World History in the Light of Anthroposophy
and as a Foundation for Knowledge of the Human Spirit
1 January 1924, Dornach
As we are together for the last time during this Christmas Meeting which should be a source of strength and of vital importance for the Anthroposophical Movement, you will allow me to give this lecture as a supplement to the many vistas opened for us by the series of lectures just finished, while also giving tentative indications concerning the future of anthroposophical strivings.
When we look at the world to-day — and it has been the same for years now — destructive elements on a colossal scale are everywhere in evidence. Forces that are actively at work enable us to have forebodings of the abysses into which Western civilisation will continue to steer. When we think of those individuals who are outwardly the spiritual leaders in various domains of life, we shall perceive that these men are in the throes of an ominous, universal sleep. They think, or at least most of them were still thinking only a short time ago, that until the nineteenth century mankind was childish and primitive in respect of understanding and conceptions of the world. Then modern science appeared in its many branches and now — so it is thought — there exists something that must through all eternity be cultivated as the truth.
The people who think this are really giving way to extreme arrogance, only they are not aware of it. On the other hand there sometimes arises, even in men to-day, a premonition that things are not, after all, as I have described.
Some little time ago it was still possible for me to give lectures in Germany organised by the Wolff Bureau. They attracted extraordinarily large audiences so that the existence of a desire for Anthroposophy became obvious to many people. Among the many nonsensical utterances of opponents there was one voice which to be sure was not much cleverer than the others in respect of content but which nevertheless indicated a remarkable premonition. It consisted in a newspaper report of one of the lectures I had given in Berlin. The notice was to this effect: When one listens to something of this kind, one becomes attentive to the fact that something is going on not only on the Earth — I am quoting the notice approximately — but in the whole Cosmos something is happening which summons men to adopt a spirituality different from what existed previously. Now, the forces of the Cosmos — not only earthly impulses — demand something from men. A kind of revolution is taking place in the Cosmos, the result of which must be the striving for a new spirituality.
Such utterances were constantly to be heard and were very worthy of note. The fact of the matter is this: the impulse that must be working in what is now to go out from Dornach must — as I emphasised from every possible point of view during the Meeting itself — be an impulse originating in the spiritual world, not on the Earth. Our striving here is to develop the strength to follow impulses from the spiritual world. That is why, in the evening lectures during this Christmas Meeting, I spoke of manifold impulses at work in the course of historical evolution in order that hearts could be opened for the reception of the spiritual impulses which have yet to stream into the earthly world, which are not derived from that world itself. Everything for which the earthly world hitherto has rightly been the vehicle, proceeded from the spiritual world. And if we are to achieve anything fruitful for the earthly world, the impulses for it must be brought from the spiritual world.
This prompts the assertion that the impulses we ought rightly to take with us from the Meeting for our further activity must be connected with great responsibility.
Let us think for a short time of the responsibility laid upon us by that Meeting. Anyone with a sense of the reality of the spiritual world could encounter many personalities during recent decades, and observing them spiritually experience bitter feelings regarding the future destiny of humanity on Earth. One could encounter one's fellow men on the Earth in the way that is possible spiritually and observe these human beings during their sleep while they are in the spiritual world with Ego and astral body, having left their physical and etheric bodies. During recent decades, explorations connected with the destinies of Egos and astral bodies during the sleep of human beings have resulted in knowledge calling for great responsibility on the part of those who possess it. One often saw souls, who had left their physical and etheric bodies during sleep, approaching the Guardian of the Threshold.
In the course of evolution the Guardian of the Threshold has been brought to men's consciousness in very many different ways. Many a legend, many a saga — for it is in this form, not in the form of historical tradition that things of the greatest importance are preserved — many a legend tells of how, in earlier times, this or that personality met the Guardian of the Threshold and was instructed by him how to enter the spiritual world and return again into the physical world. Every legitimate entry into the spiritual world must include the possibility of being able at any and every minute to return into the physical world and to live there as a practical, thoughtful human being, not as a visionary or as an ecstatic mystic.
Fundamentally speaking, it was this that was demanded by the Guardian of the Threshold through all the ages of human endeavours to enter the spiritual world. But notably in the last third of the nineteenth century hardly any human beings who succeeded in approaching the Guardian of the Threshold in waking consciousness were to be seen. In our present time, when it is historically incumbent upon the whole of mankind to encounter the Guardian of the Threshold in some form, one finds how souls during sleep approach the Guardian of the Threshold as Egos and astral bodies, and the pictures that are revealed are full of significance. The stern Guardian of the Threshold has around him groups of human souls in the state of sleep, souls who in waking consciousness lack the strength to approach this Guardian of the Threshold. They approach him while they sleep.
When one watches the scene presented there, a thought connected with what I have called the seed of great and essential responsibility comes to one. The souls approaching the Guardian of the Threshold during the state of sleep plead with the consciousness then prevailing — in the waking state everything remains unconscious or subconscious — plead to be admitted into the spiritual world, to be allowed to cross the threshold. And in numberless cases one then hears the voice of the stern Guardian of the Threshold saying: For your own well-being you may not cross the threshold. You may not be allowed to enter the spiritual world. You must go back! — For if the Guardian of the Threshold were to permit such souls to enter the spiritual world, they would cross the threshold and enter that world with the concepts imparted to them by the schools, education and civilisation of to-day, with the concepts and ideas with which the human being is obliged to grow up from about the age of six to basically the end of his life on Earth.
The intrinsic character of these concepts and ideas is such that what a man has become through them in modern civilisation and education means that he enters the spiritual world paralysed in soul. Moreover, he would return to the physical world empty-headed in respect of thoughts and ideas. If the Guardian of the Threshold were not to reject many human souls of the modern age but allow them to enter the spiritual world, they would feel on awakening: I am incapable of thinking, my thoughts do not connect with my brain, I am obliged to go through the world void of thoughts. For such is the effect of the abstract ideas which man applies to everything to-day. With these ideas he can enter the spiritual world but not come forth from it again. And when one witnesses this scene which is experienced during sleep by more souls than is usually imagined, one feels: Oh! if only it were possible to protect these souls from having also to experience at death what they experience during sleep. For if the condition that is experienced in the presence of the Guardian of the Threshold were to be repeated for a sufficient length of time, if civilisation were to remain long enough under the sway of what current education provides, then the souls of men would pass through the gates of death into the spiritual world but would be unable to bring any mental vigour into the next earthly life. With the thoughts prevailing to-day it is possible for a man to enter the spiritual world but he can only come out of it again paralysed in soul.
You see, modern civilisation adopts the form of spiritual life that has for so long been cultivated, but real life does not allow this. Civilisation as it now is might continue to progress for a time. During waking life souls would have no inkling of the existence of the Guardian of the Threshold and during sleep would be rejected by him in order to avoid mental paralysis; and this would finally result in a race of men being born in the future with no understanding, no possibility of applying ideas in their future earthly life; and all thinking, all ideation would vanish from the Earth. A diseased, purely instinctive human race would people the Earth. Evil feelings and unbridled emotions without the guiding power of ideas would take hold of the evolution of humanity. It is not only through observation of the souls confronting the Guardian of the Threshold — souls which can gain no entrance to the spiritual world — it is not only through observing this that a sorrowful picture is presented to the seer, but in a different connection there is another factor as well.
If on the journey of which I have spoken, when the souls of sleeping human beings confronting the Guardian of the Threshold can be observed, one is accompanied by a human being belonging not to Western but to Oriental civilisation, a terrible reproach of the whole of Western civilisation may be heard from him, to this effect: If things continue as they now are, when the human beings living to-day appear on Earth in new incarnations, the Earth will become barbaric. Human beings will live devoid of ideas, in instincts only. You Westerners have brought things to this pass because you have abandoned the ancient spirituality of the East.
A glimpse into the spiritual world such as I have described may well give rise to a sense of great responsibility. And here in Dornach there must be a place where for those human beings who have ears to hear, direct and significant experiences in the spiritual world can be described. Here there must be a place where sufficient strength is generated not merely to indicate in terms of the dialectic-empirical mentality of to-day that here or there little traces of spiritual reality exist. If Dornach is to fulfil its task, actual happenings in the spiritual world must be spoken of openly. Men must be able to hear of the impulses in the spiritual world which then pour into and control the natural world and Nature itself. In Dornach men must be able to hear of actual experiences, actual forces, actual Beings of the spiritual world. Here there must be the High School of true Spiritual Science. Henceforth we must not draw back when confronted by the shallowness of the scientific thoughts of to-day which, as I have described, lead in the state of sleep to the stern Guardian of the Threshold. In Dornach the strength must be acquired to confront and experience the spiritual world in its reality.
There must be no dialectical tirades from here on the subject of the inadequacy of modern scientific theory. I was obliged, however, to call attention to the position in which human beings are placed when confronting the Guardian of the Threshold on account of these scientific theories and their offshoots in the orthodox schools of to-day. If what has been said at this Christmas Meeting is sincerely applied in the life of soul, the Meeting will be a forceful impulse which the soul can then apply in the activity that is needed in this age so that in their next incarnations men may be able to confront the Guardian of the Threshold in the right way. This will ensure that civilisation in its own right can enable men to face and hold their own when confronting the Guardian of the Threshold.
Just compare the civilisation of to-day with that of earlier times during all of which men's thoughts and concepts were directed primarily to the super-sensible world, to the Gods, to the world of productive, generative, creative forces. With concepts that were concerned primarily with the Gods, men were able to contemplate the earthly world and also to understand it in the light of these concepts and ideas. If with these concepts — worthy of the Gods as they were — a man came before the Guardian of the Threshold, the Guardian would say to him: You may pass, for you bring over the threshold into the super-sensible world thoughts that were already directed to the super-sensible world during your earthly life in a physical body. Thus when you return into the physical world of the senses you will have enough strength to protect you from being paralysed by the spectacle of the super-sensible world.
To-day man develops concepts and ideas which in accordance with the genius of the age he wants to apply only to the material world. These concepts and ideas are concerned with every possible aspect of weight, measure and the like, but they have nothing to do with the Gods and are not worthy of the Gods. Hence to souls who have completely succumbed to materialistic ideas that are unworthy of the Gods, the voice of the Guardian of the Threshold thunders when they pass before him in the state of sleep: Do not cross the threshold! You have squandered your ideas on the world of the senses. Hence you must remain with them in the world of the senses. If you do not wish to be paralysed in your life of soul you may not enter the world of the Gods as long as you hold such ideas.
These things must be said, not in order to be the subject of argument but because every individual should let his mind and soul be permeated by them and thus develop the attitude of mind that should have been generated in him by this solemn Christmas Meeting of the Anthroposophical Society. For more important than anything else we take with us is the recognition of the spiritual world which gives the certainty that in Dornach there will be created a living centre of spiritual knowledge.
Hence a really splendid note was struck this morning when Dr. Zeylmans spoke in connection with the sphere of medicine, saying that it is no longer possible to-day for bridges to be built from orthodox science to what it is our aim to found in Dornach. If we were to speak of what it is hoped to develop in the sphere of medicine here by boasting that our products can stand the test of all modern clinical requirements, then we should never reach any definite goal. For then other people would simply say: That is just a new remedy; and we too have produced plenty of new remedies!
It is of essential importance that a branch of practical life such as medicine should be taken in the real sense into anthroposophical life. That is what I certainly understood to be Dr. Zeylmans' wish when he said this morning that an individual who becomes a doctor to-day really longs for something that gives impulses from a new corner of the world. In the domain of medicine this is just what will be done from here in the future, together with many another branch of genuine anthroposophical activity. It will be worked out now, with Dr. Wegman as my helper, as a system of medicine based upon Anthroposophy. It is a dire need of humanity and will soon be available. It is also my intention to establish as soon as possible a close relationship between the Goetheanum and the Clinic in Arlesheim that is proving to be so beneficial. The work there will be orientated entirely towards Anthroposophy. That is also Dr. Wegman's intention.
In speaking as he did, Dr. Zeylmans also indicated what attitude the Vorstand in Dornach will adopt in all spheres of anthroposophical activity. In future we shall know exactly how matters stand. We shall not say: let us bring Eurythmy to this or that town, for if people first see Eurythmy without hearing anything about Anthroposophy, Eurythmy will please them. Then, later on perhaps, they will come to us, and because they have liked Eurythmy and have heard that Anthroposophy is behind it, Anthroposophy too may please them! Or again, it may be said: In the practice of medicine people must be shown that ours are the right remedies and then they will buy them; later on they may discover that Anthroposophy is behind them and then they will come to Anthroposophy!
We must have the courage to realise that such procedure is dishonest and must be abandoned. Anthroposophy will then find its way in the world. Our striving for truth here in Dornach will in the future be without fanaticism, will be advocated honestly and candidly. Perhaps in this way we can make reparation for principles that have been gravely sinned against in recent years.
We must leave this Meeting, which has led to the Founding of the General Anthroposophical Society, not with trifling but with solemn thoughts. But I think that nobody need have experienced any pessimism as a result of what took place here at Christmas. We had, it is true, to pass the tragic ruins of the Goetheanum every day but I think that all those who climbed the hill and passed the ruins during the Meeting will have become aware of what our friends have understood in their hearts and that the following thought will have become a reality to them: Spiritual flames of fire will go forth from the new Goetheanum that will come into being in the future, for the blessing of mankind, will come into being through our activity and devotion. And the greater the courage with which to conduct the affairs of Anthroposophy that we take with us from this Meeting, the more effectively have we grasped the spiritual impulse of hope that has pervaded the Meeting.
The scene that I have described to you — the scene that is so often to be seen of modern man with the results of his civilisation and education facing the Guardian of the Threshold — this scene does not actually occur among perceptive Anthroposophists. But it does sometimes happen that this warning is necessary: You must develop the resolute courage to become aware of and avow your obedience to this voice from the spiritual world, for you have begun to wake. Courage will keep you wakeful; lack of courage — that and that alone could cause you to sleep.
The voice of exhortation to unfold courage and wakefulness — that is the other variant for Anthroposophists in the life of modern civilisation. Non-Anthroposophists hear the voice which says: Remain outside the spiritual world, for you have misused the ideas which are coined for purely earthly objects; you have amassed no ideas that are worthy of the Gods. Hence you would be paralysed on your return into the physical world of the senses. To the souls who are truly anthroposophical souls, however, it is said: You have now to be tested in respect only of your courage to avow adherence to the voice which because of the trend and inclination of your souls and hearts you can certainly hear and understand.
Yesterday, a year ago, we were watching the flames that were destroying the old Goetheanum, but just as we did not allow ourselves then to be interrupted in our continuation of the work, so to-day we are justified in hoping that when a physical Goetheanum will again be there, it will be merely the symbol of our spiritual Goetheanum which we will bear with us as idea when we now again go out into the world.
Over the Foundation Stone laid here will be erected the building in which the single stones will be the work achieved in every one of our Groups all over the world. We will now turn our thoughts to this work and become conscious of the responsibility of the men of to-day when they are standing before the Guardian of the Threshold who is obliged to forbid them entrance into the spiritual world.
Quite certainly it will never occur to us to feel anything except, the deepest pain and sorrow for what happened to us a year ago. But of one thing we may be sure — everything in the world that has achieved some measure of greatness is born from pain. May our own pain be applied in such a way that a vigorous, light-filled Anthroposophical Society will come into being as the result of your work, my dear friends.
To this end we will ponder deeply on the words with which I began the Christmas Meeting and with which I want to end it. May it become for us a festival of consecration not only of a year's beginning but of the beginning of a turning-point of worlds, to which we will dedicate ourselves in selfless cultivation of the spiritual life:
Soul of Man!
Thou livest in the Limbs
Which bear thee through the world of Space
Into the ocean-being of the Spirit.
In the depths of soul.
Where in the wielding
Thine own I
Comes to being
Within the I of God.
Then in the All-World-Being of Man
Thou wilt truly live.
For the Father-Spirit of the Heights holds sway
In Depths of Worlds begetting Life.
Spirits of Strength!
Let this ring out from the Heights
And in the Depths be echoed,
From God, Mankind has Being.
The Spirits hear it in East and West and North and South:
May human beings hear it!
Soul of Man!
Thou livest in the beat of Heart and Lung
Which leads thee through the rhythmic tides of Time
Into the feeling of thine own Soul-being.
In balance of the soul,
Where the surging
Deeds of the World's Becoming
Do thine own I
Unto the I of the World.
Then 'mid the weaving of the Soul of Man
Thou wilt truly feel.
For the Christ-Will in the encircling Round holds sway
the Rhythms of the Worlds, blessing the Soul.
Spirits of Light!
Let this be fired from the East
And through the West be formed,
In Christ, Death becomes Life.
The Spirits hear it in East and West and North and South:
May human beings hear it!
Soul of Man!
Thou livest in the resting Head
Which from the ground of the Eternal
Opens to thee the Thoughts of Worlds.
In quietness of thought,
Where the eternal aims of Gods
On thine own I
For thy free Willing.
Then from the ground of the Spirit in Man
Thou wilt truly think.
For the Spirit's Universal Thoughts hold sway
the Beings of all Worlds, craving for Light.
Spirits of Soul!
Let this be prayed in the Depths
And from the Heights be answered,
the Spirit's Universal Thoughts, the Soul awakens.
The Spirits hear it in East and West and North and South:
May human beings hear it!
At the turning-point of Time
The Spirit-Light of the World
Entered the stream of Earthly Being.
Darkness of Night
Had held its sway;
Poured into the souls of men;
Light that gives Warmth
To simple Shepherds' Hearts,
Light that enlightens
The wise Heads of Kings.
O Light Divine,
O Sun of Christ!
That good may become
What from our Hearts we would found
And from our Heads direct
With single purpose.
And so, my dear friends, carry out into the world your warm hearts in which you have laid the Foundation Stone for the Anthroposophical Society, carry out into the world these warm hearts which promote strong, health-giving activity in the world. And help will be vouchsafed to you, enlightening your heads in what you would fain direct with single purpose. We will set about this with all possible strength. And if we prove to be worthy of this aim we shall see that a good star will hold sway over what is willed from here. Follow this good star, my dear friends! We shall see whither the Gods will lead us by the light of this star.
O Light Divine,
O Sun of Christ!