Foundations of Anthroposophy
III. World-Development in the Light of Anthroposophy
1 December 1921, Christiania
The thoughts which I have been putting before you, will show you that the acquisition of real super-sensible knowledge entails above all, with the aid of the exercises already described, that the two sides of human nature which are usually inexactly designated as man's inner and outer being should be distinctly separated. Perhaps it may be pointed out that in ordinary consciousness one does not make an exact distinction between man's inner and outer being, when speaking of these. The way in which I characterised the going out of man's sentient and volitional being during sleep and the becoming conscious in super-sensible knowledge outside the physical body, shows us that just this super-sensible knowledge enables us to separate distinctly those parts which are usually described vaguely in ordinary consciousness as man's outer and inner being.
I might say that by this separation man's inner world becomes his outer world, and what we usually consider as his outer world becomes his inner world.
What takes place in that case? During sleep, man's sentient and volitional being abandons what we have called his physical body and etheric body, or the body of formative forces, and then this sentient-volitional being looks back upon the physical body and the etheric body as if they were objects. We showed that in this retrospection the whole web of thought appears outside man's inner being. The world of thought which fills our ordinary consciousness and which reflects the external world, does not go out with man's true inner being in falling asleep, but remains behind with the physical body, as the true forces of the etheric body. In this way we were able to grasp that during our waking state of consciousness we cannot grow conscious of that part which goes out during sleep and which remains unconscious for the ordinary consciousness. (Self-observation can easily convince us that during our ordinary waking consciousness the world of thoughts produces this waking state of consciousness).
In that part of the human being which goes out of the physical and the etheric bodies during sleep, there is a dull twilight-life, and we only learn to know this inner being of man when super-sensible knowledge fills it, as it were, with light and with warmth, when we are just as conscious within this inner being as we are ordinarily conscious within our physical body. But we also learn to know why we have an unconscious life during our ordinary sleeping condition. Consciousness arises when we dive down into our physical and etheric bodies at the moment of waking up. And by diving down into the physical body, we make use of the senses which connect us with the external world. As a result, the sensory world awakes and we thus grow conscious in it.
In the same way we dive down into our etheric or life-body, that is to say, into our world of thoughts, and we grow conscious within our thoughts. Ordinary consciousness is therefore based upon the fact that we use the instruments of our physical body, and that we make use, so to speak, of the etheric body's web of formative forces. In ordinary life, man's true inner being, woven out of feeling and will, is not in a position to attain consciousness, because it has no organs. By making the thought- and will-exercises of which I have spoken, we endow the soul itself with organs. This soul-element, which is at first indistinct in our ordinary consciousness, acquires plastic form, even as our physical body and our etheric body acquire plastic form in the senses and in the organs of thought. Man's real soul-spiritual being therefore obtains a plastic form.
In the same measure in which it is moulded plastically and acquires (if I may use this paradoxical expression) soul-spiritual sense-organs, the world of soul and spirit rises up round our inner being. That part of our being which ordinarily lives in a dull twilight existence and which can only perceive an environing world, namely the physical world, when it uses the physical and etheric organs of perception, thus acquires plastic form and enters into connection with a world which always surrounds us, even in our ordinary life, though we are not aware of it, a world in which we lived before descending into our physical being through birth or conception, as described the day before yesterday; a world in which we shall live again when we pass through the portal of death, for then we shall recognise it as a world which belongs to us and which is not limited by birth and death. But there is one thing which rises up before us when we enter the spiritual world. We cannot enter this world in the same abstract theoretic manner with which we can live in the physical world and in the world of thoughts or of the intellect. In the physical world and in the world of thoughts we use ideas and thoughts, which as such, leave us cold. With a little self-observation anyone can discover that when he ascends to the sphere of pure thinking, when he surrenders to the external sensory world without any special interest or a close connection with it, the external physical world, as well as the world of ideas, really leaves him cold. We must learn to know this in detail from particular examples in life. We should note, for instance, how different are the inner feelings with which we consider our home, from those with which we look upon any other strange country which is indifferent to us. This will show us that in order to have a living interest for the environing world, our feeling and our will must first be drawn in through special circumstances. Feeling will indeed always dive down into the physical world when we awake, obtaining from this physical world a connection with the senses and the understanding. The fact that love or perhaps hate are kindled in us when we encounter certain people in the physical world, the fact that we feel induced to do certain things for them out of compassion, all this demands the inclusion of our feelings and of everything which constitutes our inner being, when we come across such things in the external physical world. How conscious we are of the fact that our inner life grows cold, when we rise up to spheres which are generally called the spheres of pale, dry thought and of theoretic study!
The being which lives in a dull twilight state from the moment of falling asleep to the moment of waking up, must, as it were, connect itself during the waking daytime condition with thoughts and with sensory experiences through an inner participation in these processes, thus giving rise to the whole wealth of interest in the external world.
And so we recognise that in life itself feeling and will must first be drawn into the sense world and into the world of thoughts. But we perceive this in the fullest meaning of the word only when through super-sensible knowledge, we become free from the physical and etheric bodies, and have experiences outside them within our sentient-volitional being.
And hence it is evident that we must begin to speak of the world in a different way from how we speak in ordinary life, in ordinary consciousness. The dry ideas, the laws of Nature which we are accustomed to find in science and which interest us theoretically, though they leave us inwardly cold, these should be permeated with certain nuances and expressions which characterise the external world differently from the way in which we usually characterize it.
Our inner life acquires greater intensity through super-sensible knowledge. We penetrate more intensively into the life of the external world. When we try to gain knowledge, we are then no longer able to submit coldly to inner ideas. No doubt one is then exposed to the reproach that the objectivity may suffer through a certain inner warmth, through the awakening of feeling and of a subjective sense. But this objection is only raised by those who are not acquainted with the circumstances.
The things perceived through super-sensible knowledge make us speak differently of the super-sensible objects of knowledge. These do not change, they do not become less objective, for in fact they are objective. When I look upon a wonderfully painted picture, it does not change through the fact that I look upon it with fire and enthusiasm; I should be a cold prosaic person if I were to face one of Raphael's Madonnas or one of Leonardo's paintings with a purely analytical artistic understanding, quite coldly and without any enthusiasm. It is the same when the spiritual worlds rise up in super-sensible knowledge. Their content does not change through the fact that we connect ourselves with these worlds with inner feelings, far stronger than those which usually connect us with the external world and its objects.
When speaking from a knowledge of the higher worlds, many things will therefore have to be said differently, the descriptions will have to be different from those which we are accustomed to hear in ordinary life. But this does not render these worlds less objective. On the contrary, one could say: The subjective element which now breaks forth from the physical and etheric bodies becomes more objective, more selfless in its whole experience. And so the first experience which we have when going out of the physical body and experiencing our inner being consciously (whereas otherwise we always experience it unconsciously) is a feeling of absolute loneliness.
In our ordinary consciousness we never have the feeling that by dwelling only within our inner self, independently of anything in the world pertaining to us, complete loneliness fills our soul, that we ourselves, with everything which now constitutes our soul-spiritual content, must rely entirely upon ourselves.
The feeling of loneliness which sometimes arises in the physical world, but only as a reflection of the real feeling, though it is painful enough for many people, becomes immeasurably intensified when we thus penetrate into the super-sensible world. But we then look back upon that which reflects itself as the spiritual environment in the mirror of the physical and etheric body which we left behind. We grow aware, on the one hand, of a complete feeling of loneliness, which alone enables us to maintain our Ego in this world ... for we should melt away in this world of the spirit, if loneliness would not give us this Ego-feeling in the spiritual world, in the same way in which our body, our bodily sensation, gives us our Ego-feeling here on earth. To this loneliness we owe the maintenance of the Ego in the spiritual world. We then learn to know this spiritual world as our environment. But we know that we can only learn to know it through the inner soul-spiritual eye, even as we see the physical world through our physical eyes.
It is the same when the human being abandons his physical and etheric bodies by passing through the portal of death, and in this connection I shall enlarge the explanations already given yesterday. It is true that in this case the physical body is given over to the elements of the earth and that the etheric body dissolves, as I described, in the universal cosmic ether. But what we learned to know as our physical world, through our feeling and will, the world in which we experienced ourselves through the ordinary consciousness between birth and death, this world remains to man. The physical body filled with substance and the body of formative forces permeated by etheric forces, are laid aside with death, but what we experienced within them remains as a mirroring element.
From the spiritual world we look back through death, through which we have passed, into our last earthly life. Just because we have before us this last earthly life as a firm resistance which mirrors everything, just because of this, everything which surrounds us as we pass through the soul-spiritual world between death and a new birth, can also reflect itself. Through these experiences we perceive everything rising up in a far more intensive life than the one which we learned to know here in the physical world. And we first perceive as a soul-spiritual being everything with which we were in some way connected through our destiny, through our Karma. The people we loved, stand before us as souls. In our super-sensible vision we see all that we experienced together with them.
Those who acquire spiritual, super-sensible knowledge, already acquire imaginative vision here in the physical world, through everything which I described to you. Those who pass through the portal of death in the ordinary way, acquire this faculty, though it is somewhat different from spiritual vision on earth, they acquire it after having passed through the portal of death. From the sheaths of the physical and etheric bodies which were laid aside, emerges everything with which we were connected by destiny, or otherwise, in this earthly life — it undoubtedly arises in a different way when those whom we left behind still live on the earth, where the connection with them is more difficult, but when they follow us through death, this connection exists in the free, soul-spiritual life. Everything in our environment with which we were connected as human beings rises up before us. To super-sensible knowledge, the fact that people (if I may now express myself in words of the ordinary consciousness) who belonged together here in the physical world find each other again in the soul-spiritual world, after having passed through the portal of death, is not a belief to be accepted as a vague premonition, but it is a certainty, a fact just as certain as the results of physics or chemistry. And this is in fact something which the spiritual science of Anthroposophy can add to the acquisitions of modern culture.
People have grown accustomed to a certain feeling of certainty through the gradual popularisation of a scientific consciousness. They strive to gain some knowledge of the super-sensible worlds, but no longer in the form of the old presentiments handed down traditionally in the religious beliefs, for they have been trained to accept that certainty which the external world can offer. In regard to that which lies beyond birth and death the spiritual science of Anthroposophy seeks to pave the way to this same kind of certainty. It can really do this. Only those who tread the path already described, the path leading into the spiritual worlds, can carry the knowledge acquired in physics or chemistry further, out into the worlds which we enter when we pass through the portal of death.
Not everything of course, appears to us in this way when we look back upon our physical body through super-sensible knowledge outside the body. There is one thing which then appears to us very enigmatic, and this enigma can show us best of all that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy does not translate the truths which it includes in its spheres of knowledge into a prosaic, dry rationalism. It leads us to spiritual vision, or by communicating its truth it speaks of things which can be perceived through spiritual vision. But in being led to spiritual vision, we do not lose full reverence towards the mysteries contained in the universe, towards everything in the universe which inspires reverence and which can now be clearly perceived, whereas otherwise they are at the most felt darkly. This enigmatic something which I mean and which appears to us, is that we now learn to know man's relationship with the earth, particularly his relationship with the physical mineral earth.
I have already explained to you from many different aspects how our web of thoughts, which is connected with the physical body, remains behind, and in addition to what has been described to you, in addition to what reflects itself and leads us to a knowledge of man's eternal being, we can also recognise the nature of this mirror itself which we have before us.
One might say: Even as in the physical world we face a mirror and in this mirror the environing world appears simultaneously with our own self, so in super-sensible knowledge the spiritual world appears through this mirror. But just as we can touch the material mirror with its foil and investigate its composition, so we can also investigate this mirror of the super-sensible — namely, our physical body and our etheric body — when we are outside with our real soul-spiritual being.
And there one can see that during his earthly life man constantly takes in substances from the external world, in order to grow and to sustain his whole life. We certainly absorb substances from the animal and vegetable kingdoms, but all these substances which we absorb from the animal and vegetable kingdoms also contain mineral substances. Plants contain mineral substances, for the plant builds itself up from mineral substances. By taking in vegetable nourishment we therefore build up our own body out of mineral substances.
By looking back upon our physical body from outside, we can now perceive the true significance of the mineral substances which we absorb. For now spiritual vision reveals something of which our ordinary consciousness has not the faintest inkling, namely the activity of thinking. We have, as you know, left behind our thinking. Our thoughts continue, as it were, to glimmer and to shine within the physical body. Thus we can now observe the effects of thoughts in the physical body from outside, as something objective. And we perceive that the effect of thoughts upon man's physical body is a dissolution of its physical substances, which fall asunder, as it were, into nothing.
I know that this apparently contradicts the law of the conservation of energy, but there is no time now to explain more fully its full harmony with this law. The nature of my subject obliges me to express myself in somewhat popular terms. But it is possible to understand that the purely mineral in man, what he bears within him as purely mineral substances, must be within him because it must be dissolved by his thoughts. For otherwise his thoughts could not exist — this is the condition for their existence — his thoughts could not exist if they did not dissolve mineral, earthly substances, a fact also revealed by the spiritual sciences of earlier times, based more on intuitive feeling. This dissolution, this destruction of physical substances constitutes the physical instrumentality of thinking.
When our sentient-volitional part, our true inner being, lives within the physical body and within the etheric body and is filled by the activity of thinking, we now learn to recognise that this activity takes its course through the fact that physical substance is continually destroyed. We now learn to recognise how our ordinary consciousness really arises. We are not conscious because forces of growth hold sway in us, forces which develop in the rest of the organism through nutrition. For in the same measure in which the forces of growth are active within us, thinking is dulled. When we wake up, thinking must, so to speak, have a free hand to dissolve physical substances, to eliminate them from the physical body. To the spiritual science of Anthroposophy, the nervous system appears as that organ which mediates this secretion of mineral-physical substances throughout the whole body. And in this secretion of the mineral-physical develops just that thought-activity which we ordinarily carry with us through the world.
You therefore see that the spiritual science of Anthroposophy not only enables us to recognise the eternal in man, but also to know of the way in which this eternal works within the physical body; that, for instance, thought can only exist through the fact that man continually develops within himself the mineral substances, that is, something dead.
And so we can say: If we learn to know man from this aspect, we also learn to know death from another aspect. Ordinarily death confronts us as the end of life, as a moment in life, as an experience in itself. But when we throw light upon man's physical and etheric body in this way we learn to know the gradual course of death, or the separation of physical-mineral substance, — for death in fact, is nothing but the complete liberator of man's mineral-physical substance — we learn to know the continuous secretion of a dead, corpse-like element within us.
We recognise that from birth onwards, we are really always dying and only when with the whole body we accomplish that which we ordinarily accomplish through the nervous system, in a small part of the body, only then do we die.
We therefore learn to contemplate the moment of death by seeing it on a small scale in the activity of thinking in the human organism. And throughout the whole time that we pass through after death, we can only look back upon our physical body because the following fact exists: Whenever a thought lights up within you during your ordinary life, this is always accompanied by the fact that physical matter is secreted in the physical body, in the same way in which, for instance, physical substance separates from a precipitated salt-solution. This lighting up of thought you owe as it were, to this opaqueness, to this separating off of physical mineral substances. Inasmuch as you abandon the physical body, there is summed up in a comparatively brief space of time what lives in the continual stream of your thoughts. You confront the fact that in death you see lighting up as if all at once that which slowly glimmered and shone throughout your whole earthly life, from birth to death.
And through this powerful impression, in which the life of thoughts illuminates the soul like a mighty flash of lightning, man acquires the memory of his physical lives on earth. The physical body may be cast off, the etheric body may dissolve completely in the universal ether, but through the fact that we obtain in one experience this powerful thought-impression (to mathematicians I might say: this thought-integral in comparison with thought-differentials, from birth to death), we always have before us, throughout the time after death, as a mirroring element, our physical life on earth, even though we have laid aside our physical and etheric parts. And this mirroring element reveals everything which we experience when the human beings with whom we were connected by destiny in love or in hate, gradually come up, when the spiritual Beings who live in the spiritual world and do not descend to the earth, whose company we also now share, rise up before us.
The spiritual investigator may state this with a calm conscience, for he knows that he does not speak on the foundation of illusionary pictures; he knows instead that to super-sensible vision, when super-sensible vision arises through the organ of the physical and etheric bodies which are now outside, these things are just as real, can be seen just as really as physical colours are ordinarily perceived through physical eyes, or physical sounds through physical ears.
This is how the evolution of humanity forms part of the evolution of the world. If we study the development of the world, for instance, the mineral life on earth, we understand why there should be mineral, earthly laws. They exist so that they might also exist within us, and thinking is therefore bound up with the earth. But in perceiving how the Beings who have bound their thinking with the earth emerge from that which produces their thought, we also learn to recognise how man in his true being lifts himself above the merely earthly. This is what connects the development of the world with the development of humanity and unites them.
We learn to know the human being and at the same time we learn to know the universe. If we learn to know man's physical body and its mineralization through thinking, we also learn to know through man's physical body the lifeless mineralised earth. This created a foundation for a knowledge of the evolution of the world from its spiritual aspect also.
When we thus learn to know man's inner being, we can consider the development of the world in the light of the ordinary earthly experiences through which we have passed since our birth.
If you draw out of your memory-store an experience which you had ten years ago, a past event which you have gone through rises up before your soul as an image. You know exactly from the circumstances of life that it rises up as a picture. Yet this picture conveys a knowledge of something which really existed ten years ago.
How does this arise? Through the fact that in your organism certain processes remained behind which now summon up the picture. Certain processes have remained behind in your organism and these summon up in you the picture enabling you to re-construct what you experienced ten years ago. But super-sensible knowledge leads us deeper into man's inner nature. We can perceive, for instance, that the physical body becomes mineralised during the thinking process; we perceive this in the same way in which we learn to know some past experience of our earthly life through the traces which it left behind within us.
In the same way the development of the earth can be understood from the development of man; through the activity of the mineral in man we learn to know the task of the mineral kingdom within the development of the earth. And if, as already set forth, we learn similarly to know (I can only mention this, for a detailed description would lead us too far) how the vegetable kingdom is connected with man, and how the animal kingdom is connected with him (for this too can be recognised), then the development of the world can be grasped by setting out from the human being.
And within the development of the world we can then see something which is again of the same importance to those who are interested in modern civilisation, as are the facts which I explained in connection with a knowledge of the human being, of the eternal inner kernel of man.
We know that modern civilisation has succeeded, at least up to a certain point, in so regarding man's relationship to the development of the world as to attach him to the evolution of the animals, — even though the corresponding theories, or the hypotheses, as some people say, still contain much that is unclear, requiring completion and modification. We follow the development of the simplest organic beings up to the higher animals, and if we continue this line of observation we come indeed to the point of placing man at the summit of animal development. One person does it in this way, and the other in that way, one more idealistically, and the other more materialistically in accordance with Darwin's theory of evolutionary descent, but methodically, it can hardly be denied that if we wish to study man's physical nature according to natural-scientific methods, we must rank him with the animal kingdom, — as has been done for some time.
We must investigate how his head has changed in comparison with the heads of the different animal-species; we must investigate his limbs, etc., and we thus obtain what is known as comparative anatomy, comparative morphology, comparative physiology, and we then also form concepts as to how man's physical form has gradually developed out of lower beings in the course of the world's evolution. But in so doing we always remain in the physical sphere. On the one hand people take it amiss to-day if the anthroposophical spiritual investigator speaks of the spiritual world as I have taken upon myself to do in this lecture; from many sides this is viewed as pure fantasy, and although many people believe that it is well-meant ... they nevertheless look upon it as something visionary and fanciful.
Those who become acquainted to some extent with what I have described, those who at least try to understand it, will see that the preparations and preliminary conditions for it are just as serious as, for instance, the preparations for the study of mathematics, so that it is out of the question to speak of sailing into some sort of fanciful domain. But just as on the one hand people take it amiss if one describes the spiritual world as a real visible world, so they take it amiss on the other hand if in regard to man's physical development one fully accepts those who follow man's development Darwinistically, with a natural-scientific discipline, along the animal line of descent, as far as man. No speculations should enter the observations made in the physical sphere and all sorts of things sought for there, as is done for instance, to-day in Neo-vitalism. This is full of speculations; the old vitalism was also full of speculative elements. But whenever we consider the physical world, we must keep to the physical facts.
For this reason, the anthroposophical spiritual investigator who on the one hand ventures to speak in a certain way of the conditions after death and before birth, as I have done, does not consider it as a reproach (i.e. he is not affected by it) when people tell him that his description of the physical world is completely that of a modern natural scientist. He does not bring any dreams into the sphere which constitutes the physical world. Even though people may call him a materialist when he describes the physical world, this reproach does not touch him, because he strictly separates the spiritual world, which can only be observed with the aid of a spiritual method, from the physical-sensory world, which has to be observed with the orderly disciplined methods of modern natural science.
A serious spiritual-scientific investigator must therefore feel particularly hurt and pained at reproaches made to him with regard to certain followers of spiritual science who sometimes rebuke natural science out of a certain pride in their spiritual-scientific knowledge and out of their undoubtedly shallow knowledge of natural science. They think that they have the right to speak negatively of science and of scientific achievements but the spiritual investigator can only feel deeply hurt at their amateurish, dilettantish behaviour. This is however not in keeping with spiritual science. The spiritual science of Anthroposophy is characterised by the fact that it deals just as strictly and scientifically with the external physical world, as with the spiritual world, and vice versa.
With this preliminary condition, the anthroposophical spiritual investigator stands entirely upon the ground of strictest natural-scientific observation in regard to the study of the world's development, but at the same time he turns his gaze towards the soul-spiritual world. And even as he knows that not only a physical process is connected with man's individual embryonic origin in the physical world, but that a soul-spiritual element unites with the human embryo, with the human germ, so he also knows that in the whole development of the world — though to the physical body it appears as a tapestry of sensory objects, and though it manifests itself to the web of thoughts, i.e. to the etheric body, in laws of Nature — he also knows that the physical world is permeated and guided in its whole development by spiritual forces, under the sway of spiritual Beings, that can be known through the methods I have described.
The anthroposophical investigator therefore knows that when he contemplates the external physical world in the sense of genuine science, he comes to the right boundary, where he may then begin with his spiritual investigation.
If we have conscientiously traced evolutionary development through the animal kingdom up to man, as Darwin or other Darwinians or Haeckel did, and if we have gone into its scientific justification we can then continue this in a spiritual-scientific direction, after having reached the boundary to which we are led by natural science.
We now discover that contemplation of the form into which we penetrate through super-sensible knowledge, shows us the whole significance of forms, as they appear in the kingdom of man on the one hand, and in the animal-kingdom on the other; we discover the whole significance of these forms.
Equipped with the knowledge supplied by super-sensible research, we see how the animal (this is at least the case with most animals, and exceptions can be easily explained) stands upon the ground with its four limbs, how its spine is horizontal, parallel with the surface of the earth, and how in regard to the spine, the head develops in an entirely different position from that of man. We learn to know the animal's whole form, as it were, from within, as a complex of forces, and also in relationship with the whole universe. And we thus learn to make a comparison: We perceive the transformation, the metamorphosis in the human form, in the human being whom we see standing upon his two legs, at right angles, so to speak, with the animal's spine, with his own spine set vertically to the surface of the earth and his head developing in accordance with this position of the spine.
By penetrating into the inner art of Nature's creative process, we learn to distinguish the human form from the animal form; we recognise this by entering into the artistic creative process of the cosmos. And we penetrate into the development of the world by rising from otherwise abstract constructive thoughts to thoughts which are inwardly filled with life, which form themselves artistically in the spirit.
The important thing to be borne in mind is that when it seeks to know the development of the world, anthroposophical spiritual research changes from the abstract understanding ordinarily described — and justly so — as dry, prosaic, systematic thought, or combining thought, into more concrete, real thought. Not for the higher spiritual world, in which concepts must penetrate by the methods described, but for the physical world, the forms in world-development should first be grasped through a kind of artistic comprehension, which in addition develops upon the foundation of super-sensible knowledge.
By thus indicating how science should change into art, we must of course encounter the objection raised by those who are accustomed to think in accordance with modern ideas: “But science must not become an art!” Now this can always be said, as a human requirement. People can say: Now I forbid the logic of the universe to become an art, for we only learn to know reality by linking up thought with thought and by thus approaching reality. Yes, if the world were as people imagine it to be, one could refuse to ascend to art, to an artistic comprehension of forms; but if the world is formed in such a way that it can only be comprehended through an artistic comprehension, it is necessary to advance to such an artistic comprehension. This is how matters stand. That is why those people who were earnestly seeking to grasp the organic in the world-development really came to an inner development of the thinking ordinarily looked upon as scientific thinking, they came to an artistic comprehension of the world. And as soon as we observe with an artistic-intuitive eye the development of the world, beginning with the point where the ordinary Darwinistic theory comes to a standstill, we perceive that man, grasped as a whole, cannot simply be looked upon by saying that once there were lower animals in the world, from which higher animals developed, that then still higher animals developed out of these, and so forth, until finally man arose.
If we study embryology in an unprejudiced way, it really contradicts this conception. Although modern scientists set up the fundamental law of biogenetics and compare embryology with phylogeny, they do not interpret rightly what appears outwardly even in human embryology, because they do not rise to this artistic comprehension of the world's development. If we observe in a human embryo how the limbs develop out of organs which at first have a stunted aspect, how everything is at first actually head, we already obtain the first elements of what is revealed by the artistic comprehension of the human form as I meant it. It is not possible to range the whole human being with the animals. One cannot say: The human being, such as he stands before us to-day, is a descendant of the whole animal species. No, this is not the case. Just those who penetrate with genuine scientific conscientiousness into scientific Darwinism and its modern description of the development of the world, will discover that through a higher understanding it is simply impossible to place man at the end, or at the summit of the animal-chain of development; they must instead study the human head as such, the head of the human beings. This human head alone descends from the whole animal kingdom. Though it may sound strange and paradoxical, the part which is generally considered as man's most perfect part, is a transformation from the animal kingdom.
Let us approach the human head with this idea and let us study it carefully. Observe with a certain morphological-artistic sense how the lower maxillary bones are transformed limbs, how also the upper maxillary bones are transformed limbs, how everything in the head is an enhanced development of the animal form; you will then recognise in the human head that upon a higher stage it reveals everything which has been developed in the animal under so many different forms. You will then also understand why it is so.
When you observe the animal, you can see that its head hangs upon one extremity of the spine and that in the typical animal it is entirely subjected to the law of gravity. Observe instead the human head, observe how the human being stands within the cosmos. The human head is set upon a spine which has a vertical direction. It rests upon the remaining body in such a way that the rest of man protects the head, as it were, against being subjected to the force of gravity alone. The human head is really something which rests upon the remaining organism with comparative independence. And we come to understand that through the fact that the human head is carried by the remaining body, it really travels along like a person using a coach; for it is the rest of the body which carries the human head through the world. The human head has its transformed limbs which have become shrivelled, as it were, and it is set upon the rest of the organism. This remaining organism is related to the human head in the same way in which the whole earth with its force of gravity is related to the animal. In regard to the head, the human being is “membered” into his whole remaining body in the same way in which the whole animal is “membered” into the earth.
We now begin to understand the human being through the development of the world. And if we proceed in this knowledge of the human form with an artistic sense and understanding, we finally comprehend how the human head is the continuation of the animal-series and how the remaining body of man developed later, out of the earth, and was attached to the human head. Only in this way we gradually learn to understand man's development.
If we go back into earlier times of the past, we can only transfer into these primordial epochs that part of man which lies at the foundation of his present head-development. We must not seek the development of his limbs or of his thorax in those early ages, for these developed later. But if we observe the development of the world by setting out, as I described, from the human being, if we observe it in the same way in which we look upon some past experience through memory, we find that the human being had already begun his development in the world at a time when our higher animals, for instance, did not as yet exist. There were however other animal forms present at that time from which the human head has developed, but the higher animals of to-day were not in existence.
We can therefore say: (let us now take a later epoch of the earth) In the further course of his development, man developed his head out of earlier animal-beings through the fact that his spiritual essence animated him. That is why he could bring his head to a higher stage of development. He then added his limbs, which developed out of the regular forces of the earth. The animals which followed, could only develop to the extent to which man had developed with the exclusion of his head. They began their development later, so that they have not come as far as the human development of the head; they remain connected with the earth, while the human being separates himself from it.
This proves that it has a real meaning to say: Man is organised into the development of the universe in such a way that while he is connected with the animal kingdom, he rises above it through his spiritual development. The animals which followed man in their development could only develop as much as man had developed in his limbs and thorax ... the head remained stunted, because a longer time of development should have preceded it, such as that of man, in order that the real head might develop.
Through an artistic contemplation of the forms in the world's development, the conscientiously accepted Darwinistic theory is transformed, in so far as it is scientifically justified to-day. And we recognise that in the development of the world the human being has behind him a longer time of development than the animals, — that the animals develop as their chief form that part which man merely adds to his head. In this way man reaches the point of lifting one part of his being out of the force of gravity, whereas the animals are entirely subjected to it. Everything which constituted our head with its sense-organs, is raised above the force of gravity, so that it does not turn towards heavy ponderable matter, but towards the ether, which fills the sensory world. This is the case above all with the senses; we should see this, if we were to study them more closely. In this way, for instance, the human organ of hearing depends upon an etheric structure, not only upon the air structure.
Through all this, the human being forms part not only of the material world, of the ponderable physical world, but he forms part of the etheric outer world. Through the etheric world he perceives, for instance, what the light conjures up before him in the world of colours, etc., etc. Even through his external form he rises above heavy matter, up to the free ether, and for this reason we see the development of the world in a different way when we ascend from natural science to spiritual science.
But when we rise up to an artistic conception, we also perceive the activity of the soul-spiritual in man, and we must rise up to such a conception if we wish to understand the human being. We should, for instance, be able to say: In regard to his soul-spiritual, sentient-volitional being, we must speak of loneliness and of a life in common with others, as if these were theoretical concepts, as I described to-day; we must rise up to the moral world and finally we come to the religious world. These worlds are interwoven and form a whole.
If we study the human being in accordance with a natural-scientific mentality and in the sense of modern civilisation, we find on the one hand the rigid scientific necessity of Nature into which the human being is also inserted, and on the other hand, we find that man can only be conscious of his dignity and can only say: I am truly man, if he can feel within him the moral-religious impulses. But if we honestly stand upon the foundation of natural science, we have pure hypotheses as to the beginning and the end of the earth, hypotheses which speak of the Kant-Laplace nebula for the beginning of the earth and of a heat-death for the end of the earth.
If in the face of the natural-scientific demands we now consider, in the sense of modern civilisation, the moral-religious world which reveals itself intuitively (I have shown this in my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity), if we consider this world we must say: We really delude ourselves, we conjure up before us a fog. Is it possible to believe that when the earth passes through the death by heat, that there should still exist anything else in the sense of natural science than the death too of all ideals?
At this point spiritual science, or Anthroposophy steps in, and shows that the soul-spiritual is a reality, that it is working upon the physical and that it has placed man in the human form, into the evolution of the world. It shows that we should look back upon animal-beings which are entirely different from the present animals, that it is possible to adhere to the methods of modern science, but that other results are obtained. Anthroposophy thus inserts the moral element into the science of religion, and Anthroposophy thus becomes moral-religious knowledge.
Now we no longer merely look towards the Kant-Laplace nebula, but we look at the same time to an original spiritual element, out of which the soul-spiritual world described in Anthroposophy has just as much developed as the physical world has developed out of a physical-earthly origin. And we also look towards the end of the earth and since the laws of entropy are fully justified, we can show that the earth will end through a kind of death by heat. But we look towards the end just as from the anthroposophical standpoint we can view the end of the single human being: his corpse is handed over to the elements, the human being himself passes over into a spiritual world. This is how we envisage the end of the earth. The scientific results do not disturb us, for we know that everything of a soul-spiritual nature which men have developed will pass through the earth's portal of death when the earth no longer exists; it will pass over into a new world-development, even as the human being passes over into a new world-development when he passes through death.
By surveying the development of the earth in this way, we perceive in the middle of its development the event of Golgotha. We see how this event of Golgotha is placed in the middle of the earth's development, because formerly, there only existed forces which would have led man to a kind of paralysis of his forces. We really learn to recognise (I can only allude to this at the end of my lecture) that in the same way in which through the vegetable and animal fertilization a special element enters the fertilised organism, so the Mystery of Golgotha brought something into the evolution of the world from spiritual worlds outside the earth, and this continues to live, it accompanies the souls, until at the end of the earth, they pass on to new metamorphoses of earthly life. I should have to describe whole volumes were I to show the path leading in a strictly conscientious scientific way from what I have described to you to-day in connection with the evolution of humanity and of the universe, to the mystery of Golgotha, to the appearance of the Christ-Being within earthly existence.
But through a spiritual-scientific deepening many passages in the Gospel will appear in an entirely new light, in a different way from what it has hitherto been possible for Western consciousness. Let us consider only the following fact: If we take our stand fully upon a natural-scientific foundation, we must envisage the physical end of the earth. And those who continue to stand upon this scientific foundation, will also find that finally the starry world surrounding the earth will fall away; they will look upon a future in which this earth below will no longer exist and the stars above will no longer exist. But spiritual science gives us the certainty that just as an eternal being goes out of the physical and etheric body every evening and returns into them every morning, so an eternal being will continue to live on when its individual body falls away. When the whole earth falls away from all the human soul-spiritual beings, this eternal part will continue to live and it will pass over to new planetary phases of world evolution.
Now Christ's words in the Gospels resound to us in a new and wonderful way: Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away, and connected with these words are those of St. Paul: Not I, but Christ in me. If a Christian really grasps these words, if one who really understands Christianity inwardly and who says, “Not I, but Christ in me,” understands Christ's words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away,” that is, what lives within my everlasting Being shall not pass away, — these words will shine forth from the Gospel in a remarkable way, with a magic that calls forth reverence, but if one is really honest they cannot be directly understood without further effort.
If we approach such words and others, with the aid of spiritual science and in the anthroposophical sense, if we approach many other sayings which come to us out of the spiritual darkness of the world-development, of the development of the earth and of humanity, a light will ray on to them. Indeed, it is as if light were to fall upon such words as “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” — light falls upon them, if we hear them resounding from that region where the Mystery of Golgotha took place, that event through which the whole development of the earth first acquires its true meaning.
Thus we see that spiritual science in the sense of Anthroposophy strives above all after a conscientious observation of the strict methods of the physical world, but at the same time it seeks to continue these strict scientific methods into regions where our true eternal being shines out towards us, regions where also the spiritual being of the world-development rays out its light towards us, a light in which the world-development itself with its spiritual forces and Beings appears in its spiritual-divine character.
At the conclusion of my lecture let me express the following fact: Spiritual-scientific Anthroposophy can fully understand that modern humanity, particularly conscientious, scientifically-minded men, have grown accustomed to consider as real and certain the results of causal natural-scientific knowledge, the results of external sense-observation, intellectual combinations of these sensory observations, and experiments. And by acquiring this certainty, they acquired a certain feeling in general towards that which can be “certain.” Up to now no attempt has been made to study super-sensible things in the same way in which physical things are studied. This certainty could therefore not be carried into super-sensible regions. To-day people still believe that they must halt with a mere faith at the thresh-hold of the super-sensible worlds, that feelings full of reverence suffice, because otherwise they would lose the mystery, and the super-sensible world would be rationalised. But spiritual science does not seek to rationalise the mystery, to dispel the reverent feeling which one has towards the mystery: it leads man to these mysteries through sight. Anthroposophy leaves the mystery its mystery-character, but it sets it into the evolution of the world in the same way in which sensory things exist in the sphere of world-evolution.
And it must be true that men also need certainty for the spheres transcending mere Nature. To the extent in which they will feel that through spiritual science in the sense of Anthroposophy they do not hear some vague amateurish and indistinct talk about the spiritual worlds, but something which is filled by the same spirit which comes to expression in modern science, to this same extent humanity will also feel that the certainty which it acquired, the certainty which it is accustomed to have through the physical world, can also be led over into the spiritual worlds. People will feel: If certainty exists only in regard to the physical world, of what use is this certainty, since the physical world passes away? Man needs an eternal element, for he himself wants to be rooted in an eternal element. He cannot admit that this certainty should only be valid for the transient, perishable world. Certainty, the certainty of knowledge, must also be gained in regard to the imperishable world.
This is the aim pursued in greatest modesty (those who follow the spiritual science of Anthroposophy know this) by Anthroposophy. Its aim is that through his natural certainty man should not lose his knowledge of the imperishable; through his certainty in regard to perishable things he should not lose the certainty in regard to imperishable things. Certainty in regard to the imperishable, that is to say, certainty in regard to the riddle of birth and death, the riddle of immortality, the riddle of the spiritual world-evolutions, this is what Anthroposophy seeks to bring into our civilisation.
Anthroposophy believes that this can be its contribution to modern civilisation. For in the same measure in which people courageously recognise that certainty must be gained also in regard to imperishable things, and not only in regard to perishable things, in the same measure they will grow accustomed to look upon Anthroposophy no longer as something fantastic and as an idle individual hobby, but as something which must enter our whole spiritual culture, like all the other branches of science, and thereby our civilisation in general.