3 February 1912, Breslau
Since we can meet so seldom, it will perhaps be good to touch upon some things today which are less suited to the written word, and may therefore be communicated better by word of mouth. They deal with Anthroposophy in its direct contact with life. Anthroposophists will indeed often be confronted by the question What is the position of Anthroposophy in regard to those who are not yet able to see in to the spiritual worlds through clairvoyant consciousness? For essentially the spiritual-scientific content of these communications has been received, taken in and imparted out of clairvoyant investigation.
It must be emphasised again and again however in regard to this point that everyone who hears of the facts and relationships which can be investigated and imparted out of clairvoyant knowledge will be able to comprehend them with his healthy human understanding. For when the facts which have been found by clairvoyant consciousness are once there, and can be put before us, they can be grasped and understood by the logic inherent in every ordinary human being, if only his judgement is sufficiently unprejudiced.
Yet we may ask "Is there really nothing, are there not certain facts in normal human existence, certain experiences in our ordinary life, which in themselves point to the statements of spiritual investigation concerning a spiritual world which lies at the foundation of our physical one and all its phenomena?" Yes, there are many facts in ordinary life of which it may be said that man would never be able to grasp them, if he knew nothing of the existence of a spiritual world, although naturally he must at first accept them.
Today we shall begin by pointing out two experiences of human life, occurring in ordinary normal consciousness, which must simply remain inexplicable, if we do not acknowledge the existence of a spiritual world.
They are well known to us in daily life, but are as a rule not put in the right light; for were they rightly considered, there would be no necessity for a materialistic world-conception. Let us therefore place before our souls the first of these two facts, and let us do so in such a way that we start from the simplest occurrences in daily life.
If someone is confronted by a fact which he cannot explain with the concepts which he has hitherto acquired, he is thrown into a state of wonder. To give a quite concrete example of this someone who sees an automobile or a train in motion for the first time in his life will quite certainly be greatly astonished, because within his soul the following thoughts will arise (although soon such things will no longer be anything unusual, even in the interior of Africa). "Judging by all that I have experienced heretofore, it appears quite impossible that something can rush along through the air without anything in front of it by which it is drawn. Nevertheless I see that it rushes along without being drawn! This is truly amazing".
Thus all that man does not yet know calls forth wonder within him, whereas what he has already seen does so no longer. Only those things which he cannot connect with earlier experiences in life astonish him. Let us keep this truth of everyday life clearly before our minds and compare it with another fact which is also very remarkable. Man is indeed brought in contact with a great many things in daily life which he has never seen before, but which nevertheless he accepts without being amazed. There are innumerable events of this kind. And what sort of events are they?
Now it would indeed be very amazing if, under ordinary conditions, someone who had heretofore been sitting quietly in his chair were to feel himself suddenly beginning to fly up into the air through the chimney! This would certainly be very amazing, and yet if such a thing occurs in a dream, we take part in it without feeling any wonder at all. And we experience even more extraordinary things in dreams at which we are not at all astonished, although they cannot in any way be connected with the occurrences of daily life. In waking-life we are already astonished if someone is able to leap very high into the air, yet in dreams we fly and are not in the least surprised. Thus we are confronted by the fact that, while we are awake, we wonder at things which we have not experienced before, whereas in dreams we do not wonder at all.
The second fact to which we shall turn our attention, as an introduction to what is to follow, is the question of conscience. When man acts and in the case of someone who has a finer feeling for things, even when he thinks, something stirs within him which we call conscience. And this conscience is quite independent of what these events may mean in the outer world. We may have done something, for instance, which is very profitable for us, and nevertheless our conscience may condemn it. When conscience is aroused, everyone feels that something streams into the judgement of the deed which has nothing to do with its usefulness. It is like a voice which speaks within us "You should really have done that" or "You ought not to have done it!" Here we stand before the reality of conscience, and we know how strong the warning power of conscience can be, and how it can pursue us throughout life; and we know furthermore that the existence of conscience cannot be denied.
Now let us turn again to the phenomena of dreams, and we shall see that we do the most extraordinary things, which, were we to do them in waking life, would cause us the most terrible stings of conscience. Everyone can confirm for himself out of his own experience that he does things in dreams without the least prick of conscience, which would unquestionably evoke its warning voice, were he to do them in waking-life.
These two realities amazement, or wonder, and conscience are strangely enough eliminated in dreams. Man is accustomed to let such things pass by unnoticed; nevertheless they throw light deep into the foundation of our existence.
In order to clarify these things a little more I should like to point out still another fact which is concerned less with conscience and more with wonder. In ancient Greece the saying arose that all philosophy springs from amazement, from wonder. The experience which lies concealed in this sentence and it is the experience of the ancient Greeks which is meant cannot be traced in the most ancient times of Greek development. It is to be found in the history of philosophy only from a certain point of time onward. The reason for this is that in more ancient times men did not yet feel in this way. But how does it happen that from a certain time onward, just in ancient Greece, men begin to realise that they are amazed? We have just seen that we are amazed at what does not fit into our life as we have known it hitherto; but if we have only this amazement, the amazement of ordinary life, there is nothing particular in it other than astonishment at the unusual. He who is astonished at the sight of an automobile or a train is not accustomed to see such things, and his astonishment is nothing more than the astonishment at the uncustomary. Far more worthy of wonder, however, than astonishment at motor-cars and railways, at all that is unusual, is the fact that man can also begin to wonder at the usual. Consider for instance how the sun rises every morning. Those who are accustomed to this in their ordinary consciousness are not amazed at it. But when amazement begins to arise over everyday things which we are quite used to see, philosophy and knowledge result. Those who are richest in knowledge are men who can feel wonder over things which the ordinary human being simply accepts, for only then do we become true seekers after knowledge; and it is out of this realisation that the ancient Greeks originated the saying All philosophy springs from wonder.
But now, what of conscience? Here again it is interesting that the word “conscience” in other words the concept, for quite clearly only when the mental image arises, does the word also appear is likewise only to be found from a certain time onward in ancient Greece. In the more ancient Greek literature, around the time of Aeschylus, it is impossible to find any word which could be translated as “conscience.” Yet we find such a word used among the younger Greek authors, by Euripides for instance. Here we can see, as distinctly as if a finger pointed to it, that conscience just as the amazement at what is customary is something which was only known after a certain point of time in Greek history. What appeared after this point of time as the stirring of conscience, was something quite different among the more ancient Greeks. For in these earlier times man did not feel pangs of conscience when he had done wrong. He still had a primitive elementary clairvoyance; and were we to go back to a time only shortly before the beginning of the Christian era, we should find that everybody still possessed this primitive clairvoyance. If at that time someone had done wrong, he had no pangs of conscience, but a daemonic form appeared to his ancient clairvoyance and tormented him, and these beings were called Erinnys and Furies. Only when man had lost the capacity whereby he could see these daemonic forms, did he develop the power to feel conscience as an inner experience, when he had done wrong.
We must now ask ourselves what such facts can show us, and what actually happens in the ordinary feeling of amazement, as experienced, for instance, by a savage from the uncivilized regions of Africa, were he to be brought to Europe and to see trains and motor-cars being driven about. The appearance of his amazement presupposes that something now enters his life which was formerly not there, something which he has seen before in quite another form.
If now a more developed human being feels the need to explain certain things, to explain occurrences of everyday life, because he is able to wonder even at such simple events, this likewise presupposes that at some earlier time he has seen them quite differently. No one would ever have reached another explanation of the sunrise than that of mere appearances that it is the sun which rises if in his soul he did not feel that he had seen it differently in former times. But the sunrise, someone might well object, we have seen occurring in a similar way from our earliest youth; would it not seem to be downright foolishness to fall into amazement because of it? The only explanation for this is that, if we are nevertheless seized with amazement, we must have experienced it before under entirely other conditions, quite differently from to-day. For if Anthroposophy says that man existed in a different state between the time of his birth and a previous life, then his amazement at such an everyday occurrence as the accustomed sunrise is nothing other than an indication of this former condition, in which he also perceived the sunrise, but in a different way without bodily organs. There he perceived it with spiritual eyes and with spiritual ears. And in the moment when, guided by a dim feeling, he says to himself “You stand before the rising sun, before the foaming sea, before the sprouting plant, and you are filled with wonder!“ ... then in this amazement there lies the knowledge that he once perceived all this in another way than with his physical eyes. It was with his spiritual organs that he saw it before he entered the physical world. He feels dimly that everything appeared differently when he saw it before. And this was and can be due only to himself, to his own experience, before his birth.
Such facts force us to realize that knowledge would be altogether impossible if man did not enter this earthly life out of a previous super-sensible existence. Otherwise there would be no explanation of wonder and the knowledge resulting from it. Of course man does not remember in distinct mental images what he experienced differently before birth, but although it does not show itself clearly in thought it lives nevertheless in his feelings. Only through initiation can it be brought down as a clear memory.
But now let us investigate why we do not wonder in dreams. Here we must first answer the question What then is dream in reality. Dream is an ancient heritage from former incarnations. Within these earlier incarnations man passed through other states of consciousness of a clairvoyant nature. Later on, during the further course of evolution he lost the capacity to see clairvoyantly into the soul-spiritual world. He had first a shadowy kind of clairvoyance, and his development gradually took its course out of this former shadowy clairvoyance into the clear waking consciousness of our present day, which could evolve in the physical world in order, when fully developed, to ascend once more into the psychic spiritual world with the capacities thus won by his Ego in waking consciousness. But what did man win in olden days through ancient clairvoyance? Something is still left of it namely, our dreams. But dreams differ from ancient clairvoyance inasmuch as they are an experience of the man of modern times; who has developed a consciousness which bears within it the impulse for knowledge. Dreams, as the remnant of a former state of consciousness, do not contain the desire for knowledge, and this is why man experiences the difference between waking consciousness and dream-consciousness.
Wonder, which was not to be found in the shadowy clairvoyance of ancient times, can also not enter the dream-consciousness of today. Amazement, wonder, cannot reach into our dreams, but we experience them in waking consciousness when we turn our attention towards the outer world. In his dreams man is not in this outer world, for they transport him into the spiritual realm, and there he no longer experiences the things of the physical plane. Yet it is just with regard to this physical world that he has learned to wonder. In dreams he accepts everything as he accepted it in ancient clairvoyance, when he could simply take things as they were, because spiritual forms came to him and showed him the good or evil which he had done. For this reason he did not then need wonder. Thus dreams show us through their own nature that they are a heritage from ancient times, when there was neither wonder at the things of everyday life, nor conscience.
Here we reach the point where we must ask "If man was once already clairvoyant, why then could he not remain so? Why did he descend? Did the gods drive him out without reason?" Now it is a fact that man would never have attained what lies in wonder and in conscience, had he not descended. In order that he might win for himself knowledge and conscience man descended; for he can only win them if he is separated for a time from the spiritual world. And here below he has attained them, attained knowledge and conscience, in order that he may ascend with them once more.
Spiritual Science reveals to us that each time he passes through the life between death and a new birth man lives during a certain period in a purely spiritual world. First of all, after death, he experiences the period of Kamaloka, where he is only half within the spiritual world, as it were, because he still looks back upon his instincts and sympathies and thereby is still drawn towards all that unites him with the physical world. Only when this period of Kamaloka is extinguished, so to speak, does he experience in full a purely spiritual life or Devachan.
When we enter this purely spiritual world, what do we experience within it? How does every human being experience himself here? Even a quite simple logical consideration can show us that our surroundings between death and a new birth must be entirely different from those during physical life. On earth we see colours because we have eyes; we hear sounds because we have ears. But after death, in spiritual existence, when we have neither eyes nor ears, we can no longer perceive these colours and these sounds. Indeed, even on earth, if our ears or eyes are not good, we consequently see or hear badly, or perhaps not at all. Anyone who ponders over this, even slightly, should find it self-understood. For it is quite clear that we must imagine the spiritual world as completely different from the world in which we live here between birth and death. With the help of the following comparison you may be able to form for yourselves a picture of the transformation which the world must undergo when we pass through the gates of death.
Let us imagine that someone sees a lamb and a wolf. As a human being he can perceive this lamb and this wolf with all the organs of perception which are at his disposal in physical life. He sees the lamb as a material lamb, the wolf as a material wolf. He also recognises other lambs and other wolves and calls them "lamb" and "wolf". He has then a picture-concept of both the one and the other. It might now be said, and it is indeed said "The picture-concept of the animal is not visible, it lives within the animal; the real being of the lamb and the wolf cannot be seen materially. Thus we form mental images of the animal's being, but this being itself is invisible."
There are however theorists who hold the opinion that the concepts which we form of wolf and lamb live only within us and have nothing to do with the wolf and the lamb themselves. One who maintains this point of view should be induced to feed a wolf upon nothing but lambs until, according to scientific investigation, every particle of the wolf's bodily substance has been renewed; the wolf would then be formed entirely of lamb-substance. And he could then see for himself whether it had changed into a lamb! If however it should turn out that the wolf did not become a Lamb, this would prove that the object wolf is something quite different from the material wolf, that what is objective in the wolf is more than what is material.
This invisible being which we only grasp as a concept in ordinary life, this it is which we see after death. We do not see the white colour of the lamb or hear the sounds it makes, but we see that which works as an invisible power within the lamb, which is just as real, and actually exists for one who lives in the spiritual world. For on the same spot where a lamb stands, there stands also a real spiritual entity, and this we behold after death. And so it is with all the phenomena of our physical surroundings. There we see the sun differently, the moon differently everything appears different; and we bring something of all this with us, when we enter a new existence through birth. When therefore we are seized with the feeling that we have seen all this before in a different way, then, with the amazement, with the wonder which we feel, knowledge descends to us.
It is quite different, however, when we observe the actions of a human being, for in this case we have to do with conscience. If we wish to know what conscience is; we must turn our attention to an occurrence in life which we can observe without clairvoyance. We must become aware of the moment of falling asleep. This we can learn to do without clairvoyance, and what may thus be experienced can be attained by everyone. When we are on the point of falling asleep, everything begins to lose its sharp outlines, colours grow pale, sounds not only become fainter, but even seem to recede, to be far away; they come to us as if from a great distance, and we can describe their increasing faintness as a "receding". This entire process this "becoming less distinct" of the world of the senses is like a transformation, as when mists are gathering. Our limbs also grow weaker. We feel in them something which we did not feel before in a waking condition; it is as if they were endowed with weight, with heaviness. During our waking life were we aware of these things we should in reality feel that our legs with which we walk, or our hands which we raise, have no weight whatever for us. Our hand lifts and carries a hundredweight ... why is this hundredweight heavy? Or our hand lifts and carries itself ... why do we feel no weight at all? My hand belongs to me; for this reason I do not feel its heaviness. The hundredweight, however, is outside of me and has weight because it is not a part of myself.
Let us imagine that a being from Mars were to descend to the earth without knowing anything about the conditions here, and that, the first thing which it beheld was a human being, carrying a weight in each hand. To begin with, the Mars-being would necessarily believe that these two weights belonged to the human being as a part of his hands, a part of his entire being. If however it were later forced to realise that the man feels a difference between the hundredweight and his hand, it would naturally be astonished. It is really true that we only feel what is outside of us as weight. Thus when man is about to fall asleep and begins to feel his limbs as something heavy, this is a sign that he is leaving his body, passing out of his physical body.
It is now a question of observing a subtile nuance which occurs in the moment when the limbs begin to grow heavy. A very strange feeling then arises. It manifests itself by saying to us, as it were "You have done this!" or "You have failed to do that!" The deeds of the past day thus immerge like a living conscience. And if there is something among them which we cannot approve of, we toss about on our couch and cannot go to sleep. If however we are able to feel contented about our deeds, then a blissful moment comes over us as we fall asleep and we say to ourselves "Ah, could it but always remain thus!" Then follows a sudden jerk; as it were. This is the moment when man passes out of his physical and etheric bodies, and he is then in the spiritual world.
Let us examine more exactly the moment in which this living conscience, as we may call it, arises within us. Without having the strength to really do anything sensible, we toss about on our couch. This is an unhealthy state and prevents us from falling asleep. It occurs when, on approaching sleep, we are about to leave the physical plane in order to ascend into another world, which however will not receive what we call "a bad conscience." We cannot fall asleep because we are thrown back again by the world which we must now enter. The saying that an action should be considered from the point of view of conscience means, therefore, nothing else than a foreboding of what we must be like in the future, as human beings, in order that we may enter the spiritual world.
Thus in amazement we find an expression of what we have seen at an earlier time, while conscience is the expression of a future perception of the spiritual world. Conscience forewarns us as to whether we shall shrink back, or find blessedness, when we are able to behold our actions in Devachan. It is thus a kind of prophetic presentiment of the way in which we shall experience our deeds after death.
Amazement and desire for knowledge on the one hand, and conscience on the other, are living witnesses of the spiritual world. They cannot be explained without taking the spiritual worlds into account. One who can experience awe at the phenomena of the world, who can feel reverence and wonder for these phenomena, will be more easily inclined to become an Anthroposophist than many others. It is the more developed souls who are able to wonder ever more and more. For the less wonder a soul is able to experience, the less developed it is.
Now it is true that man approaches all his daily experiences the everyday occurrences of life with much less wonder than he feels, for instance, when admiring the starry heavens in all their splendour. But the higher development of the soul, in the true sense, begins only when we can wonder at the smallest flower, the tiniest petal, the most insignificant beetle or worm, just as much as at the greatest events in the cosmos. If we go to the root of these things, they are indeed very strange. As a rule man is easily inclined to demand an explanation for things which effect him in a sensational way. Those who live in the vicinity of a volcano, for instance, will seek an explanation for the causes of volcanic eruptions, because they must pay particular heed to these things, and therefore devote more attention to them than to everyday proceedings. Indeed people who live far away from volcanoes also attempt to find an explanation concerning them, because they find such occurrences startling and sensational. But when a man enters life with a soul so constituted that he is amazed at all things, because he divines something spiritual in everything about him, he will then be no more amazed at a volcano than perhaps at the little bubbles and tiny craters which he observes in his cup of milk or coffee at the breakfast-table. He is just as much interested in small things as in the greatness of a volcanic eruption.
To be able to approach everything with wonder is a reminiscence of our perception before birth.
To be able to approach all our deeds with conscience means to have a living premonition that every deed which we enact will appear to us in the future in a different form.
Those who feel thus are more than others predestined to find their way to spiritual science.
We live to-day in a time when many things come to meet us in life which can be explained only through spiritual science. Certain things defy every other explanation. And human beings react in very different ways in regard to these. Without doubt we can observe the most varied characters in human beings to-day, and yet among these widely differing nuances of character we meet with two main types.
Those who belong to the first type may be described as thoughtful natures, as those inclining more to observation, who can constantly feel wonder and the stirring of conscience. Many a sorrow, many a dark melancholy mood may take possession of these souls as the result of an unsatisfied longing for explanation. A sensitive conscience can make life much more difficult.
But we find still another type of person in the present time. This type consists of those who do not wish to hear anything whatever about such explanations of the world. For them, all the facts brought forward by spiritual investigation are dreadfully tedious; they prefer to go ahead and lead a robust active life, without asking for explanations, and if you only start to mention them they begin to yawn. It is indeed true that in such natures conscience stirs less easily than in others.
But how is it that such polaric characters exist? Spiritual science is prepared to enter into this question and to show why the one type of character reveals, through its thoughtfulness, a thirst for knowledge, whereas the other is bent only upon enjoying life without asking for any explanation.
If we test the whole scope of the human soul, by means of spiritual investigation and here only a few indications can be given, as it would require many hours to go into things more thoroughly we find that many of those who have a more contemplative nature cannot live unless they are able to throw light upon the fact that in previous incarnations they actually knew in their souls something about the truth of reincarnation. There are still countless people upon the earth even to-day who know about reincarnation and for whom it is an absolute reality. We need only think of the Asiatics.
In other words, those who have to-day a thoughtful nature link their present life even if indirectly with another life in a previous embodiment when they still knew of reincarnation.
The other more robust natures, however, have come over from a former life in which they knew nothing of repeated lives on earth. They feel no impulse either to burden themselves very greatly with conscience concerning their deeds in life, or to trouble much about explanations. A great many people here in the West are so constituted, and it is even the characteristic of western culture that people have, so to speak, forgotten their previous lives on earth. Yes they have forgotten them; but our whole culture stands to-day at a turning-point when the memory of past lives on earth will awaken again. Those who live at the present time go foreward therefore into a future which will be characterised by the re-establishment of a connection with the spiritual world.
This ability can be found in only a few people today, but in the course of the twentieth century it will quite definitely become a universal faculty of mankind. And it will be thus ... Let us imagine that someone has done this or that, and is afterwards tormented by his conscience. So it is to-day. In the future, however, when the spiritual connection has been re-established, he who has committed the one or the other deed will feel the desire to shrink back from it as if blindfold[ed]. And there will arise then before him as a picture as a dream-picture, but a living dream-picture something which will have to occur in the future because of this deed. And people will say to themselves when they experience such a picture "Yes, it is I who am experiencing this, but I have not yet experienced what I see there."
For all those who have heard nothing of spiritual science, this will appear as something terrible. Those, however who have prepared themselves for these events, which will be experienced in time by all human beings, will say to themselves "It is true, I have not experienced this yet, but I shall experience it in the future as the karmic compensation of the deed which I have just done."
We stand to-day as if in the anti-chamber of that time when the karmic compensation of deeds will appear to human beings in the form of prophetic dream-pictures. And now imagine this experience as becoming ever stronger and stronger in the course of time, and you will have before you the man of the future who will behold how his deeds are karmicly judged.
But how is it possible that human beings will be capable of perceiving this karmic compensation? This is connected with the fact that men of former times had no conscience, but were tormented by the Furies after committing an unworthy deed. So it was with ancient clairvoyance; but all this is past. Then came the time when men no longer saw the Furies, the time of transition, when all that the Furies had formerly performed appeared from within as conscience. And now we are gradually approaching a time when we shall be able to see once more to see the karmic compensation of our deeds. The fact that man has once won for himself the power of conscience makes it possible for him to see consciously in the spiritual world henceforeward.
Just as certain people living at the present time have become thoughtful natures because they won certain powers in former incarnations which now reveal themselves as wonder, as a kind of memory of these earlier lives, just so they will take certain powers with them into their next incarnation if they now acquire a knowledge of the spiritual worlds. Those, however, who refuse to accept an explanation of the law of reincarnation at the present time, will fare very badly in the future world. For such souls these facts will be a terrible reality.
To-day we are living in a period of history when people can still cope with life, even if they have no explanation of it from the point of view of the super-sensible worlds. But this period which has once been permitted, so to speak, by the cosmic powers will draw to an end, and those who now have no connection with the spiritual world will, in their next life, awaken in such a way that the world into which they are reborn will be incomprehensible to them. And when, at death, they leave this uncomprehended physical existence once more, they will have no understanding for the spiritual world either, into which they grow after death. They will, of course, enter the spiritual world, but they will not be able to grasp it. They will find themselves then in surroundings which they cannot understand, which do not seem to belong to them, and torment them as only a bad conscience can torment.
And when again they descend into another incarnation, it will be equally as bad, for they will have all manner of instincts and passions, and as they can develop no feeling of wonder, they will live in the midst of these as in illusions and hallucinations. The materialists of to-day are approaching a future in which they will be tormented in a terrible way by illusions and hallucinations; for what they think in this Life, they will then experience in the form of illusions and hallucinations.
We may picture this to ourselves quite concretely. Let us imagine, for instance, that to-day two people walk along the street together. One is a materialist, the other a non-materialist. The latter mentions some facts about the spiritual world. The materialist however says, or thinks "Oh, that is all nonsense! Such things are only illusions!" Indeed, for him they are illusions, but for the one who has just spoken of the spiritual world they are by no means illusions. After death however the materialist will experience the consequences, and with still greater force later during his next life on earth. Then he will feel the spiritual worlds as something which torments him, like a living reproach. During his life in Kama-Loka between death and a new birth he will, so to speak, feel no difference between Kama-Loka and Devachan. And when he is reborn and the spiritual world arises before him, as has been described, it will appear to him as something unreal, as an illusion, an hallucination.
Spiritual science is not something which is there to satisfy mere curiosity. Not because we are simply more curious than others concerning the super-sensible world are we gathered together here, but because we inwardly sense, to a greater or less degree, that the human beings of the future will not be able to live without spiritual science. All other endeavors which do not take this fact into account follow a course which leads to decadence.
Yet things are so arranged that those who now refuse to accept spiritual science will nevertheless be given the opportunity of coming in contact with it in future incarnations. Forerunners are necessary however. And those who, through their Karma, already have a longing for spiritual science to-day have thereby the possibility of becoming such forerunners. This opportunity comes to them simply because forerunners must be there, and they must become such. The others who, because of their Karma, do not now come to spiritual science, even though they would not reject it, will see the longing for spiritual science arise out of the universal Karma of humanity later on.