorry fate of having to perceive its resemblance with its own thought! A man who lives in the physical body believing that animal forces alone were at work in his evolution, fashions for himself a kind of consciousness in which he will perceive his own likeness to animal nature. For since the event of 1879, the character of the Fifth Post-Atlantean epoch has been such that the souls of men are transformed into the ideas they form of themselves. That is why I said: It is not necessary to be particularly biased in favour of anthroposophical Spiritual Science before being willing to advocate it; all that is necessary is compassion for men who need these thoughts and ideas because they are creative powers in the life of soul, because it is ordained that in times to come, what the human being considers himself to be, that he will become. This development is part of the wise guidance of worlds, in order that the human being may attain full and free consciousness of the Self. On the one side the Gods were bound to make it possible for man to become what he makes of himself; and in order that he might imbue this self-created being with super-sensible meaning, that he might be able to find in this self-created being, something that gives him an eternal aim—in order that this might be, Christ Jesus fulfilled the Mystery of Golgotha. And when man understands Christ Jesus in the light of Spiritual Science, in the light of true thought, he finds the way to Him: the way which leads out from the animal into the Divine.

There is one truth that stands out strongly when the eyes of the soul are able to look into the world entered by the human being after death. Those who were born before 1879 always carry with them a certain heritage which protects them from becoming purely that which, here on Earth, they have pictured themselves to be. And for a long time still—these things are only gradually approaching—for a long time still this protection will be possible, but only through pain, only when men can suffer, when, to speak paradoxically, they can take on themselves the pain of knowing and feeling in themselves the shortcomings of their conception of man. Harmony with the Self, together with a knowledge which lets man after death be truly man,—this will arise for future times only if human beings become aware, here, in the physical body, of their true connection with the spiritual world. Those who are afraid of concrete facts of spiritual knowledge because of their materialistic ideas will, of course, for a long time yet be unwilling to acknowledge that any such change took place in the year 1879; nevertheless it will have to be acknowledged sooner or later. It is clear from this that one thing, above all, is essential and will become increasingly so in the future, namely, that all available spiritual knowledge shall spread over the Earth. Therefore in order to further their aims, the Spirits of Darkness will attach particular value to the breeding of confusion among men so that they will not succeed in forming the right thoughts and ideas into which, after death, they are transformed. What man thinks himself to be, that he is obliged to become.

This is a truth that was destined, after the great changes in the nineteenth century and from then onwards, to find its way to men. The human being must be voluntarily anything that he can be really; he must be able to think about his own being if he is to be truly himself in his life of soul. For even now the Dead could announce as a ripened truth: The soul is what it thinks itself to be. At the time when it was necessary, from the stage of the Earth to spread the truth: The soul is what it thinks itself to be, at that time Spirits of Darkness inspired human beings to announce the following: “Man is what he eats.” And although this is not, in theory, widely acknowledged, the practical conduct of life amounts very nearly to being an acknowledgment of the principle that man is what he eats—that and nothing else. Indeed this principle is more and more being applied and developed in external life. To a far greater extent than people believe, the grievous and tragic events of the present time are an outcome of the tenet: Man is what he eats. In a much deeper sense than is supposed by the superficial modern mind, a terrible amount of the blood that is shed today, is shed over unseemly issues. Humanity is already infiltrated by the principle that “man is what he eats.” And it gives rise, indirectly, to much contention.

That is why the spread of thoughts and ideas corresponding to the realities of the times is so very necessary. Thought will gradually have to be known as a concretely real power of the soul, not merely as the miserable abstraction produced so proudly by the modern age. Men living in earlier times were still linked, by an ancient heritage, with the spiritual world. Although for many centuries now, atavistic clairvoyance has almost entirely ebbed away, this heritage still lives in the feeling and in the will. But the time has come when everything that is conscious must become a real power—hence the Spirits of Darkness strive to counter really effective thoughts by abstract thoughts in the form of all kinds of programmes for the world. This connection must be realised and understood. Thoughts must be imbued with greater and greater reality.

There are still many people who say: “Oh, well, in all good time we shall discover what transpires after death; why trouble about it now? Let us attend to the requirements of life and when we reach yonder world we shall soon discover what it is.” Well and good, but if it is true that in yonder world a man becomes what he has pictured himself to be, then something else is also true. Take the idea that is not at all uncommon nowadays. Somebody dies, leaving relatives behind him. Although thought may not be entirely lacking in these people, they may be materialistically minded, and then, quite inevitably, they will think either that the dead man is decaying in the grave or that what still exists of him is preserved in the urn. Only if thought is entirely absent can men be materialists and not hold this view. If materialism were to triumph, the conviction would still further increase that all that remains of the Dead is disintegrating in the urn or in the grave. This thought is, however, a real power; it is an untruth. When those left behind think that the Dead no longer lives, is no longer there, this is a false thought—but it is real and actual in the souls of those who form it. The Dead is aware of this thought-reality, is aware of its significance for him. And it is by no means a matter of no consequence but, on the contrary, of fundamental importance, whether those left behind cherish in their souls the thought of the Dead living on in the spiritual world, or whether they succumb to the woeful idea that the Dead, well, he is dead, he lies there decaying in the grave. Far from being a matter of no importance, there is a very great and essential difference.

Coming to Zurich nowadays one can hardly fail to be attentive to what is known here—and also elsewhere, but here it is pursued very actively—as Analytical Psychology, Psychoanalysis. It is of course the case that the psycho-analysts have become alive to many things pertaining to the realm of soul-and-spirit; they are indeed beginning to think of the soul-and-spirit simply because it confronts them so insistently. Let me here say a word or two about one characteristic feature in this Psychoanalysis.

A patient suffers from symptoms of hysteria. The forms taken by these manifestations of hysteria are very typical at the present time and for this reason attract attention. Illnesses particularly common at any given period are always a matter of concern, and efforts are made to discover where the causes lie. Psychoanalysis has actually reached the point of stating that the causes of these frequent manifestations of hysteria lie in the life of soul. As it is quite impossible to look for them in the material domain, or in the field of physiological or biological processes as such, they must lie in the Psyche—in the life of soul. The tendency of the times is to seek in the subconscious life of soul for causes of the various forms of hysteria. The psychoanalysts say: “Such and such a man shows signs of hysteria; the cause is that something is working in him below the threshold of his consciousness and is constantly surging upwards like waves from subterranean, sub-psychic depths—and that is what we must look for.”

This is where the dangerous game begins. The psychoanalysts try to find all kinds of happenings which constitute an isolated, subterranean, hidden province of the Psyche, as they put it; in an hysterical subject of the age of 30, they look for “perversions” at the age, perhaps, of 7, which were not fully lived through or satisfied then and of which he must be made conscious again, because this will cure him and so forth. It is a game with extremely dangerous weapons, my dear friends! Out yonder on the physical battlefields, war is being waged with very dangerous weapons. Here, in many domains, with weapons of knowledge no less dangerous, a game is being played because people are not willing to deepen their thought in the sense of Spiritual Science and so to acquire a true understanding of these phenomena. The problem is approached with inadequate means of knowledge and it is a very dangerous game. It is, of course, perfectly true that the Subconscious works in many people today, without ever rising into consciousness. But what the psychoanalysts believe they have unearthed is usually of the least significance of all and, for this reason successes so far as cures are concerned are in most cases highly dubious. When hysteria in a lady of 30 is put down to some sexual perversion which occurred, say, at the age of 14 and has gone on simmering in the Subconscious—this is probably the most unimportant factor of all. In some few cases it may actually be correct and then, if its importance has been wrongly estimated, it will be all the more misleading. But it is absolutely true that countless factors lurk within human beings today, trouble them and give rise to the diseases of modern civilisation.

Think of what I said before. The thought of the absent Dead dwells in some way in the soul although little attention is paid to it; the thought dwells there because the soul today is still heedless—and is rather susceptible to these heedless thoughts. According to an eternal law, the Dead is then forced to dwell with these thoughts; the Dead haunts the soul of the one who is still living. True contact with the Dead can only be established by knowing: “the Dead lives!” And human beings on the physical plane will be more and more prone to psychological illnesses as a consequence of the prevailing disbelief in the existence of the Dead. The causes of these hysterical manifestations are not, as a rule, early sexual troubles but unbelieving thoughts. For thoughts in our age are destined to become powers—in more senses than one. They work as powers of thought per se, in that after death the soul takes on a stronger and stronger likeness to what, in the body, it pictures itself to be; but in a higher sense still, thoughts become real powers in that they fetter beings—the Dead in this case—in a wrongful way to the living. Only by sustaining the thought that the Dead lives on, can man guard himself, as well as others, against the link with the Dead becoming a source of danger to those who have been left behind—and in a certain sense the same applies to the Dead himself, who under an eternal, wisdom-filled law is compelled to lurk in the survivor in such a way that this influence remains in the Subconscious and manifests, ultimately, as illness.

Ask yourselves now: What will be the real remedy for many of the phenomena confronting the psychoanalysts today? The universal remedy, the universal therapy will be the spread of knowledge of the spiritual world—not these individual treatments.

Life demands of us that we shall abstain from the thought: here one has to devote oneself to physical existence only and the world of post-mortem existence will reveal itself all in good time. For this also is true: just as our life here is important for the existence into which we pass between death and a new birth, so too the life of souls living between death and a new birth is important for the soul living here on Earth.

What I have now said refers to one thought—namely, the thought of disbelief in the existence of the Dead. But the Dead are and should be connected by many links with the living. The link of which I have just spoken is improper, but there are many true links which must be there and which constitute the right connection with the spiritual world. Anthroposophical Spiritual Science strives to establish the true connection, for the life of men together on the Earth will only take its rightful course in the future, if this true relationship is established with the spiritual world. Failing this, it will become increasingly possible for certain individuals to embark upon intrigues and machinations of the kind of which I spoke last Tuesday, in order to usurp for themselves power over others.

Of one thing let us be quite clear. It is only possible to understand the deeply symptomatic events now proceeding in the East (of Europe) when we have a clear, inner conception of the nature of those lands and peoples. Think of what we have been saying for many years about the qualities of the peoples there as a basis for the Sixth Post-Atlantean epoch. Only then can light be shed on all the difficult events and confusing influences that quite inevitably come from those Eastern lands. For, in effect, from what is happening there, something altogether different must in the course of time evolve. This, which is destined to evolve, is not so easy for the people of our time with their comfortable ways of thought to understand; no wonder they are taken aback by what happens there from day to day. But the important point is: to find the right way into all the streams and currents that are arising at the present time and will arise in the future. And little by little the right way is found when Spiritual Science is our guide to knowledge and understanding of the spiritual world. Thereby, too, the right relationship with the spiritual world is established.

In the last lecture here I told you of an improper relationship to the spiritual world that it is the aim of certain quarters to establish. I said that certain individuals are deprived of life here and sent into the spiritual world as the outcome of deliberate machinations; they have not, therefore, wholly lived out their life here and are still able to turn certain forces to account in the world where they live between death and a new birth. And then certain brotherhoods working with dishonourable motives, desiring only to satisfy their own lust for power, can use mediums for the purposes of receiving from the Dead the knowledge which the Dead have thus been enabled to acquire.

Occult brotherhoods of this kind are also, as a rule, those that lead men astray in regard to the events of greatest importance in the spiritual world. When I tell you that in 1879, in November, a momentous event took place, a battle of the Powers of Darkness against the Powers of Light, which ended in the sense of the picture of Michael overcoming the Dragon ... then the point is not, simply to tell you: such and such an event took place. For you can read in many books—it is not an esoteric truth at all—that such an event is appointed in world-evolution. What I really want to bring home is the significance of the event and the attitude that you should adopt towards it. Eliphas Levi, Baader, Saint-Martin, all knew and spoke of such an event—there is nothing really esoteric in the fact itself. But in our time, endeavours are on foot to spread confusion about such events—wherever possible, a confusion that makes men regard them as mere superstition, although they have already been proclaimed by ancient learning. Here, again, is a reason why correct and true ideas about these things are so important.

There exists today a right and proper path of approach to the spiritual truths, which since 1879 have been filtering down from the spiritual to the physical world. It is the path indicated by Spiritual Science. And if in the stream of Spiritual Science there is no deviation from sincerity and purity of intention, Spiritual Science will lead to the establishment of the right relationship between the physical and the spiritual worlds. But what is attained thereby, and must arise among men, involves and demands strenuous effort. Laziness in all its many forms must be put away. Strenuous effort is essential. When mention is made of impulses which, coming from the spiritual world, also work in the shaping of the future ... well, then people come and say: “I want to know this or that specific detail.” What they like best of all, nowadays, for example, is that one should give them a detailed description of what will happen in 1920 as the result of the present war. They do not understand that knowledge of the future ought not to be burdened with such detailed delineations, although this knowledge of the future can be absolutely reliable and effective. That is so terribly difficult to understand.

Let me make myself clear by means of a comparison. You will say: “Really that is unintelligible: he states on the one hand that details damage knowledge concerning the future, and on the other hand that one ought to pay attention to this knowledge because it speaks correctly about the future.” I want to make this point clear by means of a simple and trivial analogy. There are bad chess players and good chess players. Set a bad player down in front of a board and he will make bad moves and lose the game. A good player will get more opportunities and will win the game. The bad chess player simply makes the wrong move and the good player the right move, at the given moment. But does the good player apply his mind to detailed deliberation of the actual moves that the other player will make later on? Is it necessary for him, if he is a good player, to know now what moves the other player will make in two hours time? No, it is not! But that does not mean that his skill—the skill of a really good chess player—is ineffective. He will do what is the right thing for the future, because he knows the right moves and, if he has no such insight, he will make the wrong moves; but he is inevitably exposed to the free will of the other player. One cannot, therefore, ask: What is the good of being able to play chess really well, if the other player is always there? It is a very great help indeed to be able to play chess well! If you will ponder over this comparison, I am sure you will see what I mean.

The analogy will serve at the same time to point the truth of what everyone versed in occult matters of this kind will tell you, namely, that the moment a man draws his impulses for action in the physical world, from the spiritual world, he must be prepared to encounter other spiritual Powers; there are the “other players” to be reckoned with; there is no open field before him where he can just do what he has planned. That is the inconvenient fact! Suppose you have some knowledge of occult impulses, of impulses deriving from the spiritual world and then try—in the world of politics, let us say—to turn them to real account. If you are typical men of the present day, you will prefer everything to run smoothly and automatically so that you can have it all under control. But if you want to turn spiritual impulses, occult impulses to account in the physical world, you will have to reckon everywhere with the free will not only of men here on Earth, but also of higher Beings. In other words, with conditions as they are at present, you must not reckon upon having a free field before you; you must realise that the field is already crowded.

And so it is a matter of acquiring through genuine Spiritual Science, correct knowledge, for example of the character of the Sixth Post-Atlantean epoch which is preparing in the East, and of putting the right occult impulse into action at the right moment, just as the chess player must make his move according to that of the other player. What is really necessary is that a man shall deepen his understanding of the spiritual world and learn to do the right thing in each individual case. A recovery of spiritual vitality, unbroken effort and exertion—that is what is necessary, not all these overlapping, abstract programmes. Humanity today likes to have abstract programmes, likes best of all to condense into four or five paragraphs what should be done all over the world, so that delegates appointed by all the nations may vote in a kind of World Court of Arbitration on what has to come about on Earth in accordance with a rule accepted once and for all. But what is really necessary is that men shall seek for knowledge of the spiritual world, shall seek lasting union with the spiritual powers.

But this is connected also with something else, namely, that you must reckon with the other powers in the field. You cannot merely rely on your own power; you must reckon with the others. The quest of power as such is, of course, ruled out. Impulses truly derived from the occult world will assuredly be right and will produce the right effects, but they will never be at the disposal of mere impulses of power. That would be out of the question.

What will one do on the other hand if one does want to serve mere impulses of power? Then one will act quite differently, trying to gain knowledge of the future by such improper means as I described last time, where mediumistic revelations about the future were elicited from souls who had first been precipitated through the Gate of Death in such a way that they might still make use of earthly forces. In this way, certain occult brotherhoods acquired knowledge concerning the relation of West and East, and on the basis of this knowledge all sorts of machinations were set on foot, the effects of which go on to this day. Knowledge of this kind, placed at the disposal of the lust for power, always has some particular object in view. If you acquire knowledge of occult forces in a right and honest way, all you will do in human life will at the same time be reckoning with the Angel-Beings, with every single Angelos of every one of the human beings concerned. You know the human beings in regard to whom you apply occult truths are in relation to the spiritual world. Every one of them, a living soul, has his connection with the spiritual world. You look on them as living beings. So should the West be dealing with the East—open always to what may arise, reckoning with the “other players” as with living beings—reckoning in effect with the Angels who guard the individuals concerned. This is found inconvenient. This kind of influence the Ahrimanic Powers want to do away with; they want mere power to prevail. And they can only achieve their end by such illicit means as I described last time, whereby they seek to gain possession of the forces leading on into the future. Our time is suffering great harm, in that the forces that were acquired in this way play their part in events. Hence the first task of the honest seeker after truth today is to convince himself of the existence of these evil forces and moreover that a right working into the future can be achieved only by finding access to these true impulses, which can be sought for in the sincere, straightforward ways of Spiritual Science.

Truly, the service to be rendered by Spiritual Science is by no means one-sided—for it is rendered both by the Living and the Dead. This is a solemn, serious matter. And as friends in Zurich are proposing to take steps to introduce spiritual Science in certain chosen circles, I have felt it necessary, in our Society here, to speak of these very serious aspects of spiritual knowledge in our time. That opposing powers are at work in manifold ways is to be observed even within our own Society. Think, too, of all that has been going on, really ever since this war began, in the way of calumny, of suspicion as to my own intentions and those of a few others! Here, too, of course, inimical powers are playing a part.

The very way in which we have spoken in these lectures will show you that our age sorely needs a renewal of spiritual life, needs to be wakened from a certain condition of sleep. There are so many who think that peace will come after the war and then it will all be over and done with. By no means! The events of the present time are portentous signs. To those who will not deepen their knowledge of Spiritual Science these signs will remain unintelligible. And because the times are so grave, because it will become more and more difficult to fight even such a battle as friends here have to fight before work can be done, I want to express my special, personal gratitude—it is a gratitude which comes, too, from Spiritual Science—that friends in Zurich have taken up the struggle so warmly and so effectively against unfavourable conditions and have been undaunted in their efforts to find opportunities for lectures. Thus it has actually been possible for the aim of friends in Zurich to be fulfilled at this time, when on account of the ever-increasing obstacles, such opportunities are hard to come by. I want to stress the fact that these difficulties will grow. And as in the immediate future we shall certainly have to think about making good use of the time still remaining open to us for the arrangement of meetings, I do not want to leave unexpressed my thanks for the great efforts made in connection with the public lectures and these two lectures to the Members here. Later on, when we look back over events, it will assuredly seem significant that now, at a time of such tragic world events, we could be together and speak together as we have done.

And so, with the impulses of Spiritual Science, we will continue to work, trying to make the best of what can be wrested from the difficult conditions of the times, in the conviction which arises from a true understanding of Spiritual Science, that, insignificant as it may appear within the great stream of tragic, devastating happenings today, we are doing something of great and incisive importance for the times. The things we do in this way flow into the stream of events. Although this may still not be very apparent today, it has significance, nevertheless. If we are filled with this thought it will give us the strength to go further and it will contain in itself the power to ray out into the times. Our age must assimilate such thoughts. Let us live in this conviction as in a spiritual atmosphere! It can arise in us in very truth if we understand Spiritual Science aright.

In this sense, my dear friends, we will remain together.

[1] “Anthroposophy and Natural Science.” 12th November, 1917.