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GA 307

I. Science, Art, Religion and Morality

Ilkley, 5th August, 1923

The Chair was taken by Miss Margaret McMillan, who gave a stirring address, and Dr. Steiner followed on.

My first words must be a reply to the kind greeting given by Miss Beverley to Frau Doctor Steiner and myself, and I can assure you that we deeply appreciate the invitation to give this course of lectures. I shall try to show what Anthroposophy has to say on the subject of education and to describe the attempt already made in the Waldorf School at Stuttgart to apply the educational principles arising out of Anthroposophy. It is a pleasure to come to the North of England to speak on a subject which I consider so important, and it gives me all the greater joy to think that I am speaking not only to those who have actually arranged this course but to many who are listening for the first time to lectures on education in the light of Anthroposophy. I hope, therefore, that more lies behind this Conference than the resolve of those who organized it, for I think it may be taken as evidence that our previous activities are bearing fruit in current world-strivings.

English friends of Anthroposophy were with us at a Conference held at Christmas, last year, when the Goetheanum (at Dornach, Switzerland)—since taken from us by fire—was still standing. The Conference was brought about by Mrs. Mackenzie, the author of a fine book on the educational principles laid down by Hegel, and the sympathetic appreciation expressed there justifies the hope that it is not, after all, so very difficult to find understanding that transcends the limits of nationality. What I myself said about education at the Conference did not, of course, emanate from the more intellectualistic philosophy of Hegel, but from Anthroposophy, the nature of which is wholly spiritual. And indeed Mrs. Mackenzie, too, has seen how, while fully reckoning with Hegel, something yet more fruitful for education can be drawn where intellectuality is led over into the spiritual forces of Anthroposophy.

Then I was able to speak of our educational principles and their practical application a second time last year, in the ancient university of Oxford. And perhaps I am justified in thinking that those lectures, which dealt with the relation of education to social life, may have induced a number of English educationists to visit our Waldorf School at Stuttgart. It was a great joy to welcome them there, and we were delighted to hear that they were impressed with our work and were following it with interest. During the visit the idea of holding this Summer Course on education seems to have arisen. Its roots, therefore, may be said to lie in previous activities and this very fact gives one the right confidence and courage as we embark on the lectures. Courage and confidence are necessary when one has to speak of matters so unfamiliar to the spiritual life of to-day and in face of such strong opposition. More especially are they necessary when one attempts to explain principles that seek to approach, in a creative sense, the greatest artistic achievement of the Cosmos—man himself.

Those who visited us this year at Stuttgart will have realized how essentially Waldorf School education gets to grips with the deepest fibres of modern life. The educational methods applied there can really no longer be described by the word ‘Pedagogy’ a treasured word which the Greeks learnt from Plato and the Platonists who had devoted themselves so sincerely to all educational questions. Pedagogy is, indeed, no longer an apt term to-day, for it is an a priori expression of the one-sidedness of its ideals, and those who visited the Waldorf School will have realized this from the first. It is not, of course, unusual to-day to find boys and girls educated together, in the same classes and taught in the same way, and I merely mention this to show you that in this respect, too, the methods of the Waldorf School are in line with recent developments.

What does the word ‘Pedagogy’ suggest? The ‘Pedagogue’ is a teacher of boys. This shows us at once that in ancient Greece education was very one-sided. One half of humanity was excluded from serious education. To the Greek, the boy alone was man and the girl must stay in the background when it was a question of serious education. The pedagogue was a teacher of boys, concerned only with that sex.

In our time, the presence of girl-pupils in the schools is no longer unusual, although indeed it involved a radical change from customs by no means very ancient. Another feature at the Waldorf School is that in the teaching staff no distinction of sex is made—none, at least, until we come to the very highest classes. Having as our aim a system of education in accord with the needs of the present day, we had first of all to modify much that was included in the old term ‘Pedagogy.’ So far I have only mentioned one of its limitations, but speaking in the broadest sense it must be admitted that for some time now there has been no real knowledge of man in regard to education and teaching. Indeed, many one-sided views have been held in the educational world, not only that of the separation of the sexes.

Can it truly be said that a man could develop in the fullest sense of the term when educated according to the old principles? Certainly not! To-day we must first seek understanding of the human being in his pure, undifferentiated essence. The Waldorf School was founded with this aim in view. The first idea was the education of children whose parents were working in the Waldorf-Astoria Factory, and as the Director was a member of the Anthroposophical Society, he asked me to supervise the undertaking. I myself could only give the principles of education on the basis of Anthroposophy. And so, in the first place, the Waldorf School arose as a general school for the workers' children. It was only ‘anthroposophical’ in the sense that the man who started it happened to be an Anthroposophist. Here then, we have an educational institution arising on a social basis, seeking to found the whole spirit and method of its teaching upon Anthroposophy. It was not a question of founding an ‘anthroposophical’ school. On the contrary, we hold that because Anthroposophy can at all times efface itself, it is able to institute a school on universal-human principles instead of upon the basis of social rank, philosophical conceptions of any other specialised line of thought.

This may well have occurred to those who visited the Waldorf School and it may also have led to the invitation to give these present lectures. And in this introductory lecture, when I am not yet speaking of education, let me cordially thank all those who have arranged this Summer Course. I would also thank them for having arranged performances of Eurhythmy which has already become an integral part of Anthroposophy. At the very beginning let me express this hope: A Summer Course has brought us together. We have assembled in a beautiful spot in the North of England, far away from the busy life of the winter months. You have given up your time of summer recreation to listen to subjects that will play an important part in the life of the future and the time must come when the spirit uniting us now for a fortnight during the summer holidays will inspire all our winter work. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for the fact that you have dedicated your holidays to the study of ideas for the good of the future. Just as sincerely as I thank you for this now, so do I trust that the spirit of our Summer Course may be carried on into the winter months—for only so can this Course bear real fruit.

I should like to proceed from what Miss McMillan said so impressively yesterday in words that bore witness to the great need of our time for moral impulses to be sought after if the progress of civilization is to be advanced through Education.

When we admit the great need that exists to-day for moral and spiritual impulses in educational methods and allow the significance of such impulses to work deeply in our hearts, we are led to the most fundamental problems in modern spiritual life—problems connected with the forms assumed by our culture and civilization in the course of human history. We are living in an age when certain spheres of culture, though standing in a measure side by side, are yet separated from one another. In the first place we have all that man can learn of the world through knowledge—communicated, for the most part, by the intellect alone. Then there is the sphere of art, where man tries to give expression to profound inner experiences, imitating with his human powers, a divine creative activity. Again we have the religious strivings of man, wherein he seeks to unite his own existence with the life of the universe. Lastly, we try to bring forth from our inner being impulses which place us as moral beings in the civilized life of the world. In effect we confront these four branches of culture: knowledge, art, religion, morality. But the course of human evolution has brought it about that these four branches are developing separately and we no longer realize their common origin. It is of no value to criticize these conditions; rather should we learn to understand the necessities of human progress.

To-day, therefore, we will remind ourselves of the beginnings of civilization. There was an ancient period in human evolution when science, art, religion and the moral life were one. It was an age when the intellect had not yet developed its present abstract nature and when man could solve the riddles of existence by a kind of picture-consciousness. Mighty pictures stood there before his soul—pictures which in the traditional forms of myth and saga have since come down to us. Originally they proceeded from actual experience and a knowledge of the spiritual content of the universe. There was indeed an age when in this direct, inner life of imaginative vision man could perceive the spiritual foundations of the world of sense. And what his instinctive imagination thus gleaned from the universe, he made substantial, using earthly matter and evolving architecture, sculpture, painting, music and other arts. He embodied with rapture the fruits of his knowledge in outer material forms. With his human faculties man copied divine creation, giving visible form to all that had first flowed into him as science and knowledge. In short, his art mirrored before the senses all that his forces of knowledge had first assimilated. In weakened form we find this faculty once again in Goethe, when out of inner conviction he spoke these significant words: “Beauty is a manifestation of the secret laws of Nature, without which they would remain for ever hidden.” And again: “He before whom Nature begins to unveil her mysteries is conscious of an irresistible yearning for art—Nature's worthiest expression.”

Such a conception shows that man is fundamentally predisposed to view both science and art as two aspects of one and the same truth. This he could do in primeval ages, when knowledge brought him inner satisfaction as it arose in the forms of ideas before his soul and when the beauty that enchanted him could be made visible to his senses in the arts—for experiences such as these were the essence of earlier civilizations.

What is our position to-day? As a result of all that intellectual abstractions have brought in their train we build up scientific systems of knowledge from which, as far as possible, art is eliminated. It is really almost a crime to introduce the faintest suggestion of art into science, and anyone who is found guilty of this in a scientific book is at once condemned as a dilettante. Our knowledge claims to be strictly dispassionate and objective; art is said to have nothing in common with objectivity and is purely arbitrary. A deep abyss thus opens between knowledge and art, and man no longer finds any means of crossing it. When he applies the science that is valued because of its freedom from art, he is led indeed to a marvellous knowledge of Nature—but of Nature devoid of life. The wonderful achievements of science are fully acknowledged by us, yet science is dumb before the mystery of man. Look where you will in science to-day, you will find wonderful answers to the problems of outer Nature, but no answers to the riddle of man. The laws of science cannot grasp him. Why is this? Heretical as it sounds to modern ears, this is the reason. The moment we draw near to the human being with the laws of Nature, we must pass over into the realm of art. A heresy indeed, for people will certainly say: “That is no longer science. If you try to understand the human being by the artistic sense, you are not following the laws of observation and strict logic to which you must always adhere.” However emphatically it may be held that this approach to man is unscientific because it makes use of the artistic sense—man is none the less an artistic creation of Nature. All kinds of arguments may be advanced to the effect that this way of artistic understanding is thoroughly unscientific, but the fact remains that man cannot be grasped by purely scientific modes of cognition. And so—in spite of all our science—we come to a halt before the human being. Only if we are sufficiently unbiased can we realize that scientific intellectuality must here be allowed to pass over into the domain of art. Science itself must become art if we would approach the secrets of man's being.

Now if we follow this path with all our inner forces of soul, not only observing in an outwardly artistic sense, but taking the true path, we can allow scientific intellectuality to flow over into what I have described as ‘Imaginative Knowledge’ in my book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and its Attainment. This ‘Imaginative Knowledge’—to-day an object of such suspicion and opposition—is indeed possible when the kind of thinking that otherwise gives itself up passively, and increasingly so, to the outer world is roused to a living and positive activity. The difficulty of speaking of these things to-day is not that one is either criticizing or upholding scientific habits of thought which are peculiar to our age; rather does the difficulty consist in the fact that fundamentally one must touch upon matters which concern the very roots of our present civilization. There is an increasing tendency to-day to give oneself up to the mere, observation of outer events, to allow thoughts passively to follow their succession, avoiding all conscious inner activity.

This state of things began with the demand for material proofs of spiritual matters. Take the case of a lecture on spiritual subjects. Visible evidence is out of the question, because words are the only available media—one cannot summon the invisible by some magical process. All that can be done is to stimulate and assume that the audience will inwardly energize their thinking into following the indications given by the words. Yet nowadays it will frequently happen that many of the listeners—I do not, of course, refer to those who are sitting in this hall—begin to yawn, because they imagine that thinking ought to be passive, and then they fall asleep because they are not following the subject actively. People like everything to be demonstrated to the eye, illustrated by means of lantern-slides or the like, for then it is not necessary to think at all. Indeed, they cannot think. That was the beginning, and it has gone still further. In a performance of “Hamlet,” for instance, one must follow the plot, and also the spoken word, in order to understand it. But to-day the drama is deserted for the cinema, where one need not exert oneself in any way; the pictures roll off the machine and can be watched quite inertly. And so man's inner activity of thought has gradually waned. But it is precisely this which must be retained. Yet when once the nature of this inner activity is understood, it will be realized that thinking is not merely a matter of stimulus from outside, but a force living in the very being of man.

The kind of thinking current in our modern civilization is only one aspect of this force of thought. If we inwardly observe it, from the outer side as it were, it is revealed as the force that builds up the human being from childhood. Before this can be understood, an inner, plastic force that transforms abstract thought into pictures must come into play. Then, after the necessary efforts have been made, we reach the stage I have Called in my book, the beginning of meditation. At this point we not only begin to lead mere cleverness over into art, but thought is raised into Imagination. We stand in a world of Imagination, knowing that it is not a creation of our own fancy, but an actual, objective world. We are fully conscious that although we do not as yet possess this objective world itself in Imagination, we have indeed a true picture of it. And now the point is to realize that we must get beyond the picture.

Strenuous efforts are necessary if we would master this inner creative thinking that does not merely contain pictures of fantasy, but pictures bearing their own reality within them. Then, however, we must next be able to eliminate the whole of this creative activity and thus accomplish an inwardly moral act. For this indeed constitutes an act of inner morality: when all the efforts described in my book to reach this active thinking in pictures have been made, when all the forces of soul have been applied and the powers of Self strained to their very utmost, we then must be able to eliminate all we have thus attained. In his own being man must have developed the highest fruits of this thinking that has been raised to the level of meditation and then be capable of selflessness. He must be able to eliminate all that has been thus acquired. For to have nothing is not the same as to have gained nothing. If he has made every effort to strengthen the Self by his own will so that finally his consciousness can be emptied-a spiritual world surges into his consciousness and being and he realizes that spiritual forces of cognition are needed for knowledge of the spiritual world. Active picture-thinking may be called Imagination. When the spiritual world pours into the consciousness that has in turn been emptied by dint of tremendous effort, man is approaching the mode of mode of knowledge known as true Inspiration. Having experienced Imagination, we may through an inner denial of self come to comprehend the spiritual world lying behind the two veils of outer Nature and of man.

I will now endeavour to show you how from this point we are led over to the spiritual life of religion.

Let me draw your attention to the following.—Inasmuch as Anthroposophy strives for true Imagination, it leads not only to knowledge or to art that in itself is of the nature of a picture, but to the spiritual reality contained in the picture. Anthroposophy bridges the gulf between knowledge and art in such a way that at a higher level, suited to modern life and the present age, the unity of science and art which humanity has abandoned can enter civilization once again. This unity must be re-attained, for the schism between science and art has disrupted the very being of man. To pass from the state of disruption to unity and inner harmony—it is for this above all that modern man must strive.

Thus far I have spoken of the harmony between science and art. I will now develop the subject further, in connection with religion and morality.

Knowledge that thus draws the creative activity of the universe into itself can flow directly into art, and this same path from knowledge to art can be extended and continued. It was so continued through the powers of the old imaginative knowledge of which I have spoken, which also found the way, without any intervening cleft, into the life of religion. He who applied himself to this kind of knowledge—primitive and instinctive though it was in early humanity—was aware that he acquired it by no external perceptions, for in his thinking and knowing he sensed divine life within him, he felt that spiritual powers were at work in his own creative activity enabling him to raise to greater holiness all that had been impressed into the particular medium of his art. The power born in his soul as he embodied the Divine-Spiritual in outer material substance could then extend into acts wherein he was fully conscious that he, as man, was expressing the will of divine ordnance. He felt himself pervaded by divine creative power, and as the path was found through the fashioning of material substance, art became—by way of ritual—a form of divine worship. Artistic creation was sanctified in the divine office. Art became ritual—the glorification of the Divine—and through the medium of material substance offered sacrifice to the Divine Being in ceremonial and ritual. And as man thus bridged the gulf between Art and Religion there arose a religion in full harmony with knowledge and with art. Albeit primitive and instinctive, this knowledge was none the less a true picture, and as such it could lead human deeds to become, in the acts of ritual, a direct portrayal of the Divine.

In this way the transition from art to religion was made possible. Is it still possible with our present-day mode of knowledge? The ancient clairvoyant perception had revealed to man the spiritual in every creature and process of Nature, and by surrender and devotion to the spirit within the nature-processes, the spiritual laws of the Cosmos passed over and were embodied in ritual and cult.

How do we “know” the world to-day? Once more, to describe is better than criticism, for as the following lectures will show, the development of our present mode of knowledge was a necessity in the history of mankind. To-day I am merely placing certain suggestive thoughts before you. We have gradually lost our spiritual insight into the being and processes of Nature. We take pride in eliminating the spirit in our observation of Nature and finally reach such hypothetical conceptions as attribute the origin of our planet to the movements of a primeval nebula. Mechanical stirrings in this nebula are said to be the origin of all the kingdoms of Nature, even so far as man. And according to these same laws—which govern our whole “objective” mode of thinking, this earth must finally end through a so-called extinction of warmth. All ideas achieved by man, having proceeded from a kind of Fata Morgana, will disappear, until at the end there will remain only the tomb of earthly existence.

If the truth of this line of thought be recognized by science and men are honest and brave enough to face its inevitable consequences, they cannot but admit that all religious and moral life is also a Fata Morgana and must so remain! Yet the human being cannot endure this thought, and so must hold fast to the remnants of olden times, when religion and morality still lived in harmony with knowledge and with art. Religion and morality to-day are not direct creations of man's innermost being. They rest on tradition, and are a heritage from ages when the instinctive life of man was filled with revelation, when God—and the moral world in Him—were alike manifest. Our strivings for knowledge to-day can reveal neither God nor a moral world. Science comes to the end of the animal species and man is cast out. Honest inner thinking can find no bridge over the gulf fixed between knowledge and the religious life.

All true religions have sprung from Inspiration. True, the early form of Inspiration was not so conscious as that to which we must now attain, yet it was there instinctively, and rightly do the religions trace their origin back to it. Such faiths as will no longer recognize living inspiration and revelation from the spirit in the immediate present have to be content with tradition. But such faiths lack all inner vitality, all direct motive-power of religious life. This motive-power and vitality must be re-won, for only so can our social organism be healed.

I have shown how man must regain a knowledge that passes by way of art to Imagination, and thence to Inspiration. If he re-acquires all that flows down from the inspirations of a spiritual world into human consciousness, true religion will once again appear. And then intellectual discussion about the nature of Christ will cease, for through Inspiration it will be known in truth that the Christ was the human bearer of a Divine Being Who had descended from spiritual worlds into earthly existence. Without super-sensible knowledge there can be no understanding of the Christ. If Christianity is again to be deeply rooted in humanity, the path to super-sensible knowledge must be rediscovered. Inspiration must again impart a truly religious life to mankind in order that knowledge—derived no longer merely from the observation of natural laws—may find no abyss dividing it alike from art and religion. Knowledge, art, religion—these three will be in harmony.

Primeval man was convinced of the presence of God in human deeds when he made his˃ art a divine office and when a consciousness of the fire glowing in his heart as Divine Will pervaded the acts of ritual. And when the path from outer objective knowledge to Inspiration is found once again, true religion will flow from Inspiration and modern man will be permeated—as was primeval man—with a God-given morality. In those ancient days man felt: “If I have my divine office, if I share in divine worship, my whole inner being is enriched; God lives not only in the temple but in the whole of my life.”

To make the presence of God imminent in the world—this is true morality. Nature cannot lead man to morality. Only that which lifts him above Nature, filling him with the Divine-Spiritual—this alone can lead man to morality. Through the Intuition which comes to him when he finds his way to the spirit, he can fill his innermost being with a morality that is at once human and divine. The attainment of Inspiration thus rebuilds the bridge once existing instinctively in human civilization between religion and morality. As knowledge leads upwards through art to the heights of super-sensible life, so, through religious worship, spiritual heights are brought down to earthly existence, and we can permeate it with pure, deep-rooted morality—a morality that is an act of conscious experience. Thus will man himself become the individual expression of a moral activity that is an inner motive power. Morality will be a creation of the individual himself, and the last abyss between religion and morality will be bridged. The intuition pervading primitive man as he enacted his ritual will be re-created in a new form, and a morality truly corresponding with modern conditions will arise from the religious life of our day. We need this for the renewal of our civilization. We need it in order that what to-day is mere heritage, mere tradition may spring again into life. This pure, primordial impulse is necessary for our complicated social life that is threatening to spread chaos through the world. We need a harmony between knowledge, art, religion, and morality. The earth-born knowledge which has given us our science of to-day must take on a new form and lead us through Inspiration and the arts to a realization of the super-sensible in the life of religion. Then we shall indeed be able to bring down the super-sensible to the earth again, to experience it in religious life and to transform it into will in social existence. Only when we see the social question as one of morality and religion can we really grapple with it, and this we cannot do until the moral and religious life arises from spiritual knowledge. The revival of spiritual knowledge will enable man to accomplish what he needs—a link between later phases of evolution and its pure, instinctive origin. Then he will know what is needed for the healing of humanity—harmony between science, art, religion, and morality.