Three Streams of Human Evolution
12 October 1918, Dornach
Yesterday we were trying to describe in accordance with its inner nature an extraordinarily important fact in the evolution of man; we tried to describe it from an unfamiliar point of view, but one of outstanding significance. Let us briefly recall this. I was trying to show that a certain state of equilibrium was brought about in the evolution of Europeans because the event which was meant to happen in the year 666 of our era had been opposed by that other event known as the Event of Golgotha. I said that men are in the course of an evolution predetermined for them, in a certain sense, by those Regents of the world from whom mankind received its origin. If we follow this evolution in detail, we come to see just how the soul can take its place in any epoch into which it is born. We are living in the fifth post-Atlantean epoch, which began in the fifteenth century and will last until the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth millennium. In this epoch men are intended to enter upon the development of what we call the Consciousness Soul. All the affairs of this epoch point finally to the goal that may be termed the perfecting of the Consciousness Soul. Painful events, joyful events, events that put men to the test and events that we may call divine gifts for the blessing of mankind, all that is full of light, all that is full of shadow in this epoch — all this is meant to serve the purpose of enlightening man about himself and his connection with the world. To find his place consciously in the world and thereby to strive for what has hitherto been pervaded with so much fantasy that it has never been rightly known — to strive to reach for the first lime through self-discipline what may be called the free human personality, a real control of the will founded upon self-education: that will be the task drawing men on in this epoch. In simple terms we might say that what is thus going on has been decreed by the Divine Beings with whom man has been united since his starting-point, Beings who lead him on from stage to stage, and are opposed from two sides by those Powers we know as Ahrimanic and Luciferic Powers.
Now I said: Let us put the hypothetical case that the Event of Golgotha never happened, that no Christ decided to unite His divine destiny with that of earthly men — what would then have come about? We can never know the true facts of history if we take note only of what is apparent, for then we never achieve a real, correct valuation of events. If to-day, for example, some event prevents our undertaking something we should otherwise have done; if we are thus prevented from being next day in some place where a railway accident might have caused our death, then it cannot be said that the event in question is rightly estimated if it is merely recorded. For quite certainly this event, if we consider it only in itself, may be entirely insignificant, and yet it may be sufficient to keep us from being where death might have met us; and we cannot understand the event if we consider only what concerned us at the time. It is just because men take things so materially and intellectually, never asking what might have happened — it is just on this account that they fail to gain insight into the true value and reality of events.
We therefore ask the question: If we assume that the Christ through the Event of Golgotha had never united His divine destiny with the destiny of man, what would have happened? Now I told you yesterday that in the year 666, by reason of certain measures which would then have been possible, men would have gone through a quite different point in their evolution; that through certain geniuses who would have arisen, men would have acquired an enormous amount of great wisdom, somewhat fantastic wisdom, but all the same a great amount of wisdom. This wisdom would have had a tremendous significance, for if men — as was predetermined for them by the Divine Spirits connected with their origin — had gone on developing gradually to receive this wisdom in the normal course of events, they would have had to wait, as I indicated, for thousands of years. They will indeed receive it in a different way, because they will acquire it through their own efforts.
Thus something would have been received prematurely that men through their own exertions can acquire only in the course of a long, long time. And men would have been unripe for it. It is hardly possible to-day to picture what course history would have taken for so-called civilised mankind if this had happened. Men would have acquired an unripe knowledge out of a kind of instinct — but the instinct of genius; they would have been overwhelmed to a certain degree by this knowledge, as though paralysed, disabled by it, and their future evolution would have been cut short. They would have come to the point of acquiring the Consciousness Soul not in a natural way, as was to happen from the fifteenth century on, but artificially in the seventh century through a kind of inoculation. But the whole evolution to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man, would have gone by the board. People would have become extraordinarily perfected as men of the earth, but they would have been shut out from all further evolution. This is what is referred to in such vehement terms in the Apocalypse, in the Revelation of John, as the appearance of the Beast. There is mentioned the number 666, which gives many scholars so much trouble to explain; they have all more or less missed the real meaning of it.
Now in order to ensure that this should not happen, and that a force opposed to it should come to the aid of mankind, the Event of Golgotha had to enter into human evolution at a prior date, after which men could receive what has flowed into their evolution through the appearance of Christ Jesus.
This is yet another point of view for judging rightly what the Event of Golgotha is in human evolution — it is something which has given the whole of Earth-evolution its meaning. Thus in order to indicate the significance of the Event of Golgotha for Earth-evolution, I have often said: If a being from another planet in our solar system — a being equivalent to earthly man but not at home on this planet — were to land one day on the earth, naturally everything on the earth would be strange to him. Such a being, if suddenly precipitated into earthly existence, would find a very great deal that he could not understand; but one thing he would understand. If you took this being — wherever he came from — and showed him Leonardo's “Last Supper,” pointing out the action of the Christ, he would in his own way get some feeling for the meaning of the earth. You might show him also what the earth has in the way of natural products, or the wide range of works of art — he would understand only what is in any way interwoven with the destiny of Christ Jesus. What I mentioned yesterday is drawn entirely from spiritual perception. Spiritual perception alone can be a guide to the important facts of human life to-day. Through supersensible perception of that which is fulfilled in the course of time, this polarity is revealed between the year of the birth of Christ Jesus and the year 666. But now let us look in external history for knowledge of this; let us ask external history if anywhere it confirms that such a thing has actually happened.
Now as ordinary scholarship does not know much of these things, it has never in its chronicles taken a great deal of notice of the relevant events. But when we know the truth, we find that even external history can lead us to these events, and that they then throw light on the most important matters. Here in life certain things happen, and behind these things there is the same spiritual world. Anyone who is aware of the connections knows how one or other event is related to its spiritual background. For anyone who is studying how modern man has emerged from the old Graeco-Latin cultural evolution, and looks only at the external facts of history, a very great deal remains problematical. It is from the inner connections that light comes.
Just take the event, of very little interest to ordinary people, but all the same an extraordinarily significant event — take the event of the year 529, when the Emperor Justinian prohibited the further functioning of the Greek schools of philosophy — those schools which were the shining light of antiquity. So all the scholarship of olden times which had been drawn into the Greek schools of philosophy, and had produced an Anaxagoras, a Heraclitus, and later a Socrates, a Plato, an Aristotle — all this was swept away in 529 by a decree of the Emperor Justinian. True, it is possible to gain from history some idea of why Justinian swept away the old knowledge in Europe; but if we reflect honestly upon these matters, we shall remain dissatisfied with any of the explanations given. We fed the working of unknown forces. And it is strange that this event coincides — not exactly, but historical facts often appear to belong together when they are looked at from a later time — this event ties up with the expulsion of the philosophers from Edessa in the year 489 by the Isaurian, Zeno Isauricus. So from the most important places of that world the most learned men were driven out. And these men, who had preserved the ancient wisdom that had not yet been influenced by Christianity were obliged to wander forth. They fled to Nisibis, journeyed then to Persia and founded the Academy of Jundí Sábúr. (See note at end of lecture, p. 103.)
Now even among philosophers very little is said about this Academy of learning at Jundí Sábúr. But unless one has some knowledge of the character of this Academy, founded by those who had belonged to the ancient schools of learning, nothing about the whole evolution of modern humanity will be understood. For this ancient learning, carried over into Persia by the sages whom Justinian and Isauricus had banished, provided the basis for an enormously significant teaching which was given out in the seventh century at Jundí Sábúr. It was in Jundí Sábúr that Aristotle was translated. And the remarkable thing is that Aristotle (whose works might otherwise have been completely lost) had first been translated into Syrian, in Edessa, by those very men of learning who were later driven out by Zeno Isauricus. The Syrian translation was brought to Jundí Sábúr, and there translated into Arabic.
This rendering of Aristotle from the Greek into Arabic, by way of the Syrian language, indicates something very remarkable. Anyone who has an insight into the transformation that thoughts undergo when they are translated into another language — or when an attempt is made to translate them — will be able to grasp how, to put it hypothetically, a certain intention could have gone into presenting, not Aristotle the Greek, but the Aristotle who made his way into Arabic through the Syrian. Thus it came about that Aristotelian concepts were imbued with an Arabian light, thrown over them by the remarkable souls of the Arabians of that time, in whom the keenest thinking was united with a certain visionary capacity — a capacity, however, which took its course on logical lines and rose to actual perception. And so, in the light of this characteristic teaching, an impressive world-outlook developed in Jundí Sábúr during the seventh century.
What I have been referring to is not an imaginary event, nor something that never took place on earth; it was in Jundí Sábúr that the teaching I spoke of yesterday was given — a teaching which in its essential nature forms the greatest imaginable contrast to all that has developed from the Event of Golgotha. And it represented a definite endeavour by the sages of Jundí Sábúr. This endeavour — just as I told you yesterday — was on behalf of an all-embracing knowledge which was meant to replace the exertions of the Consciousness Soul. It would have made of man a mere man of the earth and would have shut him off from his true future — his evolution into the spiritual world. Men of wisdom would have arisen, but materialistically thinking men, men entirely of the earth. They would have been able to see deeply into what was spiritual and supersensible in the earth, but they would have been cut off precisely from the evolution intended for man by his creators — the evolution to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man. Whoever has any inkling of the wisdom of Jundí Sábúr will indeed regard it as in the highest sense dangerous for mankind, but also as a phenomenon of great power. And the intention was to deluge with this learning not only the immediate vicinity but the whole of the then known civilised world — Asia, Europe, and everywhere.
The preliminaries for this were prepared. But the influence that was to have gone out from Jundí Sábúr was deadened, held back by retarded spiritual forces, which were nevertheless connected — although they form a kind of opposition — with the outflow of the Christ Impulse. Through the appearance of Mohammed and his visionary religious teaching, there was a deadening of the influence that was meant to go out from Jundí Sábúr. Above all in those regions where it was wished to spread the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr, Mohammed took the ground from under its feet. He skimmed the cream off it, and so the Jundí Sábúr influence was left to trail behind and could accomplish nothing in face of what Mohammed had done. Here you can see the wisdom in world-history; we come to know the truth about Mohammedanism only when, in addition to other things, we know that Mohammedanism was destined to deaden the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr, to take from it the strong Ahrimanically seductive force which would otherwise have been exercised upon mankind.
However, this wisdom of Jundí Sábúr has not entirely disappeared. We must follow attentively the evolution of mankind from the seventh century up to our own time, if we are to understand what has happened in connection with the Gnostic movement of Jundí Sábúr. The eminent teacher, whose name is unknown, but who was the greatest opponent of Christ Jesus, failed to achieve his purpose — the purpose of the teaching he gave to his pupils at Jundí Sábúr — but something else was achieved. Careful studies, however, are necessary in order to recognise what this was.
The question may be asked: How has it really come about that our present science has arisen, with its particular method of thinking? What I am now about to say is not unknown to conscientious historians. This present scientific method of thinking, as I described it for you yesterday, has not developed in a direct line from anything in Christianity — no, in reality it has nothing to do with Christianity as such. It is possible to trace step by step, from decade to decade, how the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr — certainly in a deadened form — spread over Southern Europe and Africa to Spain, to France, to England, and then over the Continent by way of the monasteries. We can trace how the supersensible is driven out and only the sense-perceptible retained; we can trace the tendency, as it were, the intention. And that which arises from the deadening of the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr is Western scientific thinking.
In this connection it is particularly interesting to study Roger Bacon — not Bacon of Verulam but Roger Bacon. Although he was a monk — not, however, looked upon very favourably by his colleagues — we can see how the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr flowed into him. So little do men to-day know of the sources of what is working in their souls that they imagine they have a scientific thinking free from prejudice, whereas this “impartial scientific thinking” derives in fact from the Academy of Jundí Sábúr.
It is not true that the findings gained from spiritual vision are incapable of corroboration; but we have to set about it in the right way if in the life of outward experience we are to show how what is brought from the spiritual actually emerged. In the near future these considerations will be of extreme importance. For if men wish to extricate themselves from the confusion of to-day, the confusion of recent years, they will have to see the past in its true colours. The fact that to-day they are inclined to look at everything from a scientific angle has nothing directly to do with Christianity; it is the result of the conditions I have been describing. Thus in the evolution of Western culture we have these two forces, these two streams — on the one hand the Christian stream, on the other hand the stream that has so deeply influenced Western thinking, and can in fact be studied when we examine the spiritual life of the Middle Ages.
This spiritual life of the Middle Ages is studied very one-sidedly. But go and look at the pictures which were painted about the way in which the Schoolmen behaved towards the Arabian philosophers; see how in the sense of Western Christian tradition the Schoolman is shown standing there with his Christian doctrine and preparing to tread the Arabian men of learning under foot ... over and over again this same passionate theme, the treading under foot of the Arabian men of learning by the force of Christ. Look at this in the pictures arising from the Christian tradition of the West, and you will understand how there lives in these pictures the passionate wish of the Middle Ages to set Christianity in opposition to all that sprang originally from the enmity of the Academy of Jundí Sábúr towards the Christ; all the passionate feeling about the Arabian learning and its spreading over Europe, right up to the time of Maimonides Ramban and Avicenna — everywhere we find the echo of what I have been describing. But just think — man was intended, aided by the Mystery of Golgotha, to find the Consciousness Soul out of his personality, and then to rise further to Spirit-Self, Life-Spirit, Spirit-Man. The purpose of the genius of Gnostic learning, however, was that man should receive something through direct revelation, without needing from the fifteenth century onwards to develop his Consciousness Soul. He was to acquire as a revelation of genius all that otherwise he would have had to find through his own personal capacity, in conjunction with the divine-spiritual Beings appointed for him, among whom even Christ Jesus belongs. The thoughts of men such as Averröes, who had acquired the Gnostic wisdom of Jundí Sábúr in its deadened form, were focused upon this. Who would ever really understand, on reading the foolish, disconnected information given to-day in school-books about Averröes, why this Spanish-Arabian man of learning said: “When a man dies, it is only the substance of his soul that flows into the universal spirituality. Man has no personal individuality; all that is soul in separate men is merely a reflection of the one universal soul.” Why did he say this? He said it because it is part of the Jundí Sábúr wisdom, which told people not that each individual is to develop the Consciousness Soul, but that the wisdom of the Consciousness Soul was to come to them as a revelation from above. Then it would have been an Ahrimanic revelation, and the content of the Consciousness Soul would have really merged into monism, with the individual consciousness becoming merely semblance. Everything that lives in the cultural evolution of the West is illuminated when things are considered spiritually. Now we must ask ourselves over and over again, first: How can this evolution of the Consciousness Soul come about? — for it has to come about; and secondly: What prevents men to-day from turning to Spiritual Science, which alone can show them the way to the Consciousness Soul?
Now yesterday I explained to you how the knowledge of nature — of which modern man is inordinately proud — leads to conceptions that do not reflect nature, but only its ghost. What men know of nature is not the truth; it is a ghost, and related to the reality of nature in the same way that a ghost is related to reality. But scientists are not aware of the ghostly nature of their knowledge, nor are they aware that what they know as Man is not Homo but Homunculus. Now the course of human evolution, which in its present character began during the fifteenth century and will continue to the middle of the fourth millennium, will be such that man will have increasingly to discern what he is really striving for in, let us say, his knowledge of nature, and how far he approaches reality with this knowledge. He will have to strive for knowledge and he will have to avoid the obstacles that meet him on the way. The most important obstacles — we have already described them from a certain point of view but we will call them up again before our souls — arise because in our scientific age, which is a child of the Academy of Jundí Sábúr, man pursues a ghostly knowledge, for he forms conceptions about nature from which all that is spiritual has departed. And we may ask — Why docs he do this? — for then we shall gain some idea of what man has to overcome. Why, then, does man unconsciously want this ghostly knowledge of nature and why is he so proud and overbearing about it? Why?
My dear friends, the moment we recognise, recognise fully, that this knowledge gives only the ghost of nature, we feel impelled to press on to the true reality behind the ghost; then we want to have nature in her reality. We might indeed characterise our scientific world-outlook also from the following aspect, and say: This scientific world-outlook arrives at ghostly conceptions, and is satisfied because it believes it then has conceptions about real nature. It goes on to invent all kinds of concepts, atoms, molecules and so on, which as you know do not exist and are mere inventions. It also invents all sorts of laws, such as the conservation of energy, the conservation of matter, which in fact do not exist. It looks for all kinds of hypotheses for what has no existence, for what it conceives of in a ghostly way in accordance with these natural laws. And why does it do all this? It is because the secret fear we have already mentioned makes itself felt immediately in the deep places of the soul; but the man concerned knows nothing of this fear because it is unconscious — I might even call it cowardice. For what would happen if he found courage enough to say: “You want a concept of nature, not the ghost of nature? Then you must press on to the reality.” — But then one will not find atoms, or molecules, or the concepts of Oswald or Haeckel; then one comes to Ahriman and his hosts! And it all becomes spiritual. Anyone who makes his way through true natural science to reality discovers Ahriman. But men are afraid of this, for they think they are falling into an abyss if, when they are seeking solid matter, there is in truth nothing, and they find spirit there. For the Spirit who is revealed is one to whom we cannot pray; we must protect ourselves against him and meet him in full consciousness.
Truly it is no arbitrary act to place the Christ in our sculptured group together with Ahriman and Lucifer; it is because this grouping is connected with the deepest problems of our present life, and because man must be fully aware of these matters. Our natural science is a ghostly one, must be ghostly, as long as we have not the courage to look for the spiritual in nature — but then we find Ahriman. And our knowledge of the soul does not give us the real soul, only an image of the soul. Strictly speaking, we get no more than this image from what is taught to-day in academies and universities as psychology. And this image blinds us to the reality; for were man to investigate further the path on which this image arises, then Lucifer would show himself. He is the next spiritual Being to be found.
Indeed, anyone who can really get through to what remains to-day of the intended knowledge of Jundí Sábúr, even though it has been blunted in the course of history, will find that these methods lead to a very exact knowledge of Lucifer and Ahriman. And they were indeed meant to lead only to Lucifer and Ahriman, and not to the guidance of mankind by Christ Jesus.
Now this is something that was felt by the medieval Scholastics who wanted to tread the Arabian men of learning under foot and always saw themselves in this attitude; and it was felt on account of its connection with the deepest evolutionary impulses of mankind. What was to have been revealed to man by Ahrimanic intervention — instead of his having to secure it by his own efforts during the course of centuries — would have been a highly dangerous wisdom because of its connection with three things. Man is on the way laboriously to acquire this wisdom through the Consciousness Soul, but at that time, in the seventh century, it was to have come to mankind in the way I have described. It is not a forbidden wisdom for man, but a wisdom he was meant to strive for under the guidance of the Christ Impulse. Now the three things to which the wisdom is related are, first, the nature of birth and death. We have said a good deal about birth and death, and from the way we have spoken of them you know it is only by supersensible knowledge that man can master birth and death. Through the fact that man is born, and dies, the supersensible makes its appearance in the world of the senses. Birth and death remain riddles for those who try to grasp them merely from the point of view of the senses, for they are not sense-phenomena. To regard them as sense-phenomena is not in accordance with truth; the truth is that they are supersensible events. When, however, we try to investigate the mysteries of birth and death supersensibly, with real observation, certain accompanying phenomena make themselves known. Above all there appears the accompanying phenomenon which makes us realise that as we live here in the sense-world, we have only an apparent life of soul. In the West, men have struggled against this truth for centuries. You can follow their struggles in my book Vom Menschenrätsel, where I speak of it right at the beginning. But there I had to express myself more cautiously, for these things still cannot be given to the outer world to-day; they are still considered paradoxical. You know how the whole Western world has come under the influence of the proposition formulated by Descartes, but really going back to Augustine: Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Men believed that in thinking they were laying hold of the reality of the soul. The proposition would have to run differently if we wished to establish the truth about man as he lives in the world of the senses. We should have to say: I think, therefore I am not. For the moment we begin simply to think, the moment we develop purely inward thinking, we are no more. What is then within us? This is certainly a very complicated phenomenon, but by tomorrow it will have become clear to us.
Let us take this to be man's life (diagram), and this to be
what throughout life he experiences as a conceiving, thinking being. Then this (red) is merely an appearance, running from birth to death like a hollow reed, for the truth lies further back. The truth is there before birth, or let us say before conception; in the supersensible spiritual world is our reality; and at the boundary where we enter the world of the senses only the image of us is allowed through. We are only an image of our life before birth, or before conception. The truth is not that something now living is speaking to you; only the images of it have been allowed to pass through. The truth is that what was in the spiritual world continues to speak to-day. We are not eternal because we go on existing, but because we are still to-day what in truth we were before birth or conception, and it is this which speaks into the present. Through having been drawn down into bodily existence, we have really become an illusory appearance of our essential being for the term of our earthly life. “I think, therefore I am not” — philosophy from Augustine to Descartes has sought to spread darkness over this profound truth. People will never gain knowledge of the mysteries of birth and death while this darkness prevails. For they ask: “When did the soul have its beginning?” “At birth.” “When does it cease?” “At death.” If we recognised the supersensible truth we should speak differently and say: When did the soul cease to unfold its life as soul ? When we were born, or conceived. When will the soul begin again to unfold its life as a supersensible being? When we die. Here on earth this life is interrupted so that not only the supersensible should work into our life, but that we may absorb what can be gained through the senses and make it part of our life as a whole. There will be no question here of a fanatical asceticism; the obvious fact is that earthly life is absolutely necessary to the whole life of man. But this earthly life is so important, and appears under the guise of materiality, precisely because our true human life as super-sensible beings ceases when we enter earthly life, and begins again when we live on after death.
The mysteries of birth and death begin to reveal themselves only when we know that we are supersensible beings, and are only the image of what we are before birth, and after death, as soul-beings. But then we must have the courage to look steadily at ourselves. If here (see diagram) there is only a hollow reed, only an image, we must find the courage to say: Do not let us be blinded by the image, but let us with full knowledge confront Lucifer. The gaining of knowledge is fruitful for life; it demands courage, inner courage. This must be repeatedly emphasised. That is one thing: knowledge concerning birth and death.
The second thing is knowledge concerning the course of our life itself. Because we look upon our relation as soul to body falsely — though the falsity is justified for the reasons you can find in my Occult Science — we have a false conception also of the course of our life. We form it on the lines of the illustration I made use of here a few days ago: you remember how I took the image of Father Rhine. Someone stands on the bridge in Basle, looks down and says: “There's the old Rhine; the old Rhine ...” yes, but what do you mean by the old Rhine? The water I see flowing there below is not old, for in the course of an hour it will be far away, and in a few days somewhere in the wide ocean; the water is certainly not old. And what you mean does not seem to be merely the river-bed, hollowed out of the earth between the Swiss mountains and the North Sea. Then what is Father Rhine, the old Rhine, so often spoken of? It is not at all a substantial thing; no substance is left once you have the idea of Father Rhine. And this is no less true of our own bodily nature. This bodily nature of ours is a continuously running stream: a destroying and renewing of the vital fluids; a destroying and renewing of the vital fluids. Nothing remains but the form, which is of spiritual origin. Substance continually pours into the form; it appears, pours itself in, is destroyed — just like the waters of Father Rhine.
Because of the illusion, the may a, that permeates the outer world, we do not see this flux of continuous dissolution and renewal which is the truth about the life perceived by the senses. We behold instead what comes to birth — the lump of flesh filled with bones and blood, which is to grow bigger until it is full-grown, and then remains so until death. This is conceived of in much the same way that Father Rhine is conceived of as a piece of water, which of course it is not; but just as we might picture a piece of water stretching from the Swiss mountains to the North Sea, and then imagine it lying there at rest in its bed, so do we form a conception of the human body. It is continually flowing, whereas we believe it to be something rigid — it is difficult to find a good word for this — a rigid something between birth and death. If we had a correct vision of ourselves, we should see the continuous flux, and could never suppose that this continuous flux has anything to do with our true being. But if we could see the underlying forces of dissolution which are continually at work there, we should acquire a knowledge of medicine, a spiritual medical knowledge which would certainly take a different form from our modern medical knowledge. You will not get the right idea of this spiritual medical knowledge if you say: “Yes, indeed — that is how illnesses would be healed!” Illnesses cannot be healed in the way men would like to-day. All we do with true spiritual medical knowledge is to keep intact the forces of healing. Genuine therapeutics would consist in so ordering life that a man would be master of the forces that bring about continuous excretion, dissolution, and renewal in his organism. We should need no drugs from the chemist if the individual man not only knew how to apply this mastery to his own person, but were so to live with his fellows that it could be accepted by the whole human race. I have often mentioned this. That is the second thing.
The third thing to be connected with this knowledge is a true natural science. What is true natural science, my dear friends? As I have often emphasised, Spiritual Science is not hostile towards natural science in its present form, but it realises that this natural science does not give the whole truth about nature; it gives only a ghost. There is no point in fighting this ghost — in our various ways we must just put up with it. It is no good thinking out a poison, like the philosopher Richard Wahle in the story I told you yesterday — even though it were a poison meant only to destroy a philosophy, a philosophical poison, nothing more. It is no use thinking out some poison to rid the world of all those who think scientifically; the useful thing is to discover how far they are right. We should say to scientists: If you were to insist on the accuracy of your research, we should entirely agree; but at the same time you ought to admit that through this research, which is accurate from the scientific point of view, you arrive at conceptions only of nature's ghost and not of nature's reality. But we have to get through to reality; that is precisely the task of this age of the Consciousness Soul. The scientist will claim that he has this or that good reason for not letting his knowledge of nature become ghostlike, to which the spiritual scientist must reply: But you are quite right to have your ghostly knowledge of nature. For if you seek any substance in nature beyond its ghost, you will be wrong; you are right only if behind the ghost you look for what is Ahrimanic, when you look for what is spiritual. You are therefore right in seeking a ghostly knowledge. — Now what I have told you about man's bodily nature takes on a decidedly ghostly character. And anyone who looks right into nature from a higher point of view beholds as a true natural phenomenon, about which he is under no illusion, a quite different phenomenon from those substantial ones commonly brought to our notice. The peculiar thing — I will say more about it tomorrow — is that in spite of everything the world at some points is always indicating the truth. Somewhere a pointer to the truth can be found, if people want to know how they should think about the reality of the natural phenomena which lie open to our senses on all sides.
What then should we be looking for? Is there anything in nature itself to enlighten us? Yes, there is: for example, the rainbow — the rainbow is a true picture of a natural phenomenon. Just think — of course you know this — if you could get to where the rainbow is, you could quite comfortably pass through it; it is brought about simply by the inter-working of certain processes. Just as spectre-like, just as ghost-like, are all the processes of nature, only this is not perceived; they are not what they appear to be to the eye, the ear, or the other senses; they are the combined outcome of other spiritual processes. We tread the earth, believing we have solid matter below us; in reality it is merely what we perceive as with the rainbow — and when we believe we are treading on firm ground it is Ahriman sending up the force from below.
Directly we get free from what is merely spectre-like, ghost-like, in natural phenomena, we meet the spiritual. In other words, all searching for so-called solid matter is really rather nonsensical. If man will only give up looking for anything coarsely material as the basis of nature — and this he will do before the fourth millennium — he will come to something quite different; he will discover rhythms, rhythmical orderings, everywhere in nature. These rhythmical orderings are there, but as a rule modern materialistic science makes fun of them. We have given artistic expression to them in our seven pillars, and so on, in the whole configuration of our Building. 1The first Goetheanum, subsequently destroyed by fire. This rhythmical order is there in the whole of nature. In the plants one leaf follows another in rhythmical growth; the petals of the blossoms are ordered rhythmically, everything is rhythmically ordered. Fever takes a rhythmical course in sickness; the whole of life is rhythmical. The discerning of nature's rhythms — that will be true natural science.
By learning to understand the rhythms in nature we shall even come to a certain application of the rhythmical in technology. This would be the goal for future technics: harmoniously related vibrations would be set going; they would be small at first but would act upon each other so that they became larger and larger, and by this means, simply through their resonance, a tremendous amount of work could be done.
Now tomorrow I will show you in greater detail why it is so truly wise on the part of the Christian world-order — which in this sense is the wise divine world-order — to let mankind become ripe in the course of centuries for the knowledge of which I have just been speaking, whereas the Academy of Jundí Sábúr wanted to force it upon men. For men must have something else as their aim if this knowledge is to come to them. These forms of knowledge may be bestowed upon mankind only if, simultaneously with a development towards them, there comes into being as widely as possible, in connection with our third point, an entirely selfless social order. No rhythmical technics can lie introduced without causing harm to mankind, unless at the same time a selfless social order is striven after; to an egoistic society they would bring only hurt.
Again, in connection with the second point, I mentioned a force which is bound up with healing power. I spoke of how one could come to see processes of dissolution and renewal, excretion and assimilation, occurring under the influence of this force. As I have said from other points of view, this force cannot be given over to mankind unless progress is made in other directions at the same time. Men will have first to cultivate a strict conscientiousness, in relation not only to outwardly visible things, but also to things not outwardly visible. They will have to learn to control not only what is visible, but also, under the guidance of conscience, their thinking and feeling. For with a knowledge of this force — which is hidden by the fact of our looking on the flow of life between birth and death as a rigid body — with a mastery of this force tremendous harm could be done, if it were not developed in the light of a strictly responsible conscience even towards what is not apparent.
And the third thing would correspond with my first point, with knowledge of the mysteries of birth and death. These mysteries of birth and death presuppose likewise that mankind will first come to experience a certain maturity; they presuppose that man will really be able to confront Ahriman and Lucifer consciously. Anyone who knows how to reflect upon the meaning of what is meant by this first point, realises the following, which I will now put before you in conclusion; tomorrow we shall be saying more about it. He realises the following.
My dear friends, it is possible to study natural science as mere ghostly knowledge and not to realise that it is mere ghostly knowledge; it is possible to content oneself with this untrue knowledge. This is helpful; it actually helps us, for then we do not face the danger of meeting Ahriman. You can make Ahriman invisible, but then you must accumulate knowledge of nature merely in the present-day sense, which does not reach the truth. To remain content with this knowledge of nature, and so with what is untrue, is a good way of defending yourself against Ahriman. But you must choose: either you want the truth, in which case you will have to make acquaintance with Ahriman at work supersensibly in the world; or you can keep to what is untrue. If you cultivate what is untrue, you will say: “The ghostly knowledge of nature gives us the true nature.” Well and good; then be content with what suits Ahriman; he wants lies, he lives upon lies. And he can really live very well on these hidden lies; nothing pleases him more than to see holding sway the lie that a ghostly knowledge of nature is real knowledge of nature.
Again, I have spoken of that which is a mere semblance of the supersensible; I described it as the image that is allowed through. Here too is a choice. We can penetrate to the supersensible — but then we have to look Lucifer (spiritually, of course) in the eye. Or we can keep to what is untrue and take the semblance of the soul for its reality. Then, however, we can never come to understand birth and death, or immortality; for then we shall be looking not upon the soul, the immortal soul, but only upon its image. This is what I have wanted to place before your souls by way of introduction. To-morrow we will go on from here.
You can see how important these thoughts are. In this age of the Consciousness Soul, earthly man has the choice of striving for the truth, which requires him to confront the spiritual with courage; or of avoiding the spiritual, when he can remain in illusion, holding to the untrue. The Academy of Jundí Sábúr wanted to spare man this striving for the truth, to spare him the trouble of further evolution; therefore it wished to reveal to him what it had itself received as an Ahrimanic revelation. The Academy of Jundí Sábúr, of which the last shadows, the ghost, remain in the scientific illusions of to-day, wanted to make of man an entirely earthly being. These endeavours were overcome by what had been destined for mankind from his very beginning — by the Mystery of Golgotha.