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The Nature of Spiritual Science and Its Significance for the Present
GA 60

20 October 1910, Berlin

Translated by Antje Heymanns and Norbert Mulholland

For many years I have attempted to give lectures here during the winter months on a subject I call Spiritual Science. This winter again, as part of the announced lectures, we will focus on the facts of the spiritual world from the perspective of Spiritual Science. We will look at what belongs to the fundamental questions of existence: The relationship between life and death, sleep and wakefulness, human souls and animal souls, the spirit of man and of animals and the spirit in the plant realm. Then we will look at the nature of human development throughout the various stages of life; through childhood, youth and the later life years, and the part that education plays in forming a person’s main character. The life of the spirit will be illuminated by looking at great individualities of human evolution—at Zarathustra, Moses, Galilei, Goethe. An attempt will be made to show the relationship of what we call Spiritual Science to natural science, using examples from astronomy and geology. Subsequently, from the sources of Spiritual Science itself, we will try to tell what it has to say about the riddle of life.

Each year these contemplations were preceded by a kind of general orientation. We want to follow this custom again today by speaking about the significance of Spiritual Science; its nature and relationship, or its task in regard to the various spiritual needs of the present.

In the sense we speak about Spiritual Science here, one might say that it is still quite an unpopular topic today in wide circles of humanity. Indeed, one speaks about Geisteswissenschaft,1Translator’s comment: Literal translation of Geisteswissenschaft from German is ‘Spiritual Science’, in English called ‘humanities’. or ‘humanities’ from standpoints different to those that we must take. So, for example, one understands ‘history’ to be a subject that belongs to the field of humanities—but one also finds history in other scientific fields of the present. Here we want to speak in a different sense than usual about Spiritual Science. Today, when one talks about Spiritual Science’ and applies this to history, then one has to at least acknowledge that, apart from what is accessible to human observation through sensory and intellectual experiences, there are yet other major trends of history which can be considered. These trends show themselves as forces working in the stream of world happenings, and affect, as it were, the fates of individual peoples and individual states. Of course, one speaks about general ideas in history and in human life. One who thinks about what this means will soon realise that abstract ideas are being referred to; to which one appeals when talking about the nature and the strength of what guides human destiny. In a certain respect these are general ideas with which human cognitive faculty can gain an insightful relationship.

Spiritual Science is spoken of here in a different sense, in that the spiritual world is assumed to be a world that is essential, just as the human world is essential within physical existence. It will be shown that if one surmounts with the human faculty of knowledge beyond outer sense observations and intellectual experience, and goes to the guiding forces of human and cosmic existence, then one may not only arrive at abstractions, at sapless and feeble ideas; instead at something essential; at something that is alive, meaningful, spiritually imbued by existence as is the essence of man itself. So, we speak about a spiritual world with real existence here. This is exactly what makes Spiritual Science unpopular from the standpoint of the widest circles of our present-day spiritual movement. And still, the least of what one calls those who pursue such spiritual research is blabberer, dreamer or fantasist. And even today it is quite common to say that everything which presents itself as strictly methodical, or appears or wants to appear to be truly scientific on this basis, is quite dubious.

Great, tremendous progress has always had a strong suggestive effect on humanity: on all thinking, feeling and emotion. And if we look at the great advances that have been made recently in human life—we could almost say in the last centuries—, these were not in the area of Spiritual Science about which we want to talk here, but rather in the area which humanity is so proud of today—and to emphasise, rightfully so—and where there is still great hope for the future development of humanity. The progress of the last centuries up to the present time, lies in a field that grows out of the natural sciences. When we think about how enormous all of this is that today has been won not only theoretically for human knowledge in the field of natural sciences, but which promises to still be gained on the basis of natural sciences—in addition, when one weighs up the great significance of natural science achievements for external life—then one must say the blessing, the meaningfulness of natural science progress could and must have exerted a suggestive power on the human mind in our time. Even so, this suggestive effect also expressed itself in another direction. If it had solely expressed itself so that the human mind, faced with immense progress, would foremost have felt something like a kind of worldly veneration, who could even say a word against it?

However, this suggestive power has also expressed itself in another direction; namely, not only acknowledging what natural science research, and progress derived from it, signifies for our time; but it also led in a direction where, in the widest circles, the belief arose that all knowledge, all insights of humanity, can only be won on the basis of what is acknowledged today as natural science.

Based on this belief people feel entitled to conclude that Spiritual Science methods are contradictory to natural science methods. And thus, for someone standing on natural scientific ground, it would be impossible to even talk about ‘research’ in relation to the spiritual world. Therefore, a prejudice spread in the widest circles that Spiritual Science must be rejected, as it stands in opposition to the legitimate claims of the natural sciences.

It is noticeable that by raising this objection something extraordinarily difficult to weigh-up has been dropped into the equation. The natural scientific method, it is stated, is one whose research results and findings, can be verified by anyone at any time. Also, that in the process of gaining these insights, nothing of what prevails in the subjective human being as feeling; sympathy or antipathy, longing or desires, can play a role.

The prerequisite that nothing is allowed to interfere includes ‘wanting to achieve a particular result’. The human element must be excluded from research when it comes to the results of natural scientific research and only the pure objectivity of things is allowed to speak.

Spiritual Science cannot make this demand so easily. For someone who is quick to make a judgment about the general validity of this demand, the mere fact that Spiritual Science cannot comply with it will suffice as a reason to reject it. Why is this the case? The objects of natural science which it researches can be found around everyone. It begins with something that can be placed in front of anyone and about which anyone, once confronted by an object, can think about it by applying natural scientific methods. Moreover, the qualifications with which a person approaches something presented to him in the field of vision in his surroundings, do not seem to matter. This is exactly what is expressed by the general demand: Natural scientific knowledge needs to be verifiable by any human being at any given point in time.

True Spiritual Science is not able to proceed in the same way as natural science to obtain its results. First, it is not able to say that its results could be reproduced by any human being at any moment in time. This is because Spiritual Science has to presuppose that its research results will be gained by someone who does not see his inner being as something static, as something complete, who doesn’t see his subjective nature as finished but who says to himself: My subjective nature, the whole sum of my soul existence with which I am able to face this world, is not closed-off, is not finished, it can be developed, the soul-life can be deepened. The soul-life can proceed so that whatever one finds—when focussing the senses on the external world and the intellect on what the senses say—is only, as it were, a foundation for further experiences of the soul. Further soul-experiences come about when a soul immerses itself in itself, works on itself, considers the immediate comprehension of life the starting point, and then, through forces that initially slumber within it but which can be brought out, wrestles through levels of existence. These forces cannot be looked at in such a way that they can be checked by a physical eye.

Thus, what a spiritual researcher has to go through in preparation for his studies is an inner wrestling of the soul, that is completely independent from anything one has within oneself. So, if one demands of science that a human being should not contribute anything to the results that are externally presented to him, then there can be no question of Spiritual Science. But if someone reflects a little and asks himself: which part of the demands made by Spiritual Science is the most important? Then one could say to oneself, that its results should be applicable to all human beings, they should not be subject to personal arbitrariness or to someone’s individuality; and should not only be significant for the inner life of this or that person, but should be significant for all human beings.

This is the importance of all that is scientific: that it is not only valid for someone who studies the scientific topic, but also, once a topic has been researched, this may lead to insights that could be valid for all people.

Now, if it were true that what has been characterised as human development is only subjective and only valid for one or another human being, and is thus only a personal belief, then one could not really speak of Spiritual Science. But it will become apparent to us this winter that this inner life of man—the wrestling of the soul with forces that are at first dormant but are able to awaken—unfolds and develops and then leads him from experience to experience; that this soul-life can rise up to a level where its experiences will have a very specific characteristic.

If we contemplate human life, as it takes place inside the human soul, it is at first a completely personal one—this way for one, that for another. Anyone possessing healthy self-reflection will be clear about this or that arising in his soul as sympathy or antipathy, that it is, as it were, only a personal touch, and that this is the case and how it is so. But the inner experience leads to a certain point, where especially a methodically driven self-realisation, a pure self-knowledge uninfluenced by anything personal, will have to acknowledge to oneself: the ‘personal’ has just been cast off, forms a special area. But then one will reach a certain point where for the inner experience, for the super-sensible experience arbitrariness also stops, exactly the same way it stops if one faces this or that sense perceptible phenomena and one cannot think as one likes but must think according to the object. Thus the human being also comes in his inner soul to a certain sphere, to a certain area, where he becomes clearly aware that his own personal subjectivity no longer speaks. But that now super-sensible beings and forces, who are not perceptible to the physical senses, speak and for whom his individuality has as little importance as for what the external sensory objects say.

This insight must indeed be gained if we want to talk about the right to call what must be said about the spiritual world ‘science’ at all.

Again, these winter lectures are meant to prove that the research of the spiritual world can be called science.

Therefore, one must say Spiritual Science is essentially founded on what can be researched through the human soul, when it has reached a point in its inner struggles and experiences where the personal no longer has a say in the contemplations of the spiritual world, but where the soul allows the spiritual world itself to tell of its own peculiarities.

If one then wants to compare Spiritual Science with natural science, some might say: there is still an important criterion missing from Spiritual Science, namely, the ability to make a convincing impression on all people which natural science can, because one is aware that wherever natural scientific results appear, even if you have not done this research or seen it yourself, one could, if one went to an observatory or into a laboratory and used a telescope or a microscope, recognise things in the same way as the person who has informed you about it.

Furthermore, it could be said: If, on the path of Spiritual Science, a proof is a purely inner matter, and the soul is wrestling with itself until it says, ‘now you will contribute nothing from your personality to what the objects tell you’—it still remains an individual wrestling. And to one who gains certain insights in this way, or with whom the spiritual researcher shares his results, it should be said: ‘For me these results remain an unknown territory, until I myself ascend to the same point!’

As will be shown, this also is an incorrect objection. Certainly, this lonely wrestling of the human soul, this uncovering of dormant soul forces is part of ascending to the spiritual world, where it objectively speaks to us. But the spiritual world is like this: when Spiritual Scientific results are shared, they do not remain ineffective. Communications by a human soul, which are tested through Spiritual Science research, and exchanged with other souls, can, in a certain sense, be verified by every soul—not like in a laboratory where one can see what the other has found—but in such a way that one can gain insight. For in every soul lives an impartial sense of truth, a healthy logic, a healthy rationality. And when the results of Spiritual Science are clothed in healthy logic that appeals to our healthy sense of truth, then in every soul, or at least in every unbiased human soul, a chord can resonate with the communicating soul.

It can be said that every soul is pre-disposed within itself, even if it has not yet devoted itself to the markedly, lonely wrestling, to take into itself the communication from Spiritual Science by way of an unbiased logic and a healthy sense of truth. Quite certainly it has to be admitted that in the widest circles, where this or that of Spiritual Science is carried on today, that the same healthy sense of truth and healthy logic does not prevail everywhere where communications of spiritual research are received—but then, this is an inadequacy of every spiritual movement. In principle, however, what has been said is correct. Yes, in principle one should even pay attention to the fact that it must lead to error upon error when someone accepts light-heartedly and with blind faith what nowadays is often brought to humanity as Spiritual Science. Whoever stands truly grounded in Spiritual Science feels strictly obliged to share logically and rationally what he has to say, so that it actually can be verified by a healthy sense of truth and by applying logic. We have now characterised the nature of Spiritual Science from one side, by showing how its results need to be obtained.

That spirit exists as an objective fact can only be proven by Spiritual Science itself. But it should be pointed out now that this Science will lead to what we call the real, the true content of the spiritual world, a content that is filled in a living way with something essential, just as a human being himself is filled with an inner essence.

Spiritual Science is, from this point of view, clear about the fact that all external, physical-sensory existence, all existence about which the senses and rational experiences speak to us, are ultimately born out of the spiritual world. And human beings, like all other things, are born out of this spiritual world, have developed out of it, so that behind the manifest world, behind what we ordinarily call the physical external existence, the region of the spiritual world extends. Now, when Spiritual Science gradually begins to demonstrate through its observations what it is like in this spiritual world, how the spiritual world is the foundation of our manifest world, then in many circles of our time, an aversion, an antipathy appears, which at the beginning of today’s considerations was characterised as follows: at the present time, in wide circles, Spiritual Science is a rather unpopular matter. And it is not at all difficult to understand, that Spiritual Science still faces enormous resistance today. This is in fact quite obvious and not only because something that is in a certain respect newly assimilated in cultural life—like Spiritual Science and like all small and great achievements of humanity—has always been treated with a certain amount of rejection. It is so because, indeed, there is much in the area of concepts, which man today obtains as a result of natural scientific observations, that necessarily cause someone who beliefs himself to be firmly grounded in natural science, to get entangled in contradictions when he hears what Spiritual Science says. One who is grounded in Spiritual Science has no doubt at all that, with some justification, hundreds upon hundreds of so-called rebuttals of Spiritual Science could be put forward. Only in parentheses, I would like to add that I myself will soon give two lectures at different places (and here also) so that the question raised can be clarified. One of these will be titled, ‘How do you refute Theosophy?’ and the other one ‘How do you justify Theosophy?’2‘How do you refute Theosophy? How do you justify Theosophy?’ Rudolf Steiner talked about this topic for the first time on 19 and 25 March 1911 in Prague, and later at various locations in Germany. The Berlin lectures were later published in the series of Architect-House-Lectures. This is an experiment to show how someone who is grounded in Spiritual Science is able to collate absolutely everything that can be brought up against it. Yes, I will go further and say even more than has already been stated against it. The refutations of Spiritual Science, as one usually speaks of refutations today, are not particularly difficult in regard to their conclusions. It is easy to disprove spiritual scientific research.

I do not wish to compare these refutations directly, but, in order to elucidate what I wish to say, I want to take up something that one often notices when reading works by certain philosophers about the philosophy of Hegel. I do not want to speak here about the significance of Hegel’s philosophy, what is true and what is error; we want to leave that aside. Yet among the Hegel experts there will be few who would not admit that with Hegel they have to do with an eminent spirit. Now there is a strange sentence in Hegel’s writings which makes a deep impression, so to speak, on those who light-heartedly want to refute Hegel. This sentence reads; ‘All that is real is rational!’ Now imagine, as it were, the inner laughter such a sentence will trigger in one who likes to refute! A philosopher, who is supposed to be great, talks such nonsense; ‘What is real is rational!’ One only needs to cast a glance at the world to see how irrational such a sentence is! There is a simple method to disprove the truth of this sentence, and that consists in oneself committing an utterly foolish act. Because then one can state concerning this act that it is quite certainly not rational.

Should the fact that refutation is easy also lead to one taking it lightly and easily take it as meaningful? This is a completely different question, which might be answered by considering the following: Would Hegel really have been so stupid—regardless of how one stands in regards to Hegel—that he would not have realised what could be said against this sentence? Would he really have believed that no man would be able to commit an absolutely stupid act? Should one not rather feel compelled to explore what Hegel meant to say with this sentence, and realise that with such a refutation one is unable to undermine what he meant.

This could also be the case with many things regarding Spiritual Science. To take something concrete: Spiritual Science must presuppose—this can only be mentioned today—that what is recognised in the human being as the tools of thinking, of imagination, of feeling and of willing, namely the nervous system with the brain, has been produced out of something spiritual. The brain and the nervous system are instruments of something essential that cannot be demonstrated in the sensory world, but must be investigated using the characteristic methods of Spiritual Science. Spiritual Science must therefore step back from what external science, relying on sensory phenomena, says about the brain and the nervous system, to something that works in the human being as soul-spiritual itself, and which can no longer be researched by means of the senses—it can only be explored on the inner paths of the soul. Now it really is child’s play to refute what spiritual research tells about the supersensible which underlies the human brain. One could say; everything you say is itself only a product of the brain. If you do not recognise this, then observe how abilities increase according to the development phase. In lower animals the mental abilities are quite imperfect. In higher animals, and particularly in higher mammals, they are already more significant and more perfected. In man they appear most perfect, because his brain has reached the greatest perfection. This shows that what appears as spiritual life grows out of the brain. And if you still do not believe this, then approach someone who is able to show you how during certain cases of illness certain parts of the brain become ineffective, and certain abilities, as it were, can no longer be exercised by a person—so that certain parts of the brain are eroded and the spiritual life gets switched off. This shows you, how bit by bit your spiritual life can be eroded through what is evidently an organ!

Why then, do you continue to talk about spiritual beings, that are behind the manifested things? It really is child’s play to make this objection. However, it must seem obvious today that the objection is not based on natural scientific results, but has been derived from a suggestion, which for many people has been constructed out of certain natural scientific theories. This is all related to the fact that our time is under the suggestive power of the idea that truth and knowledge can only be gained by directing the senses outward, and the rational mind lit up by what has been gained. In relation to Spiritual Science, it must be said, that even if these results of natural science must cause refutations of the results of Spiritual Science to just spring forth from everywhere, one can stress that on the other hand, there is a deep need, a deep longing in our present time, to hear something from those lands about which Spiritual Science knows how to report. Simultaneously, a deep longing to hear of these has emerged and is alive and consciously present in a group of people. In a large part of humanity it lies dormant, as it were, beneath the surface of consciousness, but it will become more and more apparent. The need for the results of Spiritual Science will steadily increase. This longing, this need for spiritual scientific results will appear, as it were, as a side-effect of the admiration, of the devotion to natural scientific achievements. Precisely because the achievements of the natural sciences must necessarily turn man's gaze outwards, the longing for the results of the Spiritual Science arises within him as a counterbalance. As it developed in this regard in the nineteenth and in our [20th] century, we have arrived within evolution at a completely different viewpoint from the one which humanity had even a century ago. If one wants to speak about the value of spiritual scientific research for the present, then it is significant to recall before our souls, that even a century ago, great spirits did not feel the need to speak about spiritual scientific results in the same way as is planned to happen in this lecture series. Great individualities only set the tone for humanity. In a certain sense they only express the needs of the entire age, including the needs of lesser individualities. Such a thing can be clearly illustrated to us, if we take a look at these eminent individualities. It can be said rightly that a century ago a person like Goethe did not at all feel the need to speak about spiritual scientific results, as it is done today on the basis of Spiritual Science. When the question arose to talk about something that is beyond the external manifestations, Goethe, like so many other people, has often pleaded that this is a matter of belief and could not be a strict science. And Goethe also often expressed that essentially the communication of generally valid results on this basis could hardly be very fruitful if they were communicated by one person to another.

In the course of one century we have progressed the overall development of humanity, not only in such a way that Goethe lived in a century which neither had telegraphs, telephones, railways, and no such prospects as those offered by aeronautics; but also in relation to spiritual development, we are facing results that are different from those of Goethe’s time. You can see this in a specific example. There is a beautiful talk Goethe had with a certain person, Falk , at the occasion of Wieland’s death. There he spoke about those regions from which a certain insight must be derived of that which transcends birth and death in the human being, which does not decay with the sensory shell, which is immortal as opposed to the mortal part of the human being. The immediate occasion of Wieland’s death, who was so highly regarded by Goethe, urged him to express himself in a popular way to a person like Falk, who showed him understanding for this. What he said there is highly significant when we address the question about the significance of Spiritual Science for the present; “...You have long known that ideas that lack a firm foundation in the sensory world, for all their other value, carry no conviction for me, because I want to know about nature, not merely assume and believe. As far as the personal continuance of our souls after death is concerned, on my path this is my position: it is in no way in contradiction with the observations I have made over many years about the condition of our, and of all beings in nature; on the contrary, it even emerges from them with new conclusiveness. How much or how little this personality deserves a continued existence is a different question and a matter that we have to surrender to God. Preliminarily, I will first remark this: I assume different classes and hierarchical orders of the primordial constituents of all beings, as it were the starting points of all phenomena in nature, that I wish to call souls, because with these an ensouling of everything starts, or, even better call them ‘monads’—let us retain this Leibnizian expression for ever! There is hardly a better term for expressing the simplicity of the simplest being. Now some of these monads or starting points are, as experience shows, so small, so insignificant, that they are at most suitable for some subordinate service and existence; in contrast others are really strong and powerful. The latter therefore tend to pull everything that approaches them into their circle and transform it into something belonging to them, that is, into a body, a plant, an animal, or even higher, into a star. They continue to do this until the small or large world, whose intention lies spiritually within them, also becomes physically visible externally. Actually, only the latter I want to call souls. It follows from this, that there are world-monads, world-souls, like ant-monads, ant-souls, and that both are related in their origin, if not completely one, in their original being. Every sun, every planet carries within itself a higher intention, a higher mission, by virtue of which its developments must come about just as regularly and according to the same law that governs the development of a rosebush through leaf, stem and crown. You might want to call this an idea or a monad, as you like, I have nothing against it: suffice that this intention exists in nature invisibly and prior to the visible development out of it...”3Goethe’s conversation with Falk on 25 January 1813: Flodard Freiherr von Biedermann: Goethe’s conversations—except those with Eckermann. Collected works, Leipzig Edition 1909, Volume 2, page 169 ff.

In a certain sense, Goethe is speaking then about what we will also speak about more often in these lectures: the reincarnation of the human soul. And he remarks, that after everything what he himself formed as conviction about the human world, the animal realm, and so on, this does not contradict what he has established as science. Now it is easy to imagine what such a statement in the mouth of Goethe says, when one remembers that Goethe, in the year 1784 made a discovery that on its own would have been sufficient to make his name famous until the furthest times, even if he would not have done anything else: The discovery of the so-called inter-maxillary bone in the human upper jaw. Man has in the upper jaw, just as animals do, an inter-maxillary bone. Just at the time when Goethe began to undertake natural scientific studies, this was generally denied. To distinguish between humans and animals one searched for differences in the external features only, and thought animals had in their upper jaw an inter-maxillary bone whilst human beings didn’t have one. This would distinguish the human structure from animal structures. Goethe didn’t want to concede, could not believe, that the difference between humans and animals would lie in this subordinate feature. And so he began to use all known means to show that the so-called inter-maxillary bone4Translator’s comment: Today called the premaxillary bone. is not missing in a human being; although it fuses already shortly after birth, it exists as part of the initial structure. He succeeded to show clearly that the distinction between humans and animals does not lie in such an external criterion. From this starting point Goethe explored all areas of natural science, and was well acquainted with the scientific thinking of his time. Indeed, he was so far ahead of his time, that Darwinians, who wanted to reinterpret Goethe in Darwinian terms, can claim today: Goethe was a precursor of Darwin. Although Goethe was rooted in the science of his time and went beyond it, he could still maintain his views about the immortal part of the human being, which were reminiscent of reincarnation and actually quite compatible with his scientific ideas. What Goethe was then able to say, could basically be said by anyone. Other researchers who sought to acquire the knowledge they needed for life in a scientific manner were also in the same position. Characteristic of this is that, based on Haeckel, people invoked a great deed of Kant, namely his founding of the mechanical world-view, by referring to the “Universal Natural History and Theory of the Heavens or an attempt to account for the Constitutional and Mechanical Origin of the entire Universe,” written by Kant in 1775. You only need to take the ‘Reclam’5Translator’s comment: Reclam is a German publishing house, established in 1828, well-known for its small sized, mainly classic books, and for its favourable prices. booklet, look at the ending and then ask: How do those who stand on the mere ground of Haeckelianism relate to Kant, when he speaks about the immortality of the human soul; about the great secrets of the human soul; about the prospect of habitability of other celestial bodies; and the continued life of the human soul on other planets? How do such followers of Haeckel relate to the possibility of reincarnation of the human being as it appears in this script by Kant that was published in 1775? Today one quotes things in such a way, that one would have to be astonished if the same people, who refer to Kant, would have really read those things. Things are different today from how they were a century or a century and a half ago.

It was a need of that time that one spoke about the spiritual things of life in a certain way, that did not want to have anything to do with science, because it was felt that this speaking did not contradict what can be claimed by science. Anyone who allows science from the time of the turn of the eighteenth to the nineteenth century to affect them, feels that if they only absorb science through popular descriptions, then they could speak like Goethe: “The convictions I myself have formed about a spiritual life, even if they are only a personal belief, contradict in no way what is offered as science today”.

But things have changed, and today things are getting very complicated in relation to science. It must be remembered that, after Goethe's death, the great discoveries of Schleiden6Matthias Jacob Schleiden, 1805-1881, Botanist, Professor in Jena and Dorpat. ‘The Plant and its Life’, 1848. and Schwann7Theodor Schwann, 1810-1882, Anatomist and Physiologist, Professor in Loewen and Luettich; ‘Microscopical researches into the accordance in the Structure and Growth of Animals and Plants’, 1839. concerning the human and animal cell were made and that it was only then that an elementary organism presented itself to the senses. What is the need to talk about ‘life on different celestial bodies’ and so on, when in an animal or a plant one can see how bodies are built up through the interaction of purely material visible cells!

Then came other enormous achievements. We only need to ponder the impact on human thinking that was made by the introduction of spectral analysis by Kirchhoff8Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, 1824–1887, Physicist, Professor in Breslau, Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1860 he discovered, together with Bunsen, spectral analysis. Researches on the Solar Spectrum and the Spectra of Chemical Elements.,1861-1863. and Bunsen,9Robert Bunsen, 1811–1899, Chemist, he was, inter alia, Professor in Marburg and Heidelberg, ‘Collected Treatises, 3 Volumes, 1904. which extended man’s view over distant worlds, and which allowed one to conclude that material existence as we find it here on Earth, is the same as that on the furthest celestial bodies—so that one can talk about a unity of substance within the entire cosmic existence. And each day adds to what we can encounter in this area. I could point to hundreds and hundreds of things that have had a revolutionary effect, not on the world of reality, but on people’s imagination. In this way the conviction had to arise that no one has the right to talk about what natural scientific methods offer in any way other than this: Wait for what natural scientific research can tell you about the foundations of life, about the origin of the spiritual life from the activity of the brain, and do not fantasize by talking about a spiritual world that supposedly underlies everything! All of this is only too easily understood. Thus has changed the persuasiveness of natural sciences in people’s view. In this regard Goethe really is a forerunner of Darwin. But despite of this he rose, in accordance with the spirit of his time, through his natural scientific research from the development of living beings, from imperfection, to perfection; to a purely spiritual worldview that definitely searches for the supersensory, for the spirit behind all sense perception. People who proceed in the same way in our time believe, that the results of natural science urge them to stop short of what these results should be; and that everything that belongs to the realm of the spirit seemingly bursts forth from the manifest background.

Today, a person cannot speak anymore in the same way as he could have spoken a century ago, about what he, through his personal conviction knows or believes to know, or what he has learned about the super-sensory world—that this does not contradict natural scientific research results. Instead, it seems that it must quite strongly contradict them—and not only for the isolated, serious, dignified truth-seeker, and striving human being does it seem so. If this is the case then we have to say: For our present time, the power of conviction, the reasons for conviction which could be brought forward only a century ago, or even later, without contradicting external scientific results—are no longer directly decisive. Today, more weightier impulses are needed to uphold what is said about the super-sensible world against the strictly scientific results of science. What we consider ourselves authorised to believe about the spiritual world, we have to be able to present in the same way, to obtain in the same objective manner as the natural scientific results are obtained—yet on a different foundation. Only a Spiritual Science that works with the same logic, with the same healthy sense of truth as natural science does, will be felt as capable of standing its ground next to a natural science that has progressed enormously. When considering this, one understands in what sense Spiritual Science has become a necessity for the present time. One also understands that this Spiritual Science alone can meet the longings, about which we have talked. These longings are present because what we have just characterised affects many human souls unconsciously—especially among the best truth-seekers, and in a field where one would not have expected it, considering how the human urge for knowledge strives beyond what has previously always been said in the field of science.

Certainly the mathematical field, the field of geometry seems to be one, where what is gained appears to be secure in its application to the sensory world. Who would believe with a light heart, so to speak, that anyone could claim that what the world has to say about mathematics, about geometry, could in any way be questioned. And yet it is characteristic that in the course of the nineteenth century there were minds who brought themselves to invent geometries and mathematics through strictly mathematical research, that were not valid within our sensory world, but would apply to quite different worlds. Thus we know that there were spirits thinking in strictly mathematical terms, who felt they could go beyond what so far existed as mathematics and geometry in the area of our sensory world, and that they could invent a geometry for a completely different sensory world. And there is not one but several such geometries. People who are mathematically trained know something about the names of Riemann,10Bernhard Riemann, 1826-1866, Professor in Goettingen, ‘On the Hypotheses which lie at the foundation of Geometry’, 1854. Lobatschewski,11Nikolaus Lobatschewski, 1793-1856, Russia, ‘On the Origin of Geometry’, 1829. Bolyai.12Johan Bolyai, 1802-1860, Ungarn, Engineering Officer and Mathematician. We do not want to go deeper into it here, because the only point is that something like this was able to be developed out of human knowledge. There are, for example, geometries which do not acknowledge the sentence; ‘The three angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees.’ For them the triangles have a very different property, namely, for example, the three angles of a triangle are always less than 180 degree. Or another case; for Euclidean geometry one is able to draw only one parallel line through one point to a given line. Geometries have been devised where one can draw an endless amount of parallels through one point to another existing line. This means there were spirits who felt compelled to not only be smitten by other worlds, but to make up geometries for these! This illustrates mightily that even in mathematical heads there is a longing to go beyond what is in the world immediately surrounding us. Only one thing needs to be added to the fact that our time needs something that can be derived from Spiritual Science. It will be shown to us that indeed the human being, in relation to his actual spiritual-soul nature, reappears again and again in renewed lives on our Earth. What is called reincarnation is a similar fact in the spiritual-soul realm as development theory or evolutionary theory is on a subordinate level for the animal kingdom. That the human soul evolves through incarnations that it experienced during the ancient past, and through those that it will live through in the distant future. Certainly, at the present time, the art of refutation will soon be strongly directed against such things.

But one can already state that the present time has a deep longing for such results, which are connected with that by which the human being can orientate himself as to his destiny, and his whole situation in regard to the outer world.

Only recently man began to place himself appropriately as a historical being into world evolution. This has come about through external means of education. Think of mankind’s limited horizon in the 14th or 15th century before the art of printing spread educational materials. Thus, questions like the following would not yet have touched human hearts; ‘How can our soul be satisfied in the face of what we recognise as historical progress?’ Here lies the origin of a question which for many today has become a question of the heart. Historical progress shows us, that ever new achievements are made, which also have value for the inner development of the soul itself, that new and ever new facts enter into the stream of the progressing humanity. So man must ask himself; ‘What is the state of the human being himself in his innermost nature? Have the people of the past been condemned to live their lives in a dull existence, unable to participate in the evolutionary products of later progress? What then is the share of the human being in the successive developments of the human race?’

This may be a question to which many objections could be raised—we only want to say that indeed the question, the riddle, arises out of a deep feeling in the human soul: ‘Is it possible that a human soul living today, whose life is enclosed between birth and death, cannot take part in achievements that will only be imprinted into the stream of human evolution in the future?’

For the confessors of Christianity this question takes on a fundamental importance. One whose faith is based on Reformed Christianity distinguishes between the evolution of humanity in the pre-Christian epoch and the evolution in the post-Christian epoch, and states that from the Christ-event a stream of new spiritual life has emerged which earlier was not available for mankind on Earth. Thus, particularly for such a person the question arises: ‘How is it for the souls who lived prior to the Christ-event, prior to the revelation of what radiated from the Christ-Event?’

Such a question can be asked by man. Spiritual Science answers this for him not only theoretically, but also in a way that is satisfactory for him, by showing that the same people, who took in achievements of the pre-Christian era in the time before the Christ-event will be reincarnated after the stream of Christian development has begun. Therefore whatever happens in civilisation, nobody will need to miss out on. Thus, for Spiritual Science something grows out of history that is not just general abstract ideas that are cold and abstract, that must energise like rigid forces the stream of humanity, but Spiritual Science refers to history as something in which man with his innermost being participates everywhere. And since the human horizon has been broadened by modern means of education, this question is now posed in a completely different sense than about a century ago, when peoples’ horizons were more limited.

A yearning for an answer exists, that can only be quenched through Spiritual Science. If we consider all of this—and we could continue to talk in the same vein and refer to much that confirms that Spiritual Science is important for the present time because it yearns so much for its results—then we gain an idea about the significance of Spiritual Science for the present.

All the lectures, which will be held here in the course of this winter, must serve only one purpose, namely to gather material from the most diverse sides in order to show the results and the significance of Spiritual Science for human life and for the satisfaction of the highest needs of humans in general. Only this needs to be added in conclusion; one of the most common objections against Spiritual Science today, albeit one taken from a catchphrase, is that natural science has happily advanced to be able to explain the world monistically, through a uniform principle given by natural scientific methods. It has almost become a slogan, arousing antipathy in many, that states; ‘Now Spiritual Science is coming back and setting up a dualism opposed to such epistemologically beneficial monism!’ With such slogans many sins are committed.

Has the principle of a unified explanation of the universe been broken simply by the fact that two streams work together in the cosmos, one of which works from the outside and the other from the inside and they meet within the soul? May it not be assumed that what approaches the soul from two sides—namely, from sense perception on the one hand, and from spiritual scientific research on the other—is nevertheless founded in a unified existence and only initially appears for human perception in two currents? Does Monism really have to be taken superficially? If it were the case that the monistic principle were thereby broken, then someone might immediately allege that the monistic principle would also be broken apart if one concedes that water consists of hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen and oxygen can nevertheless have a uniform origin, even if they unite in what we call water.

In the same way the sensory and the supersensible worlds can have a unified origin, even if one is forced by facts of natural science and Spiritual Science to say that two streams unite in the human soul, one entering from the side of the senses and the other from the side of the spirit. One cannot immediately show the unity, the ‘monon’, but it does not therefore contradict a monistic worldview. What shows itself in this way from two sides, gains the strength of full reality only when we recognise how it constitutes itself out of these two currents. If we turn our gaze to the external world, we see, through the arrangement of our senses and our intellect, a world view that does not show us what it grows out of: the spirit. But when we follow the paths of spiritual scientific research and experience the uplift in the soul, then we find the spirit. It is within our soul that spirit and matter meet. Only in the fusion of spirit and matter within our soul lies the true spirit- and matter-filled spiritual reality!

Thus, perhaps what has just been said might be summarised in words that express the same but in a poetic form, what all those who tried to gain an unbiased view of spirit and matter have felt at all times. Spiritual Science in its relationship to natural science teaches us to recognise that this is true:

The rich abundance of matter
Presses upon human sense
From World-depths mysteriously.

The clarifying Spirit-Word
Streams into depths of soul
From content filled World-heights.

They meet in the human inner being
To wisdom-filled reality.