The Cosmic New Year
III. The Mystery of the Human Will
28 December 1919, Stuttgart
From the views which have been presented here for some time, and more particularly from the considerations which have come before us these last few days, we see how essential it is for the further cultural evolution of mankind that what we may call the knowledge of Initiation should stream into it. We must say, absolutely without reserve: The deliverance of mankind from a downward evolutionary course depends entirely upon its turning to a revelation which can only come through Spiritual knowledge.
Although it might be said, with a certain amount of feeling or logic, that it would be difficult in our time for wider circles of people to accept such knowledge, which at first can only be given out by few who have reached the height of being able to see into the Spiritual World, all such objections, even when apparently justified, will not contradict the clamorous fact that without accepting that which is here called Anthroposophical Spiritual Science, civilization must sink into the abyss. The work of the Heavenly Powers upon the earth must cease if their further cosmic evolution is not united with mankind. The healing of mankind can only be brought about if a sufficiently large number of people permeate themselves with what we are trying to say here. For only he who will not, who absolutely will not look into what has happened in the whole world as the result of the last catastrophic years, only he can close his eyes to the fact that we are at the beginning of a process of destruction, and that nothing can bring us out of this process of destruction except something new. For what we seek within the destructive force itself can never be anything but a force of destruction. A power for building afresh can only be obtained from a source not belonging to earthly evolution up to the present time.
Now the results of the inflow from such sources are fraught with most significant difficulties. You have often been told that the Science of Initiation cannot be given to mankind haphazard, without preparation, because a certain receptivity is necessary. You have heard this continually; but it is exactly against this attitude of mind that man continually transgresses. Let us take a simple example. One of the first, most primitive demands relative to the acceptance of the Science of Initiation, is that every one should seek to strip off what we call Ambition, particularly when it expresses itself as a judging of others by one's self. Now, it is easy to see that this is exactly what takes place in the Anthroposophical Society. What would be the use of keeping silence about such matters? It is readily admitted that such is the case, but nevertheless the most fatal things in this direction exist within the Anthroposophical Movement, and mutual envy is on the increase. I shall merely indicate this aspect. Today I must speak of other great difficulties in the entrance of the Science of Initiation into our earthly civilization.
In the first place, that which belongs to the Mystery of the Will of Man must be pointed out to humanity in a comprehensive way. This Mystery of Man's Will has been veiled from modern culture especially since the middle of the fifteenth century, since the rise of the fifth post-Atlantean age. The modern theory of the universe knows the very least possible of the Will. We have often characterized this. A man when awake never experiences consciously the real nature of his Will. When awake he experiences consciously the nature of his Conceptions, when in a dreaming state he experiences the nature of his Feelings, but he is sleeping, even when he is awake, partially, with reference to his Will. We go through the world as so-called waking beings, but are only awake with regard to conceptions and ideas, we are only half awake in our life of feeling, and completely asleep in our Will. Let us not delude ourselves about this matter. We have ideas about what we will, but only when the Will becomes idea, when the Will is reflected by the intellect, can we experience it in our waking consciousness. What goes on in the depths of man's being, even if he only raises his hand, which means bringing his Will into operation, of this the ordinary man knows absolutely nothing. This means that the Mystery of Will is to the modern man entirely unknown, and with this is to be connected the fact that our entire modern civilization — especially that which has come about since the fifteenth century — is absolutely intellectual, a culture of the understanding; for the culture of Natural Science is an intellectual culture. The Will plays the least possible part in everything that we grasp with our intellect, our understanding. When we think, when we form ideas, the Will of course plays a certain part in the formation of the ideas, but only in a very fine state. Man does not notice how the Will pulsates in his perceptions and how in other ways the Will is working within him.
For man in this new age the Mystery of the Will is completely veiled by our exclusively intellectual culture. Only when we seek, through those means given by Spiritual Science of which I have often spoken to you, to investigate the Will, that is, when we try with the help of Imagination and inspiration to make those forces active which enable man to see into the workings, the machinery which is set going by Man's Will, then we notice that in our physical life between birth and death, the Will as a living entity is not bound up with constructive processes but only with destructive processes. I have often explained this. If constructive processes alone took place in our brain, if for instance, only that took place which results from the action of the life-forces upon our food, we should be unable to evolve a soul- and spirit-life by means of the apparatus of the nerves and the brain; only on account of the destructive process which is continually going on in our brain do the soul and spirit take root in what is being destroyed. It is just here that the Will works. Man's Will is essentially something which during our physical life works to a certain extent for the death of man. With reference to our head organization, we are continually dying; in every moment we die. We only live because the rest of our organization works against this continual dying in our heads, for which our Will is mainly responsible. Independently of us, there is continually taking place in our head, that which takes place objectively in the outer world when we pass through physical death.
Our corpse, in so far as we are human individuals and enter the world of soul and spirit through the gate of death, ceases to be a matter of importance to us, but it is of great importance to the Cosmos. This corpse in some way or other, it does not matter whether by cremation or burial, is given over to the elements of the Earth; there, in its own way it carries on what our human Will does partially to our nervous system, to our sense-organization in our life between birth and death. We have perception and thought because our Will destroys something in us. We give our corpse over to the Earth, and by the help of the disintegrating corpse, which only continues the same process which we partially carry on in life, the whole Earth thinks and has perception. I characterized this from another point of view a few months ago. That which continually takes place in the Earth through the interchange between the primal earth-substances, through the union (of these substances) with the dead human bodies, is an activity in all respects comparable with the activity of the Will which between birth and death is practised by us continually, unconsciously, while the working, the destroying like a corpse, goes on in our nerve and sense system. Between birth and death the Will, because it is united with our Ego, works through the destructive forces within the bounds of our skin. This same Will works cosmically through our corpse, in the thinking and forming of ideas by the whole Earth, after our death, when we have given our corpse over to the Earth. Thus, we are cosmically united with what we may call the Soul-spiritual process of the whole Earth existence. This conception is a very difficult one, for it places man concretely into that which is Cosmic in our Earth existence. It shows the relationship of man's Will to the manner of working of the universal Cosmic Will within the Earth existence, in the destruction, in the bringing about of death conditions.
But just as our further evolution in the Spiritual World after we have passed through the gates of death, is dependent upon our having left the corpse behind, upon the fact that we no longer work with these forces, but with others, so the healthy further evolution of the whole Earth depends on whether humanity on this Earth unites itself not now with forces of death, but with forces of life, forces which evolve in another direction than do the forces of death. To speak of this today when men are filled with personal ideas and feelings is indeed something fraught with bitterness, for the seriousness of such a truth is only experienced in the most limited degree. Man is unaccustomed to taking in these great truths with the deep earnestness with which they must be taken. Nevertheless, the further question must be asked: “How is that which lies in the Will of man as I have described it, related to the processes of destruction in outer nature? How is that in man's Will which I have described as its own particular characteristic, connected with these destructive forces in outer nature?” Here is something which stands before the man of today as the greatest illusion. What does the man of the present day really do when he looks at Nature? He says, “Here a natural process is taking place. It has arisen from another process which produced it and this again from another which caused it.” And so man finds a chain of causes and effects in the working of Nature and he is very proud when in this way he can grasp what he calls leading threads of casualty to be found in the outer world.
What is the result? If we ask some geologist, physicist, chemist or any right-thinking scientific investigator, his honest opinion, he will often be reluctant to give you the last consequence of his own World-Conception. But ask him if he does not think that the earth as we know it — stones, plants and many animals, too — would have evolved just in the way it has done, had Man not been present, he will reply: “Certainly. No houses would have been built, no machines, no flying machines would have been made by cows or buffaloes, and so on, but everything else which we can see is not the work of man, would be present from beginning to end just the same as if man had not been there, for a chain of causes and effects is found within external nature.” That which takes place later is the result of that which went before. According to present-day thought man has nothing to do with the formation of the chain. This view contains exactly the same mistake as the following. I write a word on the board. Every letter arises only because I have written it, and not because the previous letter has given birth to the next one. It would be utter nonsense to say: From the preceding letter there arises the following one. A thoroughly unprejudiced investigation of that which is essential in the processes of Nature convinces us of the mistake we make when we give ourselves up to the great illusion of modern science: Effects are the result of their causes. It is not so. We must look elsewhere for the true causes, just as we must seek in our intellect the reason of the letters following each other. Taken in the wide sense where do the primal causes for external happenings in Nature lie? That can only be determined by spiritual perception; these causes lie in Mankind. Do you know where you must look if you wish to gain an insight into the actual primal causes of the course of Nature on the Earth? You must investigate how the human Will, quite unknown to present-day consciousness, is to be found in the centre of gravity in man, that is, in the lower part of his body. Only a part of the Will is active in the human head; the chief part of the Will is centred in the rest of his organism. That which comes into existence in the course of external nature is dependent upon man's relation to his unconscious Will. So far we have only been able to cite one significant example as to the course of Nature, but it serves for the course of Nature as a whole. I have often pointed out that during the Atlantean epoch man gave himself up to a form of black magic. The consequence of this was the Glaciation of the civilized world. In a comprehensive sense, the whole course of Nature really is the result of the activity of Will, not in single individuals, but of the various forces of Will working together in humanity as a whole; forces which arise from — the human centre of gravity. If a being adequately developed, a being, let us say, from Mars or Mercury, wished to study the course of the Earth, i.e., wished to understand how the course of Nature went on there, this being would not describe Nature as one of our learned men would describe it, but looking down upon the world he would say: The Earth is there below me; I see there many points; in these points are centred the forces from which the course of Nature proceeds. But these points would not lie for him in outer Nature, but always within man. He, looking from without, would find that he must look upon the centre of man if he wished to find the cause of what takes place in the course of Nature. This insight into the connection of the human Will with the course of Nature as a whole must become an integral part of the Natural Science of the future, for Mankind. With such a Natural Science man will feel his responsibility in quite a different way from what he does at the present day. Man will rise from being a citizen of the Earth to being a citizen of the Cosmos. He will learn to look upon the Cosmos as a part of himself.
Directly our attention is called to such things, knowledge of them takes possession of us. This knowledge does not work in such a shadowy way as our intellectual knowledge does. It is taken far more from realities, and therefore it works in a much more living way. And because the way in which it works is so much more real than the shadowy knowledge of modern man, it is all the more necessary that man should take seriously what is revealed to him through this knowledge. One cannot be a citizen of the Cosmos on one side in the sense described above, and on the other side remain the old Philistine whom the last few hundred years, i.e., the period since the middle of the fifteenth century, has produced in the man of today. We cannot on the one hand consciously want to take a part in the processes of the Cosmos, and on the other hand wish to gossip with our fellow beings as is done so much in restaurants and clubs in this bourgeois age since the fifteenth century. At the same time another Ethics, another moral impulse must surge through mankind if the Science of Initiation is to enter in real earnest. For all that prepares in the wrong way, for the appearance of Ahriman on our earth, as I have told you, works especially strongly as a force hindering the entrance of the Science of Initiation. I have spoken recently about these facts, in order to give some indication of the spirit which should pervade our Christmas Festival this year. I will now only briefly recapitulate.
Looking back over the evolution of our earth we find, preceding our modern materialistic civilization, the Greco-Latin, which goes back to the eighth pre-Christian century. We see, about two hundred years after the beginning of this Greco-Latin time, something rising up, which we might describe as the old Life of Wisdom of earlier times percolating through the land of Greece. Nietzsche felt this to a remarkable degree, even if pathologically. From the beginning of his spiritual activity he felt himself an opponent of Socrates, and he was never tired of speaking of the greater value of pre-Socratic Greek culture than of the post-Socratic. It is certainly true that with Socrates a great age came in for Mankind, an age which reached its climax in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But this age of Socrates has now run its course, has rightly come to an end. The Socratic age is that in which pure logic and pure dialectic arose from the earlier instinctive Wisdom. The rising of pure logic, of pure dialectic, out of the ancient clairvoyant Wisdom is the chief characteristic of our Western culture. This logic, this dialectic, has also impressed its stamp upon Christianity, for the theology of the West is a dialectic theology. But what rises in Greece as dialectics, as thought reduced to abstraction, goes back to the Mysteries of the East. Among these Mysteries were those which founded that civilization which later became the Chinese. Within the early Chinese civilization Lucifer was incarnated in human form. We must not conceal the fact from ourselves that Lucifer once lived in a physical body, as Christ during the time of the Mystery of Golgotha walked on earth in a physical body. But it is only a narrow-minded misunderstanding of the Luciferic incarnation if we look upon everything that has come through Lucifer as “Touch-me-not”. From Lucifer, for instance, has arisen the greatness of Greek culture itself, that unique ancient art, the artistic impulse of mankind, as we ourselves still look upon it. But in Europe all this has hardened into mere words, empty of content. It was through Luciferic wisdom that Christianity was first grasped in Europe. The important point is that in the Greek wisdom which developed as Gnosis in order to comprehend the Mystery of Golgotha, the old Luciferic Wisdom had cooperated, had given the old Gnosis its form. The fact that the Mystery of Golgotha had clothed itself in what Lucifer had given to the evolution of the earth, was the greatest victory for Christianity at that time. But when this Luciferic culture, to which, through the incarnation of Lucifer man was given over, was ebbing away, there flowed in gradually, that which was preparing for the coming incarnation of Ahriman in the Western World. When the time is ripe — and it is preparing itself — Ahriman will incarnate in a human body in the Western World. This fact must take place just as the others have taken place — viz. that Lucifer has incarnated and that Christ has incarnated. This fact is predetermined in the evolution of the earth. The all-important fact is simply this: to keep the fact in mind, that we shall rightly prepare ourselves for it, for Ahriman will not begin to work only when he has incarnated in a human body; he is now preparing his appearance from the super-sensible world. He is already working from thence into the evolution of mankind. From that side he is seeking his tools through which he prepares for what must come.
Now, it is essential for the favourable working of that which Ahriman will bring to humanity — he will bring advantageous gifts just as Lucifer did — that man shall take the right attitude. The all-important thing is that man shall not through sleeping miss the coming of Ahriman. When the incarnation of Ahriman takes place in the Western World we shall simply see inscribed in the local Register, the birth of John William Smith (of course, this will not be the name) and people will look upon the child as a citizen in comfortable circumstances like any other, and they will sleep through what has in reality taken place. Our University professors will certainly not trouble whether man sleeps through it or not. For them what has taken place will be merely the birth of J. W. Smith. But in the Ahrimanic age it is all-important that men should knower that they have here to do only externally with J. W. Smith, that inwardly Ahriman is present, and that they must not deceive themselves through sleepy illusion about what has happened. Even now we may not yield to any deception. These things are in preparation. Among the most important means which Ahriman has to work with from the other side, is the furthering of abstract thinking in Man. And because men cling so firmly today to this abstract thinking, they are working in the way most favourable for the coming of Ahriman. You must realize that there is no better way to prepare for the fact that Ahriman is endeavouring cunningly to capture the whole Earth for his evolution, than that man should continue to live an abstract life, steeping himself in abstractions, as he does in the social life of today. This is one of the ruses, one of the clever tricks, by which Ahriman prepares in his own way for his lordship over the earth. Instead of showing men today out of conclusive experience, what has to happen, leaders offer them theories on every subject, including the social question. To those who give out these theories, knowledge gained by means of experience is abstract, because they have no inkling of what real Life is. All this is preparation from the Ahrimanic point of view.
But there is also another form of preparation for Ahriman which can happen through an erroneous view of the Gospels. This, too, is something that must be made known at the present day. You know quite well that today there are very many men, especially among the official representatives of this or that form of religious confession, who are fighting to the uttermost against that new Christ knowledge which is arising among us out of the Science of Initiation. Such men, if they do not swear allegiance to mere Rationalism, accept the Gospels; but what do these men really know of the true nature of the Gospels? These are the men who, during the nineteenth century, have applied to the Gospels the historical-scientific method of the outer world. What has come from the Gospels through the scientific method of last century? Nothing else, except that the conception of the Gospels has gradually become completely materialized. Our attention was first drawn to the contradictions in the four Gospels. Then from the recognition of these contradictions came the slide downwards. Finally, what is the outcome of this Gospel investigation? What else is it but, I might say, lifting the Gospels off their hinges? What does such an investigator as the theologian, Professor Schmiedel of Basle, seek in the Gospels? He seeks to prove that they are not simply products of fantasy brought forward only to glorify Christ Jesus. And so there follow a limited number of now-famous points unfavourable to the Christ. These, he maintains, would have been omitted if the Gospels had only been written for the glorification of Jesus. We are, therefore, left with the feeling that he admits all the objections that are brought against Christ Jesus, so as finally to save for the Gospels a little label of this world's Science. Even this little label will give way. Man will gain nothing from this worldly Science. He will gain nothing as regards the genuineness of the Gospels from the way these people point it out. To have the right relation towards these Gospels we must know why they came into being, that is, we must know their real purpose. This knowledge can only be obtained through an understanding fructified by Spiritual Science.
If we sink ourselves in the Gospels, if we absorb their content and force, then we gain from them a soul-content. No outer historical science will explain the riddle of the Gospels; but we can sink ourselves in the Gospels, and then we receive a soul-content. This soul-content, however, is a great hallucination — certainly a most spiritualized hallucination, the hallucination of the Mystery of Golgotha. The highest that is to be gained from the Gospels is the hallucination of the Mystery of Golgotha, neither more nor less. Now, it is just this secret which is known to the more modern Catholic Church. For this reason the Gospels are not allowed to be studied by the laity, for it is feared that men will discover that they cannot have through the Gospels historical knowledge of the Christ Mystery, but only a hallucination of this Mystery of Golgotha. I might also say, an Imagination; for the hallucination is so spiritualized that it is an actual Imagination. But more than an Imagination is not to be gained from the content of the Gospels in themselves.
What is the path from Imagination to Reality? The path will be opened up through Spiritual Science, not through that which is outside Spiritual Science, but through Spiritual Science alone. That means that the Imagination of the Gospels shall be raised to Reality through Spiritual Science. It is of the most extreme importance to Ahriman so to prepare his incarnation that through Spiritual Science man shall not follow this path of Imagination in the Gospels on to the Reality of the Mystery of Golgotha. Just as it is in the greatest interest of Ahriman that man should keep up the love of abstraction, so it is in his greatest interest that man should cherish more and more a form of piety built upon the mere Gospels. When you think over this, you will realize that a great part of the creeds existing today is the preparatory work of Ahriman for his purposes in this earth existence. In what way could one serve Ahriman better than by resolving to make use of an external power commanding those who believe in, and submit themselves to this power, not to read any anthroposophical literature? No greater service could be done to Ahriman than to make sure that a great number of people do not read anthroposophical literature. I have already mentioned in these lectures who the people are that have resolved upon this course. The only way to present certain facts today is to place them unreservedly in the light of truth. It must be realized today that the progress of the World has a certain relationship to cosmic periods, limited through the Luciferic incarnation, which in time and space, lies before the Mystery of Golgotha. But in the way of this progress the incarnation of Ahriman in the West places itself, so that the forces in opposition are strengthened. The incarnation of Ahriman, in a future not very far distant, can be helped on its way just as well by an obscured worship of the Gospels as by abstract thinking.
Many people today experience an inner sense of comfort in shutting themselves off from these serious facts. Anthroposophists should not feel in this way; on the contrary, they should develop a definite impetus to do as much as possible to spread Spiritual Science among mankind. It is quite wrong to think as is so often done that we should come to an understanding with such people as those of whom I have spoken. It is foolish to believe we can come to an understanding with such people for they do not desire it. The point is to make clear to the rest of humanity what sort of people these are. We must speak out about such people. All that is possible has been done so that they can come to an understanding with us. They only need to read without prejudice what is there, to give it their serious attention. We must strictly discriminate between those persons who do harm to the progress of human evolution and other people to whom we must go and tell how such harm is brought about. The attempt to come to an understanding with the former has absolutely no sense and no meaning; for these men would outwardly incline to an agreement if they no longer had followers to support them. Then they would be ready of themselves to come to an understanding. The urgent need before us is exactly this, to open people's eyes. Only, unfortunately, too often within our own circle, the endeavour is made to come to a compromise in this respect, and the courage needed for unconditional acknowledgment of the truth is lacking. We must not ever be under the illusion that we can come to an understanding with this one or that one, who does not wish in any way to come to an understanding with us. What is required of us is courageously to stand up for the truth as far as we are able. This seems to me especially the outcome of an understanding of what is bound up with the evolution of Mankind.