The Wrong and Right Use of Esoteric Knowledge
Dornach, 18th November, 1917
You will remember our considering various views and statements associated nowadays with the psycho-analysts. [See Psycho-Analysis in the Light of Anthroposophy (published in U.S.A.).] The essential point was to bring out clearly the fact that the idea of the unconscious which prevails in psychoanalysis is unfounded. As long as this idea — a purely negative idea — persists, we are bound to say that psychoanalysis is approaching with inadequate means of knowledge a phenomenon of quite special importance for our time. And because the psycho-analysts are trying to explore the mind and soul and — as we have seen — to study their implications for social life, we must say that their way of approach is far more significant than anything academic studies have to offer in the same field. On the other hand, because psycho-analysis is trying, through pedagogy and therapeutics, and soon, probably, through social and political ideas, to carry its influence deeply into human living, so the dangers bound up with such an approach must always be taken very seriously.
Now the question arises: What really is it that these modern researchers cannot reach and do not want to reach? They recognise that a soul-element exists outside consciousness; they search for it outside consciousness; but they cannot bring themselves to the point of recognising the spirit itself. The spirit can never be grasped through the idea of the unconscious, for unconscious spirit is like a man without a head. I have indeed called your attention to the fact that there are people, victims of certain hysterical conditions, who when they walk about in the streets see people only as bodies, minus their heads. That is a definite malady. So among present-day researchers there are some who believe they can discern the entire spirit, but as they suppose it to be unconscious, they show that they are under the delusion that an unconscious spirit, a spirit without consciousness, would be found by anyone who crosses the threshold — whether in the right sense, as described on the ground of spiritual-scientific research, or because of the kind of abnormal malady that comes to the attention of the psycho-analysts.
When we cross the threshold of consciousness, we always come into a realm of spirit; whether it is a subconscious or a super-conscious realm makes no difference. We always enter a realm where the spirit is in some sense conscious, where it displays a consciousness of some kind. We have to find out the conditions under which a given form of consciousness prevails; we must even gain through Spiritual Science the possibility of recognising which kind of consciousness a particular spirituality has.
I have told you of the case of the lady who leaves a party, runs in front of a cab-horse, is restrained from jumping into the river and taken back to the house she had just left, so that she is again under the same roof as the host, with whom she is subconsciously in love. In such a case it should not be said that the spirit which is outside the lady's consciousness, the spirit which urges and directs her, is an unconscious part of the soul: it is highly conscious. The consciousness of this demonic spirit (which led the lady back to her unlawful lover) is even much cleverer than is the lady in her upper storey — I should say, her consciousness. And these spirits, which are encountered whenever the threshold of consciousness is crossed in one way or another, and are active and potent there, are not unconscious; they are very effectively conscious for the purpose of their own activities. The phrase, “unconscious spirit,” as used by the psycho-analysts, makes no sense: I could just as well say, if I wished to speak merely from my own point of view, that the whole distinguished company seated here are my unconscious, supposing I knew nothing of them. Just as little can one describe as “unconscious spirits” those spiritual beings who are all around us, and who may lay hold of a personality, as in the case I told you about a week ago. They are not unconscious; they are outside the range of our normal consciousness, but they are fully conscious on their own account.
It is extraordinarily important — precisely in connection with the task of Spiritual Science in our time — to be aware of this, for knowledge of the spiritual realm that lies beyond the threshold, which means a knowledge of real, conscious individualities, is not simply a discovery of present-day Spiritual Science; it is in fact a primordial knowledge. In earlier times it came through old, atavistic clairvoyance. To-day it has to be attained gradually, by other methods. But knowledge of these spiritual beings, who live outside our consciousness under conditions different from ours, but have an enduring relationship with human beings and can lay hold of a person's thinking, feeling and willing — this knowledge has always been there. And within certain brotherhoods, who always looked on this knowledge as their secret property, it was treated as highly esoteric. Why was this so? To discuss this question fully would take us too far just now, but it must be said that particular brotherhoods were honestly convinced that the great majority of people were not ripe for this knowledge. And indeed this was true up to a certain point. But many other brotherhoods, called those of the left, tried to keep this knowledge for themselves, because when it is possessed by a small group, it gives them power over others who do not have it. And so endeavours were always made by certain groups to assure them power over others. Thus it could come about that a certain kind of knowledge was regarded as an esoteric possession, but was in fact utilised in order to gain power over one thing or another.
In this present time it is particularly necessary to be really clear about these things. For you know that since 1879 mankind has been living in a very special spiritual situation. Quite particularly powerful spirits of darkness were then cast down from the spiritual world into the human realm, and those persons who in a wrongful way keep the secrets connected with this event in the possession of their small groups are able to bring about everything possible by this means. Now I will first of all show you how certain secrets which concern present-day developments can be wrongfully made use of. You must then take care to bring what I am going to say to-day, rather on historical lines, into close connection with what I shall be adding to-morrow.
As you all know, attention has often been called within our movement to the fact that this century should bring human evolution into a special relationship with the Christ, in the sense that during this century — and even during the first half of it — the event indicated in my first Mystery Play is to come about: the Christ will appear to an increasing number of people as a Being truly and immediately present in the etheric realm.
Now we know that we are living in the age of materialism, and that since the middle of the nineteenth century this materialism has reached its peak. But in reality opposites always occur together. Precisely the high-point of materialism is necessarily accompanied by that inward development which makes it possible for the Christ to be really seen in the etheric realm. You can understand that a disclosure of this secret, concerning the etheric manifestation of Christ and the resulting new relationship of the Christ to human evolution, gives rise to resentment and ill-will among those members of certain brotherhoods who wished to make use of this event, the appearance of the etheric Christ, for their own purposes and did not want it to become the common property of mankind. There are brotherhoods — and brotherhoods always influence public opinion by disseminating this or that in such a way that it will disturb people as little as possible — who put out the idea that the time of materialism will soon be over, or indeed that it is already at an end. The poor, pitiable “clever people,” who to-day are promoting through so many gatherings and books and societies the idea that materialism is finished and that something of the spirit is now within reach, but without ever being able to offer people more than the word “spirit” and little phrases of a similar kind — these people are all more or less in the service of those who have an interest in declaring what is not true: that materialism is in ruins. That is far from true: on the contrary, a materialistic outlook makes progress and prospers best when people are taught that they are no longer materialists. The materialistic outlook is fast making headway and will continue to advance for some four or five hundred years.
The essential thing, as has often been emphasised here, is to be clearly conscious of the facts. Mankind will begin to recover when, through work in the life of the spirit, people come to know and to see in its true light the fact that the fifth post-Atlantean epoch is intended to create a materialistic state of being out of the general stream of human evolution. But all the more, then, must a spiritual state of being be set in opposition to this materialism. What people in our epoch must learn is the need to wage a fully conscious fight against the evil that is making its way into human evolution. Just as in the fourth epoch the struggle was to come to terms with birth and death, so now we have to come to terms with evil. Therefore the point is to grasp spiritual teaching with full consciousness, not to throw sand in the eyes of our contemporaries, as though the devil of materialism were not there. Those who handle these matters in an unrightful way know as well as I do about the event of the Christ-appearance, but they deal with it differently. And to understand this, we must pay attention to the following.
Now that we are living in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, it is quite wrong to say, as many people are comfortably fond of saying: “During this life between birth and death, the best thing is to give oneself over to living; whether after death we enter a spiritual world will be revealed soon enough — we can wait for that. Here and now we will enjoy our life, as though only a material world exists; if we do pass beyond death into a spiritual world, then we shall know whether a spiritual world is there!” That is about as clever as if someone were to take an oath and say: “As truly as there is a God in Heaven, I am an atheist!” Yet there are many people who take the line: “After death we shall know what things are like there. Until then, there is no need to occupy oneself with any kind of spiritual knowledge.”
This way of thinking has been very tempting always, in all epochs, but in our epoch it is particularly disastrous, because the temptation to indulge in it comes very close to people owing to the power and prevalence of evil. When under present-day conditions of evolution a man goes through the portal of death, he takes with him the modes of consciousness he has developed between birth and death. If he has occupied himself entirely with concepts and ideas and experiences drawn from the material world, the world of the senses, he condemns himself to dwell after death in an environment related to those ideas. While a man who has absorbed spiritual concepts enters the spiritual world in the right way, a man who has refused to accept them will have to remain tied to earthly relationships in a certain sense, until — and it takes a long time — he has learnt over there to absorb enough spiritual ideas to carry him into the spiritual world. Accordingly, whether or not we have absorbed spiritual ideas in this life determines our environment over there. Many of those — one can say it only with sympathy — who resisted spiritual ideas during this life, or were prevented from absorbing them, are to be found wandering about the earth, still bound to the earthly realm. And a soul in this situation, no longer shut off from its surroundings by the body, and no longer prevented by the body from working destructively — such a soul, if it continues to dwell in the earth-sphere, becomes a destructive centre.
Thus we see that in these cases — we might call them normal nowadays — when the threshold of death is crossed by souls who have not wanted to have anything at all to do with spiritual ideas and feelings, the souls become destructive centres, because they are held back in the earth-sphere. Only those souls who in this life are permeated by a certain connection with the spiritual world go through the gate of death in such a way that they are accepted in the spiritual world, set free from the earth-sphere, and are able to weave the threads that can continually be woven from themselves to those they have left behind. For we must be clear about this: the spiritual threads between the dead and those of us who were close to them are not severed by death; they remain and are indeed much more intimate than they were during life.
This that I have been saying must be taken as a very serious and important truth. Once again, it is not something known to me alone; others know that this is how things are at the present time. But there are many who make use of this truth in a very bad sense. For while there are misguided materialists who believe that this life is the only life, there are also initiates who are materialists and who disseminate materialistic teachings through their brotherhoods. You must not suppose that these materialists take the feeble-minded view that there is no such thing as spirit, or that men have no souls which can live independently of the body. You can be sure that anyone who has been really initiated into the spiritual world will never succumb to the foolishness of believing only in matter. But there are many who have a certain interest in spreading materialism and try by all sorts of means to ensure that the majority of men will believe only in materialism and will live wholly under its influence. And there are brotherhoods led by initiates who have this interest. It suits these materialists very well when it is constantly said that materialism has already been overcome. For anything can be promoted by talking about it in an opposing sense; the necessary manoeuvres are often highly complicated.
What then are the aims of these initiates, who in reality know very well that the human soul is a purely spiritual entity, independent of the body, and nevertheless cherish and cultivate a materialistic outlook in other people? What they want is that the largest possible number of souls should absorb only materialistic ideas between birth and death. Thus these souls are made ready to linger on in the earth-sphere, to be held back there. And now observe that there are brotherhoods which are equipped to know all about this. These brotherhoods prepare certain human souls to remain after death in the realm of the material; then they arrange things — and this is quite possible for their infamous power — so that these souls come under the aegis of their brotherhood, and from this the brotherhood gains enormous strength. So these materialists are not materialists, for they believe in the spirit — these initiate-materialists are not so foolish as not to do that, and indeed they know the truth about the spirit well enough — but they compel human souls to remain bound to the material realm after death, in order to be able to use these souls for their own purposes. Thus these brotherhoods build up a sort of clientele of souls from among the dead who remain in the earth-sphere. These souls have in them certain forces which can be guided in the most varied ways, and by this means it is possible to achieve quite special opportunities for exercising power over those who are not initiated into these things.
Nothing less than that, you see, is the plan of certain brotherhoods. And nobody will understand these matters clearly unless he keeps the dust out of his eyes and refuses to be put off by suggestions that either such brotherhoods do not exist or that their activities are harmless. They are in fact extremely harmful; the intention of these initiates is that men should be led farther and farther into materialism, and should come to believe that there are indeed spiritual forces, but that these are no more than certain forces of nature.
Now I would like to describe for you the ideal that these initiates cherish. A certain effort is necessary to understand these things. Picture a world of harmless people: they are a little misled by the prevailing materialistic ideas, a little led away from the old well-founded religious ideas. Picture this — perhaps a diagram will be helpful.
Here (larger circle) is a realm of harmless human beings. They are not very clear about the spiritual world; misled by materialism, they are not sure what attitude to take towards the spiritual world, and especially towards those who have passed through the gate of death.
Now consider this: here (smaller circle) we have the realm of such a brotherhood as I have described. Its members are engaged in spreading the doctrine of materialism; they are taking care to see that these people shall think in purely materialistic terms. In this way they are training souls to remain in the earth-sphere after death. These souls will become a clientele of the lodge; appropriate measures can be taken to hold them within the lodge. Thus the brotherhood has created a lodge which embraces both the living and the dead; but the dead are those who are still related to the forces of the earth.
It was then arranged that seances should be held, as they were during the second half of the nineteenth century. Then it can come about — please note this carefully — that what takes place in the seances is directed, with the help of the dead, by the lodge. But the real intention of the Masters who belong to lodges of that kind was that people should not know that they were dealing with the dead, but should believe that they were in touch simply with higher forces of nature. They were to be convinced that these higher forces, psychic forces and the like, do exist, but that they are higher forces of nature and nothing more. They were to get the idea that just as electricity and magnetism exist, so are there higher forces of a similar kind. The fact that these forces come from souls is precisely what the leaders of the lodge keep hidden. In this way the “harmless” people gradually become entirely dependent in their soul-life on the lodge, without knowing that they are dependent or from what source they are being guided.
The only weapon against these procedures is to know about them. If we know about them, we are protected; if we take them seriously and believe in the truth of our knowledge, we are safe. But we must not take too comfortably the task of making this knowledge our own. It is not yet too late. I have often insisted that these matters can be clarified only by degrees, and that only by degrees can I bring together the essential facts to complete the picture.
As I have often told you, in the course of the nineteenth century many brotherhoods introduced spiritualism in an experimental way, in order to see if they had got as far with mankind as they wished. Their expectation was that at the spiritualistic seances people would take it that higher nature-forces were at work. The brothers of the left were disappointed when most people assumed, instead, that spirits of the dead were manifesting. This was a bitter disappointment for these initiates; it was just what they did not want. They wanted to deprive mankind of belief in survival after death. The efficacy of the dead and their forces was to remain, but the correct, important idea that the manifestations came from the dead — this was to be taken away. This is a higher form of materialism; a materialism which not only belies the spirit but tries to drag it down into the material realm. You see, materialism can have forces which lead to a denial of itself. People can say: “Materialism has gone — we are already talking of the spirit.” But a person can remain a thorough materialist if he treats the whole of nature as spirit in such a way that psychism emerges. The only right way is to learn how to see into the real spiritual world, the world of actual spirituality.
Here we have the beginning of a trend which will gather force throughout the next four or five hundred years. For the moment the evil brotherhoods have put the brake on, but they will continue their activities unless they are stopped — and they can be stopped only if complacency regarding the spiritual-scientific world-outlook is overcome.
Thus these brothers over-reached themselves in their spiritualistic seances: instead of concealing themselves, they were shown up. It made them realise that their enterprise had not gone well. Therefore these same brotherhoods endeavoured, from the nineties onwards, to discredit spiritualism for a time. On this path, you see, very incisive results are achieved by spiritual means. And the aim of it all is to gain greater power and so to take advantage of certain conditions which must come about in the course of human evolution.
There is something that works against this materialising of human souls, this exile of souls in the earthly sphere. The lodges exist on earth, and if the souls are to manifest and to be made use of in the lodges, they must be kept in this earthly exile. The power that works against these endeavours to operate through souls in the earthly realm is the impulse of the Mystery of Golgotha. And this also is the healing impulse which acts against the materialising of souls. Now the way taken by the Christ is altogether outside the wills and intentions of men. Hence there is no man anywhere, and no initiate, whatever his knowledge, who can influence those actions of the Christ which in the course of the twentieth century will lead to that appearance of which I have often spoken to you and which you can find indicated in the Mystery Plays. That rests entirely with Christ alone. The Christ will be present as an etheric Being within the earth-sphere. The question for men is how they are to relate themselves to Him. No one, not even the most powerful initiate, has any kind of influence over this appearance. It will come! I beg you to keep firm hold of that. But measures can be taken with the aim of seeing to it that this Christ-Event is received in one way or another and has this or that effect.
Indeed, the aim of those brotherhoods I have spoken of, who wish to confine human souls in the material realm, is that the Christ should pass by unobserved in the twentieth century; that His coming as an etheric individuality should not be noticed by men. And this endeavour takes shape under the influence of a quite definite idea and a quite definite purpose. These brotherhoods want to take over the Christ's sphere of influence, which should spread out more and more widely during the twentieth century, for another being (of whom we will later speak more precisely). There are Western brotherhoods who want to dispute the impulse of the Christ and to set in His place another individuality who has never appeared in the flesh — an etheric individuality, but a strongly Ahrimanic one.
All these methods I have told you about, this working with the dead and so on, have finally one single purpose — to lead people away from the Christ who has passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, and to assign to another being dominion over the earth. This is a very real battle, not an affair of abstract concepts; a real battle which is concerned with setting another being in place of the Christ-Being for the rest of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, for the sixth epoch and for the seventh. One of the tasks of healthy, honest spiritual development will be to destroy and make away with such endeavours, which are anti-Christian in the highest degree. For this other being, whom these brotherhoods want to set up as a ruler, will be called “Christ” by them; yes, they will really call him “Christ!” And it will be essential for people to learn to distinguish between the true Christ, who will not this time appear in the flesh, and this other being who is marked off by the fact that he has never been embodied on the earth. It is this etheric being whom these brotherhoods want to set in the place of Christ, so that the Christ may pass by unobserved.
Here is one side of the battle, which is concerned with falsifying the appearance of Christ during the twentieth century. Anyone who looks only at the surface of life, and pays heed to all the external discussions about Christ and the Jesus-question, and so on, knows nothing of the deeper facts. All these discussions serve only to hide the real issues and to lead people away from them. When the theologians discuss “Christ” in this way, a spiritual influence from somewhere is always at work, and these learned men are in fact furthering aims and purposes quite different from those they are aware of.
This is the danger of the idea of the unconscious: it leads to unclear thinking about all such connections. While the evil brotherhoods pursue their aims very consciously, these aims never enter the consciousness of the people who engage in all sorts of superficial discussions. We lose the truth of these things by talking of the “unconscious,” for this so-called unconscious is merely beyond the threshold of ordinary consciousness, and is the very sphere in which someone who knows about these things can manipulate them. Here we have one side of the situation: a number of brotherhoods actually do wish to substitute for the working of Christ the working of another being and are ready to use any means to bring this about.
On the other side are certain Eastern brotherhoods, especially Indian ones, who want to intervene no less significantly in the evolution of mankind. But they have a different purpose: they have never developed an esoteric method of achieving something by drawing the souls of the dead into the purview of their lodges: that is far removed from their aims. But in their own way they also do not want the impulses of the Mystery of Golgotha to work into the course of human evolution. Since the dead are not at their disposal, as they are for some of the Western brotherhoods I have mentioned, they do not wish to set against the Christ, who is to appear as an etheric individuality during the twentieth century, some other individuality; for that they would need the dead. But they do want to distract attention from the Christ; to prevent Christianity from rising to supremacy; to obscure the truth about the Christ, who passed through the Mystery of Golgotha after His one and only incarnation of three years on earth, and who cannot be incarnated again on earth. These brotherhoods do not want to control the dead in their lodges: in place of the dead they employ beings of another kind.
When a man dies, he gives up his etheric body, which separates from the physical body, as you know, soon after death, and is then normally taken up into the cosmos. This is a somewhat complicated process; I have described it for you in various ways. But before the Mystery of Golgotha something else was possible, and even afterwards it was still possible, especially in the East. When a man surrenders his etheric body after death, certain beings can clothe themselves in it and become etheric beings with the aid of these etheric bodies of dead men. This is what happens in the East: demonic beings are enticed to clothe themselves in the etheric bodies which men have cast aside; and it is these spirits who are drawn into the Eastern lodges. The Western lodges, therefore, have the dead who are banished into matter; the Eastern lodges of the left have demonic spirits — spirits who do not belong to earth-evolution but have insinuated themselves into it by donning the discarded etheric bodies of dead men.
Esoterically, the procedure is to make this fact into an object of worship. You know that the calling up of illusions belongs to the arts of certain brotherhoods, because when men are not aware of how far illusion is present in the midst of reality, they can easily be taken in by skilfully produced illusions. The immediate object is achieved by introducing a certain form of worship.
Suppose I have a group of men with a common ancestry; then, after as an “evil” brother I have made it possible for the etheric body of a certain ancestor to be taken over by a demonic spirit, I tell the people that this ancestor is to be worshipped. The ancestor is simply the man whose cast-off etheric body has been taken over, through the machinations of the lodge, by a demonic spirit. So ancestor-worship is introduced, but the ancestors who are worshipped are simply whatever demonic beings have clothed themselves in the etheric bodies of these ancestors.
The Eastern peoples can be diverted from the Mystery of Golgotha by methods such as these. The result will be that for Eastern peoples — or perhaps for people generally, since that is the ultimate aim — the coming manifestation of Christ in our earthly world will pass unnoticed. These Eastern lodges do not want to substitute another Christ; they want only that the appearance of Christ Jesus shall not be noticed. There is thus an attack from two sides against the Christ Impulse that is to manifest in etheric form during the twentieth century; and this is the situation in which we stand to-day. Particular trends are always only an outcome of what the great impulses in human evolution are bringing about. That is why it is so saddening to hear it said continually that influences from the unconscious, the so-called unconscious, are an effect of suppressed love or the like, when in fact influences from a highly conscious spirituality are at work on humanity from all sides, while remaining relatively unconscious if no conscious attention is paid to them.
We must now bring in some further considerations. Men with good intentions for the development of mankind have always reckoned with the activities I have just described and have done their best — and no man can or should be expected to do more — to set things right.
A particularly good home for spiritual life, protected against all possible illusions, was Ireland, the island of Ireland, in the first Christian centuries. More than any other spot on earth it was sheltered from illusions; and that is why so many missionaries of Christianity went out from Ireland in those early times. But these missionaries had to have regard for the simple folk among whom they worked — for the peoples of Europe were very simple in those days — and also to understand the great impulses behind human evolution. During the fourth and fifth centuries Irish initiates were at work in central Europe and they set themselves to prepare for the demands of the future. They were in a certain way under the influence of the initiate-knowledge that in the fifteenth century — in 1413, as you know — the fifth post-Atlantean epoch was to begin. Hence they knew that they had to prepare for a quite new epoch, and at the same time to protect a simple-minded people. What did they do in order to keep the simple people of Europe sheltered and enclosed, so that certain harmful influences could not reach them? The course of events was guided, from well-instructed and honourable sources, in such a way that gradually all the voyages which had formerly been made from Northern lands to America were brought to an end. Whereas in earlier times ships had sailed to America from Norway for certain purposes (I will say more of this to-morrow), it was gradually arranged that America should be forgotten and the connection lost. By the fifteenth century, indeed, the peoples of Europe knew nothing of America. Especially from Rome was this change brought about, because European humanity had to be shielded from American influences. A leading part in it was played by Irish monks, who as Irish initiates were engaged in the Christianising of Europe.
In earlier times quite definite impulses had been brought from America, but in the period when the fifth post-Atlantean epoch was beginning it was necessary that the peoples of Europe should be uninfluenced by America — should know nothing of it and should live in the belief that there was no such country. Only when the fifth post-Atlantean epoch had begun was America again “discovered,” as history says. But, as you know very well, much of the history taught in schools is fable convenue, and one of these fables is that America was discovered for the first time in 1492. In fact, it was only rediscovered. The connection had been blotted out for a period, as destiny required. But we must know the truth of these historical circumstances and how it was that Europe was hedged in and carefully sheltered from certain influences which were not to come in.
These things show how necessary it is not to take the so-called unconscious as actually unconscious, but to recognise it as something that pursues its aims very consciously below the threshold of ordinary consciousness. It is important to-day that more people should come to know of certain secrets. That is why I went as far as one can go publicly in my Zürich lectures, [Four public lectures given on 5th, 7th, 12th and 14th November, 1917, on the following subjects: Anthroposophy and Psychology; Anthroposophy and History; Anthroposophy and Natural Science; Anthroposophy and Social Science. (Not yet translated.)] when, as you know, I explained to what extent the history of mankind is not known by ordinary consciousness, but is in fact dreamt through; and when I said that only when people become aware of this, will they come to see history in its true colours.
These are means by which consciousness is gradually awakened. The facts and events confirm what I say; only they must not be overlooked. People sleep their way blindly through events — through tragic catastrophes such as the present one. I would like first to impress on you the historical aspect of these matters: we will speak of them in greater detail to-morrow.
I want to add one further point. You will have seen from my explanations how great is the difference between West and East in relation to the evolution of mankind. Now I would ask you to observe the following. The psycho-analysts talk of the subconscious, the subconscious soul-life, etc. To apply such vague concepts to these things is useless. The point is to grasp what there really is beyond the threshold of consciousness. Certainly there is a great deal down below the threshold, and on its own account it is highly conscious. We must learn to understand what kind of spirituality exists down there, beyond the threshold of consciousness. We must speak of a conscious spirituality, not of unconscious mind. Yes, we must be quite clear that we know nothing of a great deal that goes on within us — it would indeed go badly with us if we had normally to be aware of it all. Just imagine how we should cope with eating and drinking if we had to acquaint ourselves with all the physiological and biological processes that go on from the moment when we swallow a piece of food! All that proceeds unconsciously, and spiritual forces are at work there, even in the purely physiological realm. But you will agree that we cannot wait to eat and drink until we have learnt all the details of it. It is the same with much else: by far the greater part of our being is unconscious, or — a better word — subconscious.
Now the peculiar thing is that this subconscious within us is invariably taken possession of by another being. Hence we are not only a union of body, soul and spirit, carrying an independent soul in our body through the world, but shortly before birth another being takes possession of our subconscious parts. This subconscious being goes with us all the way from birth to death. We can to some extent describe this being by saying that it is highly intelligent, and endowed with a will which is closely related to the forces of nature. I must emphasise a further peculiarity of this being — it would incur the gravest danger if under present conditions it were to accompany man through death. At present it cannot do so; therefore it disappears shortly before death in order to save itself; yet it retains the impulse to order human life in such a way that it would be able to conquer death for its own purposes. It would be terrible for human evolution if this being which has taken hold of man were able to overcome death and so, by dying with man, to pass over into the worlds which man enters after death. This being must always take leave of man before death, but in many cases this is very difficult for it to do, and all sorts of complications result. For the moment the important thing is that this being, which has its dominion entirely within the subconscious, is extremely dependent upon the earth as a whole organism.
The earth is very different from what geologists or mineralogists or palaeontologists say about it; the earth is a living being through and through. These scientists deal only with its mineral part, its skeleton, and its skeleton is all we normally perceive. This is much the same as if you were to enter this hall and through a special change of sight were to see only the bones of the people assembled here. Just imagine that you came in through the door and only skeletons were sitting on the chairs: not that they were nothing but bones — that would be going too far — but that you could see only the bones, as though with an X-ray apparatus. That is as much as geology sees of the earth — its skeleton only. But the earth is more than a skeleton: it is a living organism, and from its centre it sends out particular forces to every point and region on its surface.
These outward-streaming forces belong to the earth as
a living organism, and they affect a man differently according to where he lives on the earth. His soul is not directly influenced by these forces, for his immortal soul is very largely independent of earth-conditions, and can be made dependent on them only by such special arts as those I have described to-day. But through the other being, which seizes hold of man before birth and has to leave him before death, these various earth-forces work with particular strength into the racial and geographical varieties of mankind. So it is on this “double” (Doppelgänger), which man carries within himself, that geographical and other diversities exert special influence.
This is extraordinarily important. To-morrow we shall see how the “double” is influenced from various points on the earth and what the consequences are. I have already indicated that you will need to bring what I have said to-day into direct connection with what I shall be saying to-morrow, for one lecture can scarcely be understood without the other.
We have to try to assimilate ideas which are most seriously related to the total reality in which the human soul lives, in accordance with its own nature. This reality goes through various metamorphoses, but how these changes occur depends to a great extent on human beings. And one significant change comes about if people realise how human souls, according to whether they absorb materialistic or spiritual concepts between birth and death, are exiled to the earth or pass on to their rightful spheres. The ideas on these matters that prevail among us must become continually clearer, for only then shall we relate ourselves truly to the world as a whole, which is what we must do more and more, for we are concerned not merely with an abstract spiritual movement, but with a very concrete one which has to take account of the spiritual life of a certain number of individuals.
It is a great satisfaction to me that these discussions, which are quite specially important for those of our friends who have passed through the gate of death but are still faithful members of our movement, can be carried on as a reality which unites us more and more deeply with them. I say this to-day because it behoves us to think with loving remembrance of FrÃ¤ulein Stinde. Yesterday was the anniversary of her death, and with specially loving remembrance we think of one who was so inwardly linked to our Building, [The first Goetheanum, later destroyed by fire and replaced by the present Goetheanum.] and whose impulses were so inwardly connected with its impulses.